The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is World famous for its Lipizzaner horses and the shows of classical dressage. But how interesting is it to someone who knows nothing about horses?

The School offers tours, formal and training performances. During our time in Vienna, the only performance available was training at 10 am on the 8th September – the first training following the Summer break. It was surprisingly easy to purchase a ticket online, just a few days before – perhaps due to Covid and the lack of tourists. I chose two VIP front row seats in the Royal Box (Hofloge) for EUR 26 per person.

The email with the tickets asked that we print them. There was also a request to print and complete a Covid Contact Tracing form.

The School is inside the Hofburg Palace – about 15 minutes walk from the Hilton Vienna Plaza. Tourist horse-drawn carriages line up outside.

The School entrance is on the left. I took a video of the interior of the Palace, just before going in to the School.

There were plenty of staff checking tickets, Covid forms and eventually escorting us to our seats. There is a no photography rule – a rule that seems pointless and almost everyone ignored, only to be reminded by one of the many attendants. I was even told off for taking this picture of our seats!

Note how the row behind us was closed for social distancing.

The riding hall is magnificent. The horses and their riders came out.

Each rider does their own thing. For someone with no knowledge of dressage, it just looked like they were mooching around. One apprentice rider, who I nicknamed Harry Potter, had to walk his horse around and around, rather than ride it. A central controller figure shouted some commands.

There was a German then English commentary, that basically said how each rider is training the horses, but that the riders are too busy to groom and saddle them – there are stable boys for that.

One horse unloaded a heap of manure – an attendant appeared with a bucket and shovel.

There were small glimpses of the famous clippity-clopitty movement, where the Lipizzaner horses lift single legs off the ground. But almost none of the ‘Airs above the ground‘ movements. It was a little disappointing.

Harry Potter re-appeared, this time in the saddle. He seemed to be doing most of the complex movements, while the more experienced riders just trotted around with their noses in the air. He tried to accomplish a pesade or levade, where the horse raises its forelegs off the ground, carrying all weight on the hindquarters. He was summarily thrown from the horse, but luckily uninjured.

Harry’s horse then ran around, spooking the other horses, whose riders immediately stopped their ride – all horses then remained frozen until Harry’s horse was brought under control.

Sadly, this was the most exciting part of the one hour training. I’m sure those who know more about dressage will think of me as a Philistine, but I can only say what I saw.

Having visited, I’d say VIP front row seats in the Royal Box (Hofloge) are the best seats you can get. There are ground level seats beneath the Hofloge, but the view looked restricted and the seats claustrophobic.

There were also seats around the edges of the riding hall, plus standing around a much higher balcony. I wouldn’t recommend the standing area.

After leaving we walked further through the palace and were able to see the stables from a distance.

If you are in Vienna, then this is one of those on the must-see list – just don’t get too excited unless you really know your horses!

The Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule)
Michaelerplatz 1
A-1010 Wien

Tel: +43 1 533 90 31-0