Visiting the Spanish Riding School has been on my bucket list since I learned what it was as a kid. My husband made that dream come true by buying us tickets to see a performance there on our Honeymoon this past June. To make it completely surreal, Trainer E surprised us with a private tour of the stables from her trainer, Herbert, who is one of the riders there!
The Spanish Riding School is located in what we Americans might consider “downtown” Vienna. To be sure, it seems a strange place to have a stable full of horses. The architecture is absolutely beautiful.
We arrived a little early because obviously I was excited. We headed over to the courtyard where we were supposed to meet Herbert. We waited outside of the courtyard gates and he met us right on time (although try waiting outside the gates where you can see the aisle leading into stalls and tell me you aren’t dying).
Herbert let us in and I don’t think I could feel my hands. I was so excited and desperately trying to take it all in. The amount of history and tradition in that place is something to behold and, frankly, pictures will do it better justice than words.
Herbert told us there were about 75 horses there and proceeded to show us around the “barn” which isn’t a grand enough word for what it really was. He took us to one of his stallions first, one he would be riding in the performance shortly thereafter. I sheepishly asked if I could pet him and he said of course with a grin.
If you are accepted as a student – an Eleves at the lowest level – at the SRS, you are assigned a four year old stallion that you are responsible for the training of for the rest of his life. The horse above was Herbert’s first stallion, now age 19 but still used in performances. Definite proof that dressage done right can do wonders for a horse’s body.
He offered to show us any stallions we wanted. All of the horses at the SRS are stallions – they never have any geldings or mares. The mares, of course, would distract the stallions in such small quarters (no turnout in the middle of metropolitan Vienna).
After I’d contented myself with petting as many muzzles as I could, we made it to the tack room. Massive, massive amounts of coveting. See for yourself…
After spying the brands below, I asked Herbert if any of the bloodlines tended to specialize in one part of the performance. For instance, was one bloodline usually hotter and therefore used in the airs above the ground? Herbert said that no, the bloodlines are pretty widespread in that regard. He did point out the the super talented stallions, the ones with potential for the haute ecole, definitely tended to be more sensitive and complex individuals.
At this point, it was nearly time for the performance. Herbert was so humble and friendly. I was definitely sad I couldn’t be greedy and pick his brain some more. He walked us to our seats inside the winter riding school. It felt special to have a rider who was clearly dressed for the performance take us to our seats. Ben spoiled me and got us ground seats in the third row.
Unfortunately, during the performance, there is no photography allowed but you can check YouTube for videos of what they do if you haven’t seen it before.
All in all, it met every expectation and then some. If you’re ever in Vienna, I highly recommend making a trip and spending the money on a performance. It was an experience I’ll never forget.