The Spanish Riding School of Vienna has stood for equestrian tradition and perfection for 430 years. It is the only institution in the world which preserves to this day the classical art of the Haute Ãcole which began in the Renaissance.
The “Spanish” part of its name stems from the Spanish horses ‘ the ancestors of the Lipizzaners ‘ which were much sought-after in the royal court at that time.
The equestrian Haute Ãcole dates back to the classical art of riding practised in Greece, which was rediscovered at the end of the 15th and in the early 16th centuries. With the Renaissance came a whole new lifestyle in the dynasties of Europe, which naturally included a new equestrian style different to that which had been practised in the Middle Ages.
From about 1562, Spanish horses were bred systematically by the Archduke Maximilian, who later became Emperor Maximilian II. This Habsburg ruler founded the first Imperial Stud in 1564 at Kladrub in Bohemia. Archduke Karl II, a brother of Emperor Maximilian, was also very interested in breeding Spanish horses and founded the Imperial Karst Stud near Lipizza in 1580.
Although it is still not known when exactly the first “Spanish Riding School” was built, various documents indicate that this may have been in the year 1572. However, it was more than 100 years later, between 1729 and 1735, that Emperor Karl VI commissioned Josef Emanuel Fischer von Erlach to build the baroque Winter Riding School which is world famous today and which has remained the home of the Spanish Riding School. This magnificent hall has a varied and interesting past, and was not only used for riding and training the white stallions. After the death of Karl VI in 1740, it was a perfect setting for jousting contests, carousels, and masked balls. During the Vienna Congresses particularly (1814-1815), the Spanish Riding School inspired an international audience of the most influential politicians. In the year of the revolution, 1848, meetings were held in the Riding School between the citizens of Vienna and the Reichstag.
Today, the Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School can be seen almost every day during Morning Exercises as well as once a week at a gala performance in the Winter Riding School.