The Spanish Riding School

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!

Just outside the doors of the SRS - strange, right?

Just outside the doors of the SRS – strange, right?

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.

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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).

Looking in from the gate

Looking in from the gate

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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.

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The SRS always keeps at least one bay Lipizzaner stallion for good luck; they are trained but not used in performances or for breeding.

The SRS always keeps at least one bay Lipizzaner stallion for good luck; they are trained but not used in performances or for breeding.

Cue melting down. So. Gorgeous.

Cue melting down. So. Gorgeous.

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.

Bringing his charge over to meet us

Bringing his charge over to meet us

Herbert gave me sugar. Clearly the stallions here aren't sweet at all.

Herbert gave me sugar. Clearly the stallions here aren’t sweet at all.

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.

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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).

A four year old stallion who was in the young horse performance seciton

A four year old stallion who was in the young horse performance section

Preparing one of the stallions who was in the airs above the grounds section

Preparing one of the stallions who was in the airs above the grounds section

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…

Can you see my open jaw?

Can you see my open jaw?

Schooling bridles

Schooling bridles

The schooling saddles are black leather and the performance saddles are the white deerskin.

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The schooling saddles are black leather and the performance saddles are the white deerskin.

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.

A cool piece of leather showing all the Lipizzaner brands represented at the SRS

A cool piece of leather showing all the Lipizzaner sirelines represented at the SRS

Myself, Herbert and my Husband

Myself, Herbert and my Husband

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.

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Best. Husband. Ever

Best. Husband. Ever

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.

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11 thoughts on “The Spanish Riding School

    • Rebecca says:

      It was a once in a lifetime experience. I’m so glad husband was snapping pictures because I was too busy wiping the drool from my face.

  1. emma says:

    what an awesome experience – and i love your insider pictures!!! there’s definitely something very cool and mystical about the whole school

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