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Published: August 6th 2008
Mat: After Krakow Trace took over planning, and we therefore headed towards horses. The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is a Mecca for horsey girls the world over. The elegance, skill, and silly hats of the riders is apparently the ultimate in horsey perfection.
The Spanish Riding School has its roots in the military horsemanship of the post-medieval ages when knights attempted to retain their battlefield pre-eminence by shedding their heavy armour and learning to manoeuvre quickly and with great complexity on a firearms-dominated battlefield. The training of the horses at the school also prepared the horses physically and mentally for the rigors of battle.
In 1729 Emperor Charles VI had the architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach build the incredible white riding hall you can see in the photos. For a time, the riding hall was used for various ceremonies, but it is now open to the public (ie tourists), who can witness the training of and performances by the stallions.
The horses at the Spanish Riding School are all of the Lipizzaner breed, and originate from Lipica in what is now Slovenia (guess where Trace was planning to go next). Today, however they are bred in
Austria after border alterations resulting from WWI cut them off from the Lipica stud farm.
The Riding School is old school. There are no women riders. You have to be a very good rider to become an apprentice, then you basically spend 10 years picking up poo before they let you do much with the horses. They probably have funny handshakes as well.
It all looks very impressive, but I doubt many people realise that as with most horse training, the impressive performances are achieved after a long training history of trainers doing something mildly to moderately unpleasant until the horse responds in a way that we as humans like. I am not against occasionally doing something unpleasant to animals to gain consistency while training something important, but using such techniques to train something that is essentially irrelevant (particularly from the horses perspective) is a bit dodgy in my opinion. The equestrian training community is way behind the times, and I think things will soon need to change.
Other than the horses, we had a good couple of days wandering about, and our hostel room was amazingly hotel-like.
Dave was with us still, but there are
no photos of him because he avoided the horseyness.
I also had a bloody good icecream.
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