Morning training at the Spanish Riding School offers a chance to see the wonderful Lipizzaners in action without the cost of a full-blown performance. Though you still need to buy a ticket.
- One-hour session with music
- The Lipizzaner stallions and their riders leave a remarkable impression (and I speak as a horse agnostic)
- Training occurs most weekday mornings
- Book tickets online* for a public training
- See also:
Training: a review
(A riding school from around 1645. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Horses and I enjoy a mutual non-aggression pact. I keep clear of them and they keep clear of me. So you might think me the last person to want to spend an hour watching Lipizzaners prance around the winter riding school for their morning training.
I went in thinking the same, but came out quite moved by the whole experience.
Even the uninformed observer can see these horses possess a special presence, an almost other-worldly nobility, and the kind of poise and bearing you get from supreme athletes at the peak of their career.
The stallions bring a new meaning to the term, horsepower.
Combine the above with uniformed riders, some light classical music, an 18th-century riding school arena, and a centuries’ old tradition of horsemanship and you have something bordering on the majestic.
And this is just training.
So what do you see?
The schedule depends on current needs, but this is what I experienced during a two-hour session with four training units, each involving a different set of horses. (The public training sessions are now one hour in length.)
Summary: the stallions warmed up, trained, and warmed down, all while accompanied by classical Viennese tunes. Which sounds a little meh (neigh?).
The obvious joy is experiencing the skills of the horses first hand. The old pros, for example, glided through complicated steps like it’s second nature (which I’m guessing it is).
We were lucky enough to witness one stallion training the courbette jump and his success drew genuine “oohs” of admiration from onlookers. We also got to see two of the very rare dark stallions, which make up only 1% of the Lipizzaner population.
Each horse seemed to have a different character and, often, a different coiffeur. The training programme also gave us a clear feel for the rider-Lipizzaner bond, which appears almost telepathic.
The experience revealed lots of little delightful moments. For example:
- A rider in brown tails and bicorne hat slipping their horse a little treat after some successful move
- The senior riders doffing their hat on entering the arena
- Training on the long rein with no rider, with the horse still observing perfect discipline
- Assistants appearing immediately to clear away when a horse loses a bit of excess weight out its back end (I’m trying to be polite)
- The dismount, when the horses line up and get a warm rug put over them before a groom escorts them back to their stables
Call me sentimental, but the music starting up gave me a shiver of emotion, too.
All-in-all, the visit left me with a new appreciation for the riding tradition, the work of the Spanish Riding School, and the prowess of the Lipizzaner stallions.
Perhaps me and horses might reach a better understanding, after all.
(A Mounted Grey Horse Being Schooled in Piaffe. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Quick visitor tips
- Morning training typically takes place for one hour on four to five weekdays from 10am, with another slot at 11.30am during some months. Weekend trainings are very rare.
- Given the high demand and mixed schedule through the year, booking a date and ticket in advance* makes sense.
(Even in February, when Vienna turns relatively quiet, quite a queue for tickets built up at the counter as we approached the starting time.)
- Each session had something different, so don’t rush your visit. On our trip, for example, the jump practice only appeared later in the training period (don’t expect every training to feature the more spectacular moves, since it depends on each horse’s needs on the day)
- Since the training is relatively informal, you can leave earlier without fear of appearing rude. Note that kids under 3 cannot go in.
- Might be worth considering a combination stable tour and training ticket package* for a full behind-the-scenes experience that saves a bit of money too.
How to get to the Spanish Riding School
See the bottom of the ticket tips article for travel advice for reaching the riding school, which is inside the very central Hofburg palace complex.
Address: Michaelerplatz 1, 1010 Vienna