Spanish Riding School of Vienna returns to Wembley
PUBLISHED: 14:31 30 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:09 30 October 2014
Two years on since their last sell-out shows in the UK, The Spanish Riding School of Vienna is returning back to Wembley to perform at the SSE Arena next month.
Lorraine King visited the stud farm and stables in Austria where the prestigious Lipizzaner horses are breed and trained to find out what makes them one of the most prestigious riding schools in the world.
Founded in 1572, it is the oldest riding academy in the world and the classical methods taught and performed have remained unchanged for almost 450 years.
Today there are six main types of stallions which are used for breeding the Lipizzaner horses used at school – Pluto, Conversano, Maestoso, Favory, Neapolitano and Siglavy.
In case you are wondering why there is a Spanish riding school in Austria, it goes back to 1521 when Ferdinand I moved to Spain from Austria to take over the regency. A keen horseman, he brought Spanish horses and riders, but quickly realised he would need to breed his own due to the impracticalities of importing the animals.
So a stud farm was established in Lipica (in today’s Slovenia) and the Lipizzaner breed was born.
The Lipizzaner stud farm moved to Piber in 1920. The horses it produces are prestigious, sought-after and expensive with prices costing from 40,000 euros to private breeders.
But foals are not sold unless there are exceptional circumstances.
The way the horses are looked after at the stud farm is akin to the pampering humans enjoy at a health farm.
It has to be because the horses used in the riding school are stallions of the highest calibre.
Unusually, the Lipizzaner horses tend to be born dark, but develop their famed snowy white colour at the age of four.
They begin their steps towards riding school at just six months when they are separated from their mothers and brought together in a group of foals.
In this new group their personalities and abilities come through, which allows trainers to pick the best ones to go on to the riding school.
The training process at the riding school is painstakingly meticulous with riders being assigned their own personal horses to build up a relationship.
The riding school has been based at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna in the specially-built Winter Riding School since 1735.
It is a popular tourist attraction, but many areas such as the stables are strictly out of bounds.
However, I was lucky enough to be granted rare access where I spoke to 28-year-old rider Florain Bacher.
He started riding at the age of six and said by the time he was 11 he had made up his mind he would joined the prestigious school.
Four years later after a serious of nail-biting auditions he was accept and currently rides 14-year-old Billy.
All the stallions are named after their father’s line and mother’s first name, but they are given pet names to avoid tongue twisters and confusion.
Mr Bacher said: “It was very hard at the beginning but it is also great fun. Everyone is always impressed when I tell them what I do as the riding school is internationally known.
“I love my job and I am happy to stay working here for the rest of my life.
“Doing a tour is always great but it does take a while for the horses to settle, so we arrive in Wembley two or three days before.”
World class dressage star Carl Hester, 10-times Paralympic gold medalist Lee Pearson and double London 2012 Paralympic and European Gold medalist Natasha Baker will be joining the riders performing at the show taking place at the SSE Arena in Wembley, on November 14, 15 and 16.
The show will be hosted by TV presenter and British dressage ambassador Nicki Chapman.
n For more information or to buy tickets visit ssearena.co.uk
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Brent & Kilburn Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.