The prize for the world's most elegant lawnmowers in a city park goes to the city of Vienna, Austria, where a dozen Lipizzaner mares and foals roam the Burggarten Park of the Hofburg Palace each day through August 2nd. The mares and foals are visiting the city from the national stud at Piber while the stallions are on vacation; they perform at the hallowed Winter Hall. (Image © Spanish Riding School by Julie Brass, used with permission)
"I was strolling through the park one day..."
Vienna, Austria is one of Europe's top tourist destinations. But if you're not a gilded palace, a famous art museum, or a historical attraction related to Mozart or Freud, how does a horse attraction compete for publicity?
The answer, it turns out, is simple: Don't hold your horses. Turn them loose.
That's what the Spanish Riding School of Vienna did this week. And the rest is publicity-made-in-heaven history.
While the high-leaping stallions are on summer vacation, the famous stables in the historic imperial palace district of Vienna have a dozen or so much more curious and lively occupants. Mares and foals from the Federal Stud at Piber in southern Austria come to the city each summer and are put on display to the public. They frolic under the chandelier of the famous Winter Riding Hall.
Visitors are able to have an advance look at foals who may be back in a few years when their now-black coats begin to turn silver and they show talent for the discipline and athleticism needed for the haute ecole. Some of the mares are shown in a driving exhibition and visitors are encouraged to visit the stud farm.
But the mares and foals are accustomed to spending their days in beautiful meadows. In Vienna, Lipizzaner hooves never touch natural earth. The path is paved from stable to arena, and the walking ring has nice artificial footing, but Mother Nature seems far away.
School director Elizabeth Guertler was quoted as having seen a mare desperately trying to eat the green leaves off a tree as she was walked by. That gave her an idea.
Now the mares and foals will be free each day in the Burggarten, a beautiful formal park for the Hofburg Palace, on the other side of the Spanish Riding School. The public can see them there for free until August 2.
Is there anything more surprising that coming across a group of loose horses lazily grazing under trees in the middle of a city? Tourists and natives alike are delighted and stop to watch the elegant lawnmowers, who are accompanied by uniformed grooms.
They even leave some fertilizer behind, a fringe benefit of an accidental public relations stunt with some healthy benefits for horses and humans alike.