The high school of classical horsemanship
It’s considered the most beautiful indoor riding arena in the world. It’s a sparkling ballroom and an impressive stage – the Spanish Riding School, where the world famous Lipizzaner horses are trained. For over 450 years, the school’s handlers have been cultivating classical dressage in the tradition of the haute école. The stallions are gradually introduced to their exercises, true to the motto: “The horse determines the pace of its training.”
The Lipizzaners are Europe’s oldest domestic horse breed and are part of UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage list
Take your time, but do not waste it! “The stallion sets the pace during all training steps.
The famous white stallions
All of the Spanish Riding School’s horses are raised on the pastures and meadows of the Lipizzaner Stud Piber in southern Austria. At the age of four they’re transferred to Vienna where they undergo their education in three stages: first, the Remontenausbildung (young horse training), then the Campagneschule(“campaign school”) and finally the Hohe Schule, the high art of classical dressage.
The role of the handlers is to nurture the stallions according to their talents. Schools worldwide train classic movements such as the piaffe, passage, traversal, gallop pirouette and flying gallop. Movements like the levade, courbette and capriole are trained to this degree of perfection only at the Spanish Riding School.
In accordance with tradition, the riders wear a uniform consisting of white buckskin trousers and gloves, a brown tailcoat, a Zweispitz hat and bucket-top boots. The birch riding crops signify modesty and humility, and are carved by hand at the Riding School. A pocket sewn into the tailcoat holds the sugar cubes the horses are given as a reward.
Originally, the Lipizzaners were housed in the Kaiser’s royal stables – today’s MuseumsQuartier, the locals’ hip open-air living room. The Riding School itself was reserved for the royal family’s equestrian training and could only be visited by the nobility.
To experience the horses, it’s worth visiting morning training sessions or seeing a performance. Guided tours of the Spanish Riding School offer fascinating glimpses behind the scenes: you’ll see the horses in their stables, visit the imperial saddle chamber and learn lots of interesting details about the breeding and training of these world-renowned stallions.
Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig