We all love to celebrate lasting traditions in the horse world. Whether it’s the 141st Kentucky Derby or the 60th Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, we celebrate those numbers as they click higher and higher.
But who can even come close to the number that will be celebrated by the Spanish Riding School of Vienna in 2015? The venerable institution of dancing white horses and impeccable haute école turns 450 years old next year, and every horse lover in the world will have a reason for a wish list topped by an Austria trip.
Even the School's recent tour to the The Netherlands and Great Britain pales compared to the fanfare coming when the calendar turns. If your schedule and budget can handle it, the events planned for Vienna will surely knock your leg wraps off, put stars in your eyes and have you humming Strauss and Mozart for years to come.
A sneak peak at the 2015 schedule shows that Vienna and the Austrian nation will pay homage to the School’s original source and inspiration as Spain's Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art (Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre) of Jerez loads up its stallions and transports them to Vienna. Both the inspiration for the School and the horses themselves are said to have roots in the royal Spanish traditions that were brought to Vienna so long ago and adopted by the royal families there. The drama of a modern-day super-herd of stallions performing on royal ground makes this a horse story that will captivate headlines and imaginations.
Horselovers from all nations will be dancing along with the horses, as the School celebrates its birthday in grand style. A gala ball as only Vienna could stage one will stretch from the Winter Riding Hall through the stable courtyard and beyond. You can do a few imitation caprioles on hallowed ground.
Not only will the well-heeled Vienna celebrants dance the night away, raising funds "so their horses may continue to dance", as the promotions say, but they will dance the morning in, as well. According to the advance program, last call will be at 4 a.m.!
How can horses and people dance in the same place? Arena footing is tough on high heels. The answer is that they won't. If humans will take over the horse spaces, including the Winter Riding Hall, where will the horses go? Literally, next door. The ensemble of Spanish Andalusians and Austrian Lipizzaners will have two performances (June 26 and 27) and one public rehearsal (June 25) in the open air Heldenplatz.
The what? The Heldenplatz ("Heroes Square") is a massive space near the School, an elegant plaza in front of the Hofburg Palace and the offices of the Austrian national president. Can you imagine the Andalusian and Lipizzaner stallions performing under the stars on a beautiful summer night? No doubt the space will be transformed, and the performance will be unforgettable.
Tickets are already on sale for those lucky enough to be able to attend what could be the most unforgettable event of your summer. Or your life.
But the festivities with horses in Austria next year won't just be in Vienna, and the nations involved aren't only Spain and Austria. Mozart Week is celebrated every January in Salzburg, Austria. Combining history, music, and cultural research and artistic connections to one of the world's most beloved composers, Mozart Week has it all. The only thing it has lacked seems to be horses.
But horses will be added to the mix this year as famed French equestrian choreographer Bartabas performs a horseman's interpretation of Mozart's Davide penitente cantata (with texts by Saverio Mattei), as only his creative mind and talented horses could imagine and express.
Bartabas--and riders from his Académie Equestre de Versailles at the Palace of Versailles in France--will be accompanied by cellist Jérôme Pernoo in Salzburg's intimate Felsenreitschule (Summer Riding School).
Expect something spectacular when Austria adds horses to the mix of their cultural events. Horses aren't just a warmup act to please the crowds or add some action. They mean something in the cultural depth of the nation and these events will likely be recorded and studied as much as they will be enjoyed and appreciated.
And that will be quite a lot.
Thank you, Austria, for the first really great news of 2015!
To learn more:
Top image original by Emmanuelle Contini, iPhone view graphic added by Fran.