Festivals & Events

Dancing Horses of Vienna: Why you MUST visit the Lipizzaners?

The Wonderful Dancing Horses:

Dancing horses are a fascinating thing to see. My love of Lipizzaners and the Spanish riding school horses began when I was a child. I used to enjoy watching the popular 1965 television series called The White Horses. It was very popular with children everywhere and captured their hearts. The story was about the adventures of a teenage girl Julia (Helga Anders) who leaves Belgrade to spend a holiday on a stud farm run by her Uncle Dimitri (Helmuth Schneider). He is helped by head groom Hugo (Franz Muxeneder) to look after and raise white Lipizzaner horses.

The White Horses – First Episode

During the first episode the stallion Boris is stolen by gypsies.They dye his white coat brown so that he wont be recognized.Julia and Hugo try to track down Boris.When they eventually rescued him and took him back to the safety of the farm a strong bond develops between girl and horse.

The series, called Počitnice v Lipici in Slovenian and Ferien in Lipizza (“Holidays in Lipica”) in German, comprised thirteen 25-minute black and white episodes. From 1968 a dubbed version of the series was broadcast in the United Kingdom.This was then repeated for many years after. The dubbed soundtracks were thought lost for a long time.However  audio tapes of twelve of the thirteen episodes have been located.

Dancing Horses (White Horses TV Show)

Clip from the white horses TV show. The Original Lipizzaners

Theme Song to the Dancing Horses:

The theme song to the German version was played by Ivo Robić. The UK theme song was written by Michael Carr and Ben Nisbet. It was later back dubbed onto all versions and simply titled “White Horses”. Credited to “Jacky”,as it was sung by Irish-born Jackie Lee.

It became a top 10 hit in the UK charts in April 1968. The book entitled The Penguin Television Companion claimed it to be the best television theme in History.It has been copied and used many times.

Brief History of the Lipizzaners 

The Lipizzan, or Lipizzaner is a breed of horse originating from Lipica in Slovenia.It dates back to the 16th century,when it was developed with the support of the Habsburg nobility.

The Spanish Riding School (German: Spanische Hofreitschule) is an Austrian establishment which is dedicated to the preservation of classical dressage and the training of Lipizzaner horses.It is  based in Austria.Performances in the Hofburg are also a tourist attraction.

How are the Dancing Horses trained?

The horses at the Spanish Riding School are trained using traditional methods that date back hundreds of years, based on the principles of classical dressage The maneuver’s and jumps of these Legendary White Stallions associated with high classical dressage were originally designed as equine military training to develop strength, agility, balance ,concentration and focus on the riders demands.

Over time they have been transformed into a living art form of balletic grace and precision. Sometimes the horses leave the ground which is known as airs above the ground. They appear to be dancing to the classical music during their performances.Once these intelligent white stallions have completed their training they are known as professors.

Dancing Horses Lipizzaners

The amazing Lipizzaners and the Spanish riding School in South Africa.

Why is it called the Spanish Riding School? when it’s in Vienna! 

It was named for the Spanish horses that were, and still are, the mainstay of the riding school. … Those horses became the famous Lipizzaners, which are now bred especially for the Riding School at the Piber Stud Vienna.

These Spanish horses are best suited to the equestrian arts. So how do you get to see the Lipizzaner horses at Vienna’s Spanish Riding School? Quite easily it turns out, as long as you are prepared to settle for less than a full performance.

SUMMARY Dancing Horses:

You can book tickets to watch the morning training which is available 4-5 days of most weeks (a Vienna pass allows free entry). These take place in the winter riding Hall and are open to the public.The exercises are done to music and its quite a cheap and easy  way to see the horses in action. It is advisable to book tickets well in advance if you want to see an actual gala performance. Guided tours are also available most days.

PERFORMANCES of the Lipizzaners:

The 18th-century winter riding school hosts the formal performances, where the stallions show off the full extent of their skills.Tickets are in high demand.You can book a seat online or get an inexpensive standing ticket.Sometimes during parts of the summer the horses go away to enjoy a well earned rest in the country.During these times the younger trainee horses take their place for a special show called “Piber meets Vienna”.

Dancing Horses Lipizzaners

Lipizzaner performances (Dancing Horses) – Lipizzaners and the Spanish riding school.

VISITOR TIP (Lipizzaners)

If you want to see the stallions for free you can wait outside the stable areas for the horses to transfer from their accommodation to the training areas on days when there’s a performance.Or stand outside the former Lipizzaner Museum (Address: Reitschulgasse 2), facing the wall. Just to your right is the entrance to the stables. Be there just before, during and after the times of a session or performance to hopefully see some stallions and riders walk past.

How to Get to the Spanish Riding School?

The visitor centre and entrance to the Spanish Riding School is part of the Hofburg Palace area.It is located underneath the giant dome (Michaelerkuppel).

It’s a short walk from subways U1 (Stephansplatz), U2 (Volkstheater or Museumsquartier) and U3 (Herrengasse or Stephansplatz), and from any stop on the trams 1, 2, 71, and D between the stops Ring/Volkstheater and Oper/Karlsplatz.

