Graduation Day: Spanish Riding School’s First Female Rises in Rank

It’s graduation day. Forget the mortarboard. She’ll wear a bicomer-type hat from now on. No black gown for this graduate–she’ll be dressed in doeskin breeches and over-the-knee boots. Ceremonial procession? She does one every day. Hers is on the back of a Lipizzaner stallion.

The horse world’s #1 graduate in 2012 has to be Hannah Zeitlhofer, who qualified last month as the first full-fledged female assistant rider at Vienna’s Spanish Riding School. She’s shown here with one of the School’s Lipizzaner stallions,© Neapolitano Allegra. (photo courtesy of Spanish Riding School)

Equestrian history books are all going to need to updated. The first woman in 440 years has qualified as a full-fledged assistant reiter (rider) at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. Hannah was accompanied by her lone classmate, Christopher Egger, who also rose in rank.

For the past four? years, Hannah has worked as an eleve, or apprentice rider. She has toiled in the stables and been schooled on the lunge. She has fed the horses and cleaned the stalls. She will now be eligible to ride with the School in performances, wearing the long-tailed coat with its pocket full of sugar cubes.

She will hold her head up high, because that’s how she has been taught to ride. And so we can all look up to her, which we will.

This story has an interesting post script: Hannah’s the only woman rider, but she is no longer the only woman at the Spanish Riding School. Agnes, Ulla, Theresa and Marlene are the names of four eleves who recently joined the school.

In fact, there is only one male eleve. Change has come.




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