HISTORIC HORSES

Spanish Riding School

Despite its name, the Spanish Riding School is located in Vienna, Austria. The oldest riding academy in the world comes by the ‘Spanish’ part of its name through its famous white horses. The Lipizzaner breed is descended from one that originated on Spain’s Iberian Peninsula in the sixteenth century, and is a cross mixture of Spanish, Arabian, and Berber horses.
Dark coloured at birth, it takes at least six years for foals to turn pure white. One in every hundred never turns white, and there is always one such stallion in the stables of the Spanish Riding School. Why? Well, it is said that as long as there is a dark Lipizzaner horse in those stables, the Spanish Riding School will always prosper.
Since 1920, all of the Spanish Riding School’s horses have been chosen from the thirty to forty foals born each year at the Lipizzaner stud farm in the Austrian village of Piber. During WW II, the Nazi High Command had most of the breeding stock taken from there and transferred to Hostau in Czechoslovakia. As the war drew to a close, these beautiful animals were in danger of being slaughtered to provide meat for advancing Soviet troops, and were only saved through the intervention an American tank unit under the command of Colonel Charles Hancock Reed. “Operation Cowboy” got underway on May 12th, 1945, with about three hundred and fifty Lipizzaners being ridden and trucked to safety by American soldiers.
Stamina and jumping ability are among the traits the Spanish Riding School look for in potential performers. Those selected begin to be trained in accordance with the principles of classical horsemanship when they are about four years old and are fully trained by the age of ten or so. The training of riders is a much longer process, taking ten to twelve years. Until 2008, all riders were male, but now young Austrian and British women are among the élèves (trainees). Each rider rides and trains five to six horses, and the bonds between them are strong.
Designed by architect Josef Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, the magnificent hall in which the school’s seventy-two stallions perform was commissioned by Emperor Charles VI in 1729 and completed in 1735.

One comment

  1. Made a delightful Disney movie out of the rescue (as you know). The Lipps are awesome to watch in the airs (the rearing and leaping part of the show).

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