United Nations Group Recognizes Spanish Riding School as Cultural Icon

by Fran Jurga | 12 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

Here’s some good news for a Friday afternoon. The United Nations agency UNESCO has given an iconic designation to the Spanish Riding School of Vienna by adding it to a list of immaterial cultural objects.

The distinctive designation was announced in Vienna today. Maria Walcher from the Austrian UNESCO committee for immaterial cultural values said today (Fri): “It is a matter of a ritual, traditional craft, oral tradition and timeless knowledge in relation to protection of nature,” in explaining the reason for UNESCO’s decision.

Of course, it is another in a long list of honors for the Viennese tradition, but note that the award did not go to a building or to an individual person, but to the idea of the School itself, hence the “immaterial” designation, which probably translates also to a concept or institution.

Elisabeth G?rtler, the general director of the school, said: “Employees like our Andreas Hausberger have orally communicated their priceless experience to our students and candidates.”

Andreas Hausberger was promoted to the role of oberbereiter (chief rider) at the School in 2007. He is the solo rider that you also see at performances and on videos out of the saddle, as he does the long lining demonstration. During the 2005 SRS tour, he performed the long rein with Conversano Dagmar.

Make way for an icon. It’s just like waiting outside a Broadway theater for the stars to arrive at the stage door when the Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School cross the street each day from their stables to the Winter School. The fans wait and wait, and then the sea parts to allow more than a dozen stallions to walk majestically through. That’s Hannah Zeitlhofer, the first female eleve, or apprentice rider, leading this one through. The eleves act as stable hands while their riding training begins so they are intimately familiar with the horses’ care and routine. Note there is no lip chain, just a short lead on the cavesson. The stallions are trained to be led that way, though it looks strange to those of us indoctrinated to two-handed leading with line to let out, especially on a stallion. But these horses are different. After all, they’re cultural icons. Just ask the United Nations. (Great photo snapped two weeks ago by John Harwood–thanks!)




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