Spanish Riding School 2005 American Tour

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Fran Jurga
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Meet Rider Herwig Radnetter

As if he wasn't a great rider, Herwig is a great translator, as well. He speaks perfect English and is a friendly ambassador for the Spanish Riding School on the tour. Perhaps the fact that his father is an American helped? He seems very at home in America!

Herwig started at the Spanish Riding School as a very young rider in 1976. He became a cadet in 1982 and progressed to full rider in 1988. He appeared with the Spanish Riding School in the United States in 1990 in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., New York and Boston.

His involvement with the Spanish Riding School for over the past 28 years has included training a number of different Lipizzaner horses and presenting them in performance, including the Lipizzaner stallion from Piber called "Conversano Mantua".

Herwig is married to Nicole, his wife since February 2002, and they have one daughter named Kea. His parents both live in Austria.

Photo courtesey of Spanish Riding School.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What About Stirrups?

Stirrups are an important part of modern equestrianism. You'll see lots of stirrups in the gilded tack rooms at the Stallburg in Vienna and also at the stud at Piber. In the museum at Piber, there is even an interesting display of hand-forged stirrups made for the Spanish Riding School from different metals. The designs are ornate and beautiful.

But the apprentice riders of the Spanish Riding School learn to ride without stirrups. They learn balance and connection with the horse that reaches its zenith of achievement when riding the airs above the ground, which are done without stirrups. One reason for this is the respect for the traditions of the art; remember that Xenophon and the true forefathers of classical riding did not even know what a stirrup was!

Stirrups are first seen in art from India circa 200 BC, but they were not widely used in European riding until after the fall of the Roman empire. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius supposedly had and used stirrups but they were for the purpose of mounting, not for riding, and were not attached to the saddle. The word stirrup literally means "mounting rope".

By the way, did you know that saddle design used by the SRS is related to the French cavalry school saddle of the famed ecuyer la Gueriniere? For schooling, the riders use modern English style saddles. There are many cross-cultural influences seen in the saddlery, uniforms and training of the SRS, as one would expect after studying a bit of central European history--and the family tree of Austrian royalty that created and patronized the Spanish Riding School.

Photo by Fran Jurga
(PS Did you know that the insignia and stripes on the rich red saddle "cloths" have significance as well? The riders are identically dressed, but their saddle cloth gold stripes disclose rank.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Piber Under British Rule 1945-1955

Did you know...that after the end of World War II, the Austrian federal stud at Piber was in the British zone of Austria, while the Spanish Riding School was in St Martins and Wels, in the American sector? Piber was under British jurisdiction until the re-establishment of the free Austria in 1955.

The mares and breeding stallions and foals had a tough ten years at Piber, with shortages and hardship all through Styria province.

Even the great Colonel Podhajsky, director of the SRS, lived on cabbage soup in the post-war years, according to Charles Harris in his autobiographical memoir, "Workbooks from the Spanish Riding School 1948-1951".

Piber has been the center of breeding for the SRS only since the 1920s, although Lipizzans had been bred there before that. At the end of World War I, Austria was awarded a group of 91 horses from Lipica, which had been part of Italy before that war, and they were sent to Piber.

A trip to see the Spanish Riding School perform is incomplete without reading the history of this breed and the school. You must remember how much more fortunate the Austrian Lipizzans fared than their relations in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and especially Hungary, where they were reportedly slaughtered for meat by the advancing (and hungry) Russians.

At the end of 1947, there were a total of only 23 horses at the Lipica ("Lipizza") stud, the actual home of the breed, in what is now Slovenia. How many flags have flown over Lipica, I wonder? And how many times has that stud been evacuated and rescued? The great stories are there, I am sure.

The narration of the performances on the USA tour includes lots of history but there is so much more! My new favorite book is "The Imperial Horse: The Saga of the Lipizzaners" by Isenhart and Buhrer--thanks so much to the blog reader who noted that I had omitted it from the blog's reading list. This book is truly a treasure. See October's archives for my original book list.

Call Robin Bledsoe, Bookseller at 617 576 3634 for books on the history of Spanish Riding School, or order them for your local independent bookseller.

Beautiful Piber riding hall image courtesy of Spanish Riding School.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Clarification: Pre-Performance "Clinic" Info

In Washington, DC, there seemed to be confusion about USEF pre-event clinics and what was required to attend. That part of the program was organized by USEF, and I don't know much about it except that it seemed like a very interesting presentation.

I am listing below the contact names for the three upcoming performance venues. In DC, the clinic started about 5:30, as I recall. You really must check with these individuals to get the proper information for the different cities and performances.

Philadelphia, PA - The Wachovia Spectrum
Brad Sims: (215) 952-4129, or

Atlanta, GA - The Arena at Gwinnett Center
Carla White: (770) 813-7551, or

Houston, TX - Toyota Center
Tiffany Hill: (713) 758-7577, or

Here is the link to the USEF announcement of clinics:

For general info on ticket sales, visit, or call (877) 547-4926.

Photo courtesy of Spanish Riding School.

Monday, November 21, 2005

An Afternoon in Washington...

The riders and staff had a few free hours while in Washington DC...and they were happy to play tourist! Of course, they got the royal treatment they deserved. Here are the SRS representatives relaxing on the Mall. Count the blue jeans!

At the far right you will see Norbert Tschautsche, who was a special guest for the Washington weekend. He was Oberbereiