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Spanish Riding School, Vienna

Spanish Riding School - Spanische Reitschule - Vienna - Wien - lipizzaner lippizzaner lipizaner

ABOVE: Spanische Reitschule, Wien.

A visit to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna tends to be a love-it-or-hate-it experience: to some, it represents the pinnacle of equestrian performance; to others, the spectacle of horses prancing about on tiptoe is downright strange.

Vienna: The Rough Guide quotes a scathing description of the Spanische Reitschule by Edward Crankshaw, who made these remarks more than 50 years ago:

"The cabrioling of the pure white Lipizzaners is, by all our standards, the absolute of uselessness. The horses, fine, beautiful, and strong, are utterly divorced from all natural movement, living their lives in an atmosphere of unreality with every step laid down for them and no chance whatsoever of a moment's deviation."

Other writers have been more admiring. In The Book of Austria, published by the Österreichische Staatsdruckerei in 1948, Ernst Marboe wrote:

"In Fischer von Erlach's magnificently designed edifice in Vienna, the incomparable Lipizza horses can be seen today displaying their unique mastery of the haute école exactly as they did three centuries ago. It is a display of pacing and jumping which is the last word in animal grace. It is directed toward a single objective--a demonstration of perfected movement for movement's sake alone. Setting, rider and horse blend to form a single unit."

Practical information

The Spanish Riding School occupies a number of buildings on the Michaelerplatz and the Josefsplatz by the Hofburg in central Vienna.

Performances take place in the Winter Riding School, shown in the photo above. The riding hall looks like an elegant ballroom--and, in fact, it has hosted royal balls and other fancy-dress events during its nearly 300-year history. Performance dates are listed on the official Spanish Riding School Web site (see next page), where you can order tickets online. Since the 80-minute performances are often sold out weeks or even months in advance, you should reserve seats or standing room as early as possible.

If you aren't able to attend a performance, you can buy tickets for the morning exercise sessions between 10:00 a.m. and noon on Tuesday through Saturday. Schedules vary by season, so check the Reitschule's calendar. (Children under 3 aren't admitted, and children from 3-6 are free.)

Other options include:

  • A visit to the new Lipizzaner Museum next to the Stallburg, or stables.
  • A tour of the federal stud farm in Piber, Styria, where the Reitschule's horses are bred and raised. (If you're a well-heeled horse fancier, you can even buy your own Lipizzaner.)

For more information, see the links on page 2.

Related Web sites and articles

Continued on page 2

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