Why are horses so attractive? I don’t really know. Like moth to a flame, my kids are drawn to these mighty, spirited creatures whenever they got the chance to be near them, which is; rarely. Time spent at the Praterstern’s horse-drawn carousel over the weekend prompted a visit to Vienna’s Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School). It was not to actually ride a horse but to watch their regality and performance in classical dressage.
Vienna’s Spanish Riding school is the oldest in the world, spanning more than 400 years back. The school mainly featured Lippizan horses, a breed developed with the support of the Habsburgs.
The Spanish Riding School is located beside the Hofburg Palace, the official residence of the President of Austria. There are presentations from Tuesdays to Sundays featuring horses and riders within the school’s arena.
There are different programs or acts presented; there are morning exercises where the younger stallions are shown being trained. This might not be that interesting to some but you’ll surely love how riders and stallions somehow are into the getting-to-know stage of what would be a lasting career together.
For the programs, stallions perform the High School movements, work in-hand and exercises on the long rein, and then a Pas de Deux (two horses in mirror image), airs above the ground with a four-rider Quadrille finishing the performance.
Riders wear traditional uniform. That includes brown tailcoat along with a bicorne-style hat, white buckskin breeches and matching white suede gloves, and of course, black top riding boots. Swan neck spurs are also seen worn by the riders. Horses are very well dressed too, you know those horse wear from Equestrian Clearance that you see on their site? They’re pretty much what the horses wear but grander. The fully trained stallions wear a Goldzeug, a traditional gold-plated breastplate and crupper. They also carry a “school saddle”, which is made from buckskin and are larger than the more commonly seen English saddle used by the school when training the stallions and riders. Gold-plated double bridles are only used for performances. All horses, except the young stallions, wear red and gold or green and gold shabracks or saddlecloths, under the saddle and Caldene rugs when it’s colder.
There are also guided tours provided by the school. There, you get to learn about the Lippizan horses, tour around the stables, you get to photograph them but touching is prohibited. :/
According to their website, “the school continues to cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école. The objective is to study the way the horse naturally moves and to cultivate the highest levels of haute école elegance the horse is capable of through systematic training. The result creates an unparalleled harmony between rider and horse.” True enough, the elegance shown by the horses along with the riders during a performance is awesome.
If you are a horse lover, the programs are a must-see! But like in any other areas, book your ticket early, come in early to enjoy the show.