If you are visiting Vienna whether it is on an independent holiday, a guided tour or a river cruise, you might wish to take in a performance of the Spanish Riding School, world famous for its Lipizzaner horses and dressage. You do not have to be a lover of horses to appreciate the skill and training of these beautiful white stallions and their riders. Here are some facts that may enhance your visit:
• The Spanish Riding School is the oldest in the world having been established in 1572. Ferdinand the I grew up in Spain and was enamored by these Spanish horses found in Iberia. Hence the name. • This breed, used exclusively by the school, is the Lipizan breed which is all white. • The form of dressage it teaches is classic but to the highest level of elegance achievable.
Hofburg Palace near the Winter Riding School (Image:Bigstock)
Horses are often ridden double bridle, and sometimes without stirrups (Note: photo not from school) (Image:Bigstock)
• Its schooling methods were originally meant to strengthen battle horses and train the nobility. • The current baroque hall or Winter Riding School as it is called was commissioned in 1729. Maria Theresia also held other events in the hall such as balls and festivals. Today you can rent various venues at the school for your event, and host anything from a wedding to a business seminar. • The school was not open to public performances until after WWI. Prior to that, performances were private, and by invitation of the royal court only. • In addition to the school in Vienna, the horses are often stabled in Heldenberg-Wetzdorf for rest and training two or three times per year for a few weeks at a time. This is where the new stallions train, and the old ones retire to a life of leisure, well-deserved. • The majority, if not all, of the riders you see may be male as women have not been accepted to study at the school until fairly recently in its history. • The most widely known movement is the “Airs Above the Ground” but there are other drills as well including “Young Stallions” (self explanatory), “Work In Hand”, “On the Long Rein” and more, where both riders and horses display their superb training and discipline. • The performance always concludes with the “School Quadrille”. This is a twenty minute performance of the most difficult maneuvers in the world of dressage.
The interior of the beautiful baroque style winter school. (Image: Bigstock)
Not all white horse you will see in Vienna are at the school! (Image:Bigstock)
You can visit the school in Vienna for various events: architectural tours, guided tours, demonstrations with stallions-in-training, and performances. The price of tickets, based on the type pf events chosen, location of your seat for shows (or if you have chosen to stand), range from an average of 20 euros and up. It is worth checking with your travel expert as some luxury river cruise lines may have a visit to the school as an included or optional excursion.
Article written in 2015 and updated in 2022. Feature image courtesy of Bigstock.