The Spanish Riding School is a Viennese institution that has withstood the test of time. Originally commissioned by Emperor Charles VI, and built by the famed Austrian architect Josef Emmanuel Fischer von Erlach - the Spanish Riding School is a sprawling and impeccable example of Austrian baroque architecture and tradition.
The School serves as the home for the stunning Lipizzaner stallions and their riders. To watch a Lipizzaner performance is more similar to watching prima-ballerinas on the stage of the Royal Ballet, but to bear witness to the intimate moments that occur behind the curtains of the Spanish Riding School is a truly unforgettable experience. Every year, forty-five Lipizzaner foals are born at the Piber training centre in Heldenberg. With a team of eighteen riders, and seventy-two horses and four centuries of Renaissance tradition, the Spanish Riding School is not only a significant part of Austrian Heritage, but is also the world’s foremost equestrian institution. We sit down with one of the riders of the Spanish Riding School, Rider Rudolf Rostek, and discover what a day in the Spanish Riding School is like - a rare and beautiful peek into the secret world of the Lipizzaner Stallions.
Talk us through a day in the life of a rider at the prestigious Spanish Riding School?
Our day starts early in the morning, as we train our horses from seven o’clock until noon. Every thirty minutes, we change the horses. I ride, exercise, and teach on a daily bases. The grooms care for my horses, and together with the stable master we talk about their daily feed schedules and their wellness.
Being a rider at the Spanish Riding School must be a great honour. What is it like knowing that you are perpetuating the classic dressage and Renaissance traditions of the school?
Indeed! It is definitely a great honour to be a rider in the Spanish Riding School. We have been keeping our traditions and knowledge and passing it on verbally for more than 4 centuries – especially with regard to the in hand work and techniques, and the school’s above ground techniques.
Performing in the High School of Classical Horsemanship, what is the most difficult move in a traditional Lipizzaner performance?
It is definitely the school’s above the ground techniques. For the school jumps, we need extremely talented horses. It takes a lot of training to get the perfect jumps - and you have to be very careful. The horses are have to be trained like super athletes, and the riders need to have a good understanding of their horses as well.
What is your relationship like with your stallion, and what do you think is the best thing about being a rider at the Spanish Riding School?
The most beautiful thing about my profession is to work with these wonderful stallions. They are like a reflection of myself – how they are trained and educated represents our team work especially during performances.
What role do you think the Spanish Riding School plays in the history and culture of Vienna?
The Spanish Riding School is the oldest indoor arena in the world. We have a precise mandate to represent the classical art of dressage riding. With its imperial buildings and traditions, the Spanish Riding School is very unique - not just in Vienna, but also in the world.
Words by Hannah Tan
Portrait © SRS-Stefan Seelig
Levade © SRS-Michael Rzepa
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