Horse Podcast Ep 116: The Spanish Riding School – Your Next Bucket List Destination

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna Austria: If it’s not on your bucket list you must add it now! Today’s episode takes us to the Spanish Riding School, home to world-class training of the white Lipizzaner stallions. We learn all about the Riders, the Horses, the Training, the Performances, and its history too.  The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is one of the last true classical equitation institutions in Europe. It dates back 450 years and can be found on UNESCO’s list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Join us, as we discover the Lipizzaners, the white Stallions and the amazing talents of the Spanish Riding school. Don’t forget to share with your friends so they won’t miss out.

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Spanish Riding School- The Riders

Training to become a rider at the Spanish Riding school is no easy task. It begins when a rider is between 15-18 years of age. The list of admission criteria is extensive, a certain height and weight requirements, what languages you speak, your comfort around horses are just to name a few. Currently, there are four chief riders. 8 Rider two of which are female, 2 assistant riders, one is female 3 student level riders, and 3 trainees at the school.

Spanish Riding School – Rider Training

The next one to two years the trainee continues on the long line, perfecting their seat, without stirrups I may add. After passing the groom exam the members of the riding school will decide on the suitability of the trainee where they would then advance to student status. The next few years the student spends many hours in the arena with the goal of presenting the trained school stallion. Upon that completion, they advance to candidate rider, where they will start with a young stallion whose training is the sole responsibility of the candidate rider. When the stallion is ready for public presentation with “all steps and movements” the Candidate Rider will be promoted to Rider status.

The top-level you can reach is Chief Rider which requires sufficient experience and special training successes as a rider and teacher. Only a few ever reach this status and currently, there are only four that have reached the rank of Chief Rider.

Spanish Riding School – Performances

In the past performances at the Spanish riding school were only presented to guests of the court. At the turn of the century, they were opened up to the general population for special events. Fast forward to today, they have been a great source of income for the Riding school. The original performance showcased the Chief riders presenting the stations in the High School Movements, Airs above ground, work in hand, and exercises on the long rein. They would finish with the Pas de Deux and the four-rider Quadrille.

Today the program has great expanded to preview the young stallions in the first phase of training. Then on to the All steps and movements of the High school, where four fully trained stallions perform the movements seen in Olympic Grand Prix Dressage. They would continue on with a demonstration of “work in hand”, on the diagonal, on the wall, and between pillars. “Airs above ground” begins with all horses under saddle but again no stirrups for the riders. Movements would include the levade, capriole, and courbette. They always finish with the school Quadrille consisting of eight riders working in formation at the walk, trot, canter, with flying lead changes, pirouettes, half pass, and the passage. This portion would last up to twenty minutes and is considered the longest and most difficult in the world

Your Hosts today:

Heather (Canada) Ute (India)

Don’t forget to check out the resources section in this article!


  • Traditional uniforms unchanged for over 200 years
  • Lipizzaner Horses, the white stallions
  • Becoming a rider at the school
  • From Paddock to Capriole

Thank you for tuning in and happy trails!

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