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Dancing Lipizzan Horses Perform In Birmingham
When it comes to horsemanship, you'd be pushed to find anything finer than the world's oldest and most famous equestrian academy - the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.
As the Riding School embarks on a special tour, including Birmingham, to mark its 450th anniversary, Weekend Notes takes a look at the beginnings of this spectacular equine organisation.
The wonderful horsemanship of the Spanish Riding School Of Vienna comes to Birmingham
It was back in 1565 that The Spanish Riding School in Vienna was founded setting high standards and teachings in horsemanship and equestrian control.
Based at the Winter Riding School (Winterreitschule) in the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria, riders excel in classical dressage. Even to this day, it is the only institution worldwide where classical equitation in the Renaissance tradition of the "haute école" is still cultivated.
For those wondering why an Austrian organisation is called the Spanish Riding School, it's because it was originally named after the Spanish horses that are behind the Lipizzan breed, used exclusively at the school.
What makes the organisation so unique is the precision of movement by these Lipizzan white horses, which are trained to move in perfect harmony with the music.
The beautiful Lipizzan horses used by the Spanish Riding School
Famous in-hand work and movements have become synonymous with The Riding School. This includes the Capriole - an upward leap made without going forward and with a backward kick of the hind legs at the height of the leap.
Other moves are the Levade, in which the stallion puts its entire weight on its hind legs and raises its front legs no more than 45 degrees, and the Courbette, where the horse raises its forehand off the ground, tucks up forelegs evenly, and then jumps forward in a series of "hops".
The Riding School is also the only place in the world where these classical equestrian skills have been preserved and practiced in their original form. This takes many years of training to fuse horse and rider into an inseparable unit.
With a cross between Spanish, Arabic and Berber horses, the breed of Lipizzan lineage dates back to the 16th century, when it was developed exclusively by the Habsburg monarchy. Estimates put the number of Lipizzaners worldwide at less than 3,000 but only 70 are trained to the demanding standards of the Spanish Riding School at any one time.
To mark the Riding School's 450 year history, The Spanish Riding School Of Vienna will perform three exclusive shows at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham city centre in November 2016.
Hosted by TV presenter and British Dressage Ambassador, Nicki Chapman, the show includes an impressive display of balance and harmony achieved by beautiful White stallions and their regal riders.
The action takes place in the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham
Presenter Nicki Chapman says: "The Spanish Riding School of Vienna tours are rare and exceptional. I'm lucky enough to have been involved in the UK tours and the experience will stay with me for the rest of my life."
She adds: "I've witnessed first-hand these graceful horses thrilling crowds with their astonishing combination of elegance and power. This is an extraordinary, once in a lifetime opportunity to witness these most celebrated, world renowned horses performing in the UK during their momentous 450th anniversary."
The institution has been a favourite of royalty since it was set up and the British Queen is a lifelong fan and among the few women to have been allowed to ride one of the thoroughbreds.
Spanish Riding School Tour
November 18 - 20, 2016
Tickets cost £76.64, £65.39, £42.89, £31.64 (includes admin fees and 70p facility fee) £2.55 fulfilment fee. They are available from the Ticketmaster website.