Spanish Riding School Imperial F?te: People Imitating Horses Imitating People

The horse world is full of social events. There are fundraising auctions, cocktail parties, stable tours and hunt balls. But there is one fundraiser that sets the standards for all others. It was held two weeks ago. The location? They held it in their old riding ring.

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna’s Winter Riding Hall was transformed to the most elegant ballroom in the world for its fund-raiser, the Imperial F©te. At midnight, revelers performed a quadrille–just as the horses do.

Dusty, you think? Dark, you think? Tough to navigate in heels and a gown? Not this riding ring.

It was the fourth annual F?te Imp?riale of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.

Remember this: For a good time: call a Lipizzaner.


Maybe you don’t recognize it, but you are looking at one of the most hallowed places in all horsedom: the Spanish Riding School of Vienna’s?300-year-old Winter Riding School (arena), located in an extension of the royal Hofburg Imperial Palace. This building is so special it is even depicted on a five-Euro coin.

But–according to a brilliant new tradition–for one night each summer, the chandeliers glitter at full power. The special footing, covered with parquet flooring, is tapped not by Lipizzaner hooves but by high heels. And an orchestra sits in the balcony instead of an audience. Instead of white horses, there are white-gowned debutantes.

This is the night of the gala F?te Imperiale, a fundraiser to support the horses and their opulent home. Someone has to pay to polish the chandelier. Someone has to pay for the hay. Someone has to pay the riders. And the “f?te” is becoming an important part of the fundraising mindset of this historic, self-supporting institution.

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If you think this party is only for celebrities and royalty, you might be right. Because it makes everyone feel like they are celebrities and royalty. And you can join in the fun next year–just buy a ticket and start practicing your waltz steps!

A parting shot:

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Start this video at 3:32 to see the amazing effect of black tuxedos and white gowns on a parquet floor (over arena footing).

Is this a 1930s Hollywood choreographer Busby Berkley meets?Downton Abbey meme? No, this is not the golden age of Hollywood or post-Victorian England. It’s 100 Viennese debutantes and their escorts waltzing in a home video of the carefully color-coded and choreographed ultimate black-and-white party scene.

Final thought: Vienna is campaigning to host the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. We could all be waltzing in a few short years!

Thank you to the Spanish Riding School for these photos. Thanks to Cheryl Anne Millsap, a blogger and journalist colleague for the NPR station in Spokane, Washington for video assistance.?Read more about Cheryl’s night at the F?te.




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