If using the bus to get there it is best reached on bus numbers 1A and 2A using the Michaelerplatz and Habsburggasse stops

Address: Spanish Riding School (visitor center and entrance), Michaelerplatz 1, 1010 Vienna

Dancing Horses Lipizzaners

Map of Central Vienna Area showing the Spanish riding school where the Dancing Horses Lipizzaners perform.

Spanish Riding School World Tours (Lipizzaners) 

Spanish Riding School UK Tour

The Spanish Riding School run tours to the Uk, Europe and even the world! Despite the immense popularity of the world renowned dancing horses these tours only happen occasionally. I went to the Wembley tour in 2014 and found it to be a memorable and amazing experience! I would highly recommend a visit! I Believe the tours are not ran regularly due to the logistics of transporting the horses and intense training regime….The demand is definitely there!

Dancing Horses Lipizzaners

“Mighty stallion that flies without wings” Lipizzaners and the Spanish riding school in Wembley Stadium, London, U.K. Photo by Chris Jackson/GettyImages

Lipizzaners Tour Update – May 2019

At Town and Tourist, we had received many emails from our readers asking about tours for the Spanish Riding School, we decided to contact them. This was there response.

In principle, the Spanish Riding School is in discussions with several venues in different countries and will be perform in the next few years in Portugal, Netherlands and Switzerland.

Information on the past tours can be found on our homepage.

 Best regards

Daniela Zedinger

Executive Assistant . ” 

Thus if your in one of the above countries, your in luck…If not, you might aswell take a trip to Vienna!

Heres a video below showing a small section of one of their tours.

Andalusian horses – The real Spanish dancing horses?

The Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE (pura raza española), is a horse breed from the Iberian Peninsula, where its ancestors have lived for thousands of  years.It has been used in the development of many other breeds around the world including the Lipizzaner. Can be seen as white, grey or black but other colours also exist. Andalusians have a wonderful temperament

The Andalusians are very intelligent, docile, sensitive, brave and love to learn. In addition, the Andalusian’s are very adaptable. These dancing horses were even used in the past as war horses and more recently for classical dressage. Another trait of the Andalusians is that they are a strong and athletic breed, that can easily perform the higher dressage movements such as passage and piaffe.

Theses dancing horses are well known for their extreme beauty and have very long, wavy manes and tails. The Andalusian is a perfect example of elegance with great presence and charm. A breath of fresh air and vibrancy to watch them perform as they appear to dance to the Spanish music!

The Video below shows the Andalusian Horses and there unique skills.

Andalusian Horses Dance Show

These beautiful dancing stallions can be seen performing at the “How the Andalusian Horses Dance” show which is held at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in  Jerez De La Frontera, Spain.It is an amazing and unique equestrian ballet accompanied by beautiful Spanish music and 18th century styled costumes.A definite must see! There are also opportunities to look behind the scenes !

Dancing Horses are fascinating from the Lipizzaners to the Andalusians Source: wideopenpets.com

Olympic Dressage – Dancing Horses?

In the Olympics, Dressage is called the “highest expression of horse training/Discipline,” and involves the rider and their horse performing a well planned routine. This routine looks as though the Horse is actually dancing and is thus a very popular way for a trainer to show of the discipline of there horse.

Is dressage considered Cruel?

The fundamentals behind Dressage is generally not considered any more cruel than other types of horse training. It is often said that the dressage is an example of a deep partnership between the rider and the horse. It should be about communication, creativity, balance and discipline.  Source.

What type of Horse Breed is Best for Dressage?

In theory, Dressage can be executed by any type or breed of horse (I have even heard of Mules doing Dressage! However, the best type of use Breed to use is  “Warmbloods” . These in general are better suited due to their muscular build for the harsh physical requirements of Olympic or Grand Prix level Dressage. According to the past Olympic Games official Data.

The Following Breeds were used in the 2012 Games:

  • Dutch Warmblood
  • Danish Warmblood
  • Hannoverian
  • Oldenburg
  • Westfalen
  • Pura Raza Espanola (PRE)
  • Holsteiner
  • Swedish Warmblood
  • Finnish Warmblood
  • Lusitano

However, Spanish Andalusians and the Mexican Dancing Horses (Azteca) would also be very good at the games although not used as commonly as the other breeds mentioned above.

Mexican Dancing Horses – Azteca.

The Wondrous Mexican Dancing Horses or Azteca, as they are commonly known is a horse breed from Mexico, similar to the  “American Azteca”, found in the United States. They are very strong horses that are usually of any solid color, and the American Azteca may also some Paint coloration.

What is a Charo?

Charro is a name for a Mexican cowboy, and the historic discipline of using a horse to move large groups of cattle. These days, however the riders practice in an arena and with no cows involved. The saddle is an old school heavy duty saddle used when roping and herding cattle. They  are often quite heavy with great pommels. Sometimes for the show they are decorated with silver and can often be quite colorful. There has been alot of controversy recently regarding, the Mexican Dancing Horses. It is commonly thought that the horses have alot of abuse done to them in order to keep them disciplined.

To see more info on this, watch this Youtube Video below on the Mexican Dancing Horses and abuse that some suffer.

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