Last week my dear friend and riding trainer, T, came to visit. As it happens, through the miracle of Facebook, she is friends with the Chief Rider (Oberbereiter) of the Spanish Riding School, home of the Lipizzaner horses. For those not horse-crazy since youth: The Spanish Riding School was created in the late 16th century as the equestrian arm of the Habsburg court; they train in spectacular late-Baroque facilities built in the mid-18th century (this is the famous Winter Riding School, in the Hofburg in Vienna). The Lipizzaners are a specific breed, much like Thoroughbred or Dutch Warmblood or what have you—but the original stock were Spanish, hence the naming of the School.
(Sorry. Spend long enough in German-speaking territories and you start being like Winnie-The-Pooh, capitalizing all your nouns.)
All the horses used in the School’s famous performances are white (well, technically grey in horse terms, but they look white to the lay person), though they’re born dark and lighten over time, as do most grey horses. They are famous because they do spectacular airs above the ground—highly-trained rears, leaps, hops and other balletic movements that are not part of a standard dressage horse’s repertoire, though they do all of the rest of the dressage movements as well (lateral work, piaffe, passage, tempi changes, etc.).
At any rate… T arranged for us to see the school courtesy of one of the Riders (Bereiteranwärter), a fantastically generous and friendly gentleman named Christopher (now my FB friend!), who showed us the stables and the tack room, as well as hosting us for morning exercise, where we got to sit at ground level at the end of the arena (the rest of the viewing is done from the gallery above).
Here are some photos of backstage at the Spanish Riding School, among the top 5 coolest things I’ve ever seen (do you ever wish you could go back to your childhood self and say…you won’t believe the totally random and unexpected ways that your dreams will suddenly, out of nowhere, literally come true?).
Thank you, Christopher, for the incredible tour! Thanks, horses, for being the most extraordinary creatures on the planet!