The famous Lipizzaner stallions of Austria are housed at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which is actually located surprisingly center city. So named for the Spanish horses that helped develop the Lipizzaner breed, the Spanish Riding School is one of the four most prestigious riding academies in the world.
The stables are located inside the Hofbug Palace so royals would have easy access to the performances.. These days, tickets to the dressage shows are open to the public and casual visitors to Vienna can even sneak a peek of the horses while walking around the city.
There are a few different ways to see the stallions. There is, of course, the performances themselves, where visitors can watch the world-famous Ballet of the White Stallions. These performances are the culmination of the years of training for both the riders and their stallions and are truly a spectacle to behold! The Spanish Riding School is one of the few places in the world where the “airs above ground” high dressage techniques can be seen in action- the stallions are bred specifically for their ability to perform moves such as the levade, capriole and courbette. Incredibly, these difficult and athletic maneuvers are performed without stirrups.
There are only a few performances per month, so a more common way to see these the horses in action is to visit the morning training sessions. Observers can see horses and riders of different experience levels practicing their routines or maybe even a young stallion working on a capriole!
On our visit to Vienna, we opted to go for the guided stable tour- both of us had actually seen the Lipizzaner stallions on one of their World Tours when we were younger (perks of being a horse girl), so we wanted to see something new. There was a small group of about seven people on the English speaking tour, some of whom were clearly also horse people. Our young guide was knowledgeable and very patient with the seemingly endless amounts of questions our fellow tourists would come up with, the poor guy!
The tour started off at what was once the largest horse walker in the world and moved into the famous Winter Riding School. Despite being empty, it was incredible to see the baroque riding arena- there really is nothing quite like it. Emperor Charles VI, who commissioned the riding hall in 1729, still watches over all performances in portrait form and riders traditionally doff their hats in his direction before beginning their routine.
From here, we were guided into the Stallburg Stables, where we were able to get a closer look at the stallions themselves, with a giant winged horse statue hovering over all. Photographs inside the stable are not allowed, but the horses in the courtyard and the tack room were exceptions to the rule and I absolutely took advantage of that fact. Did I delay the tour with my endless photography? Let’s not talk about it.
Unrelated, check out some of these cool pictures.
While the stallions are famous for their light color, they are actually born very dark and typically lighten up to a pure white color over their first decade or so- though some remain dark their whole lives!
The guided tour took just about an hour, and it was really cool to see some of the inner workings of such a prestigious riding school! It’s definitely a must for anyone remotely interested in horses, and still worth a visit for those who aren’t. The schedule of events can be found here for those who are interested in a visit.