Spanish Riding School

Vienna, Austria | C.1735

Photo Credit: @miltonmenasco

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The Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria, is a traditional riding school for Lipizzan horses, which perform in the Winter Riding School in the Hofburg. It is a center for classical dressage and is the oldest of its kind in the world. The headquarters is a tourist attraction in Vienna that offers public performances and they also allow public viewing of some training sessions.

The performance builds on four centuries of experience and tradition in classical dressage. The leading horses and riders of the school also periodically tour in worldwide performances.

Records show that a wooden riding arena was first commissioned in 1565. The white riding hall used today wasn’t built until 1729 when Emperor Charles VI appointed the architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach to build the elegant hall. Prior to the new hall, the School operated from a wooden arena at the Josefsplatz.

The Spanish Riding School was named for the Spanish horses that formed one of the bases of the Lipizzan breed, which is used exclusively at the school. Today the horses the School trains school are bred at the Piber Federal Stud located in western Styria, Austria.

The School has antecedents in military traditions dating as far back as Xenophon in Ancient Greece. Particularly, their traditions stem from the military horsemanship of the post-medieval ages when knights attempted to retain their battlefield preeminence by shedding heavy armor and learning to maneuver swiftly and aptly on a firearms-dominated battlefield.

Traditionally, Lipizzaners at the school have been trained and ridden solely by men, although the school states that there has never been an official ban on women. In October 2008, two women from the United Kingdom and Austria, passed the entrance exam and were accepted to train as riders at the school – the first women to do so in 436 years.

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