I saw the magnificent Lipizzans Perform at Vienna’s Spanish Riding School Saturday, and it was amazing! The discipline and majesty of the beautiful white horses and their skilled riders is on full display during a riveting 70-minute performance.
The program takes the audience through the stages of training for this special breed of horse. The performance began with the “stormy young stallions” and ended with “fully trained School Stallions” appearing in the quadrille, a very difficult choreographed dressage dance with eight horses. After six years of training, the horses begin performing at about ten years of age. As they mature, their coats turn from grey to pure white.
History and Breeding
The Spanish Riding School is named after the Spanish horses that “formed one of the bases of the Lipizzan breed used exclusively at the school”. Lipizzan ancestry is Spanish, Arabian, and Berber. The horses are “bred at the Piber Federal Stud located near the village of Piber in western Styria, Austria“.
The name Lipizzan comes from the Austrian imperial stud at Lipizza horse (Lipica), bred near Trieste, which was formerly a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The “founding of the breed dates to 1580, and detailed breeding records date from 1700”.
Winter Spanish Riding School
The Winter Spanish Riding School is in the Stallburg, a part of the Vienna Hofburg complex. The horses perform in the ambience of the Imperial Hofburg riding hall. The courtyard arcade is part of the former principal palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Hofburg Palace was built under Charles VI, dating back to 1729.
The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is “the only institution in the world which has practiced for over 440 years and continues to cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école, a highly-stylized form of classical riding“. viennaticketoffice.com
During the performance, the stallions “demonstrate refinement of the most demanding movements, such as pirouette, passage and piaffe, pas de deux, difficult jumps, and quadrille, to the accompaniment of Austrian classical music”.
Ballet of the White Horses
The grand finale is the school quadrille, a “difficult dance with eight Lipizzaners whose riders are dressed in historic uniforms”. The quadrille is “precisely choreographed to historic dance music from the time of the Viennese Congress“. Nothing is done “purely for show, yet every detail of the performance is impressive”. The ballet requires intense concentration by horse and rider.
“There’s complete trust between rider and Lipizzaner, who communicate only with body language. It’s a perfect, living work of art, in which the unity of horse and rider touches everyone who witnesses it.” Austria Info
Photography wasn’t allowed during the performance, but I hope the media shots and video links in this post provide some idea of how incredible these amazing horses and riders are! It’s a wonderful memory.