The Lippizaner Stallions Offer a Magical and Memorable Memento to a City Break in Vienna.
2015 has certainly been a big year for the Austrian capital of Vienna. Hosts of Eurovision aside, this year not only marks the 150th anniversary of the famous Ringstrasse, home to some of Vienna’s most stunning architectural and historical gems, but also the 450th anniversary of another of Vienna’s most iconic institutions, the Spanish Riding School.
Housed amidst the baroque grandeur of the Imperial Palace, the Spanish Riding School dates back to 1565 and a performance of the famous white and dappled grey Lippizan (also known as Lippizaner) horses – Europe’s oldest cultural breed of horse originating from Arab, Spanish and Italian bloodlines – is undoubtedly a sight and experience to remember. Indeed, it’s the only institution in the world where the classic and intricate equestrian skills of the Lippizaner are still preserved and practised in their original form, complemented beautifully by the stunning setting of the Imperial Palace’s baroque riding hall and further enhanced by lighting and music.
Paying homage to this longstanding Viennese legacy, the Spanish Riding School presents a grand gala on Friday, 26th June (there are also performances on the 25th and 27th of June) with a very special evening performance on Heldenplatz, in front of the Office of the Federal President. Not only will lucky ticket holders be able to see the Lippizan stallions execute their artistic and balletic moves to precision, but they will also be lucky enough to see the Spanish Riding School joined especially for the occasion by horses from the Royal Andalusian Riding School in Jerez. This will then be followed by the Fête Impériale, where the Summer Riding School of the Imperial Palace will be transformed into an elegant outdoor ballroom, all the while preserving the spirit of the anniversary of the Spanish Riding School.
If you’re not planning your Vienna city break in June, there’s still plenty of opportunity to see the stunning Lippizan stallions both at work and at play. The mornings are given over to exercise and training where, accompanied by classical Viennese music, the horses and riders execute exercises aimed both at relaxing the horse and refining techniques and movement. The training sessions cost 14€ per adult to watch (children 6 – 18 years: 7€) and cannot be booked in advance; tickets are available at the Visitor Centre on Michaelerplatz.
In the afternoons meanwhile, there are daily tours of both the winter and summer riding schools, the latter housing the world’s largest oval horse walker, as well as the historic stables in the Stalburg with its beautiful arcaded courtyard. Tours cost 16€ per adult (children 6 – 18 years: 8€). You also have the opportunity to sample an architectural tour on a Saturday afternoon (once a month). And of course, there are the phenomenal gala performances (more than 75 classical performances are held each year) taking place on the weekends at 11am. Be mindful however that the horses have a summer break too, so you’re not going to see them in situ in July and the first half of August. For more information about the horses, their history and performance schedules, visit the Spanish Riding School’s website at www.srs.at.