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The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is the only institution in the world which has practiced for over 430 years and continues to cultivate classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école.

The objective of classical equitation is to study the way the horse naturally moves and to cultivate the highest levels of haute école elegance the horse is capable of through systematic training. The result creates an unparalleled harmony between rider and horse, as only Vienna’s Spanish Riding School achieves.


The Rich History of the Spanish Riding School

The Spanish Riding School can look back on more than 430 years of rich history. It is the world’s only institution that still cultivates classical dressage in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école to this day. Why is it called “Spanish”? Because Spanish horses were used when the Riding School was founded in 1572 and because the Lipizzans are descended from Spanish horses.


In 1565 there is a documented mention of a “Ross-Thumblplatz”, or horse training area, located in front of the Stallburg stables. This area is not roofed and therefore not useable in inclimate weather.

In 1572 a “Spanish Riding Hall” made of wood is built; this is the first documented mention of the Riding School.


Archduke Karl II of Inner Austria establishes the Lipizza Imperial Stud.

Over a century later, the artistically-minded Emperor Leopold I orders a new riding school constructed on the site of the former “Ross-Thumblplatz”. As documented in 1683, the building is almost finished when the Turkish wars break out. The riding school sustains heavy damage.


Emperor Karl VI commissions the building of the Winter Riding School.

In 1735, the famous building by Josef Emanuel Fischer von Erlach is completed. It has preserved its original construction to the present day and is regarded as the world’s most beautiful riding hall.


Carousels, masked balls, equestrian tournaments and imperial balls are held in the Winter Riding School.

After the March Revolution of 1848, the monarchy’s first Reichstag parliament is convened in the Winter Riding School.


The fundamental “directives” encompassing all of the orally-taught knowledge on equitation in the Spanish Riding School are put to paper for the first time by Field Marshall Franz Holbein and Senior Rider Johann Meixner.

After World War I, Senior Rider Mauritius Herold ensures the continued legacy of the Riding School thanks to his great personal commitment, which is placed under the ministry for agriculture. The first public performances take place and meet with great enthusiasm.


The Lipizzans make the western Styrian town of Piber their home for the first time.

Thanks to tours and guest appearances, Rudolf Count van der Straten makes the Spanish Riding School so popular abroad that there was a national and international outcry when the closure of the riding school is considered in 1925.

Alois Podhajsky takes over the management of the Spanish Riding School.

The horses of the Spanish Riding School and the Piber Federal Stud are combined in St. Martin, Upper Austria, and later relocated to Wels, then Wimsbach, Upper Austria.

The Spanish Riding School returns to its original location in the Imperial Palace Hofburg, with the first performance taking place on Austria’s national holiday, October 26.

As of January 1st, 2001, the Spanish Riding School and the Piber Federal Stud are privatized and merged to form a company under private law.

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