This autumn the Spanish Riding School of Vienna will be joined by three British Olympic riders.
During the late 16th century, the Royal Court of Imperial Austria imported Spanish stallions to improve its domestic stock. A riding school was established during the Habsburg Monarchy in 1572 and in 1580, Archduke Charles II established his stud farm in the small village of Lipizzer. Here he crossed the imported Spanish blood with the native Karst stock to develop the Lipizzaners we know today.
In 1729 Emperor Charles VI commissioned the architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach to build the world’s most beautiful ménage in Vienna, the metropolis of the Fine Arts. For nearly 450 years the Spanish Riding School of Vienna has continued to work in this beautiful baroque treasure, cultivating classical training methods and producing some of the finest horses in the world.
Until the turn of the century, performances by these magnificent creatures were solely reserved for guests of the Court. Today, the doors of the Spanish School are open to the general public, and offer the opportunity to study the Lipizzaners’ morning exercise, tour the stables or enjoy a fully fledged performance. During a show, spectators will witness a pas de deux, work in hand, work on the long rein, the school quadrille and movements of the haute école: levade, courbette and capriole. The Spanish Riding School in all its splendour is quite something to behold. The horses and their riders work in perfect harmony forming a consummate moving work of art, a living treasure framed in an architectural masterpiece.
The Spanish School – 28 horses, nine riders and nine grooms – will leave the sanctuary of Vienna this autumn to perform six shows in Great Britain. Great care is taken to protect the lineage of the stallions reveals the School’s Chief Rider, Andreas Hausberg. The horses are transported in three separate groups, and even the riders fly in two groups on separate flights to avoid the School’s heritage being lost completely in the event of a disaster.
This year, the Spanish School will also be joined three Olympic gold medallists. In Sheffield, Carl Hester MBE and Lee Pearson CBE will open the show and in London, Carl Hester and Natasha Baker MBE will introduce the dancing white stallions. Lee, Natasha and Carl will perform a specially choreographed routine prior to the Spanish Riding School’s main event and will also talk to the audience about their training methods.