Rider with Lipizzaner horse

The Vienna Horse Show That Wasn’t

When we went to Vienna at the end of last year, my children were very excited about seeing the famous Lippizaner horses at the renowned Spanish Riding School.  They both love horses and take riding lessons.  The Vienna horse show was going to be the highlight of our trip.

I, unfortunately, completely screwed up the purchase of the tickets by getting cheaper ones.  I got tickets for the Morning Exercise with Classical Music (still not cheap though at 28 Euros each).

This is what we were expecting.

Sadly, the morning exercises were not that interesting.

The Two Choices For the Vienna Horse Show

With the Morning Exercises ticket, you line up even if you have tickets and then there is a mad rush to get a seat.  If I were you, I would go to the other side from the entrance door once you are inside the ring to avoid getting into a scrap over a seat.  If you don’t get a seat, you will have to stand for the show.  For 2 hours some very pretty horses trot around the ring.  Literally, that is all they do.  The walk around and sometimes they break into a mild trot. No tricks, no jumps, nada.

The building in which the ring is housed is very pretty.  The horses are very pretty.  The men in uniforms look dashing.  But, overall it is somewhat underwhelming (especially for children) no matter how much you like horses.

The Winter Riding School
Image credits: Jesus Leon

I should’ve checked the reviews on Tripadvisor before I purchased the tickets.

For a show of skilled horsemanship, I should have gotten tickets to the weekend performance which are also not cheap (from 23 Euros to 89 Euros). We are returning to Vienna in June and I am planning on biting the bullet and buying us tickets to an actual show.

Rider with Lipizzaner horse
Image credit: Brian Scott

Historical Background

The Spanish Riding School, the oldest riding school in the world, has been going strong for hundreds of years.  In fact, special celebrations are planned for the end of June in 2015 to mark the school’s 450th anniversary.

The Lipizzaner stallions were imported from Spain in the 16th century.  They are a cross between Spanish, Arabian and Berber horses.  As you can see, they are beautiful horses.

Lipizzaner horses
Image credit: John Harwood

The winter riding school was commissioned by Emperor Charles VI in the early 18th century.  It is one of the thousands of rooms which are part of the Hofburg Palace. I bet these houses have a nicer exercise room than most people’s homes!

Winter Riding School
Image credit: Daniel Stockman

The riders of the Lippizaner horses undergo rigorous training of approximately 8-12 years.  The first few years are spent on getting posture completely correct!  In 2008, the school finally allowed women to be riders (one British and one Austrian).

vienna horse show
Image credit: Eadaoinn Flynn


The Vienna horse show is at the Spanish Riding School in the Hofburg Palace.  The Spanish Riding School website (parts in English) has details on how to buy tickets online.

Update:  We have now gone to the Saturday display of the Spanish Riding School and it was fabulous!

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I am an American expat based in London with my travel-loving family. I write at Just Go Places Blog about luxury, cultural and family travel.

2 thoughts on “The Vienna Horse Show That Wasn’t”

  1. Hi Shobha, I am sorry to hear about your disappointment. I am pretty sure you will enjoy the real show a lot better than the training sessions. If you ever get the chance to visit the south of Austrian in Spring the Lipizzaner Horse Stables might be a place for you to visit http://www.piber.com/en/. January to March is the time when the mares give birth to the foals. I have done the tour a couple of times and if you are into horses its really lovely. The area around is also quite nice and rural.

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