The Spanish Riding School, based in Vienna, is an Austrian institution dedicated to the training of Lipizzaner horses and the preservation of classical dressage. Their public performances, held both in the Hofburg area of central Vienna as well as on worldwide tours, are also a popular tourist attraction. Built between 1729–1735, the Riding School’s winter residence is a mainly white, sunlight-flooded hall designed by architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach. It also features a large portrait of Emperor Charles VI, to which the riders always salute before they ride. The School also has owns summer stables in Lower Austria, where its 68 resident stallions are taken each July and August.
The riding school, dating from in 1572, is the oldest of its kind in the world. It was named during the Habsburg Monarchy for the Spanish horses that formed one of the bases of the Lipizzan breed used exclusively at the school. Today, however, its horses are bred in western Austria. One of the original studs used to develop the breed was called “Lipizza” (hence the current names Lipizzan and Lipizzaner), located in Slovenia near Trieste, Italy. The riding school actually has antecedents in military traditions dating as far back as Ancient Greece, but especially during the post-medieval ages, when knights attempted to retain their preeminence by learning to maneuver quickly and with great complexity on a firearms-dominated battlefield that was no longer suitable for the use of traditional heavy armor.
Although there has never been an official ban on women, traditionally, the horses at the school have always been trained and ridden by men. However, in October 2008, Sojourner Morrell (an 18-year-old from the UK) and Hannah Zeitlhofer (a 21-year-old from Austria) were the first two women to pass the entrance exam and be accepted to train as riders at the school in the institution’s 436-year history!
- Visited: 1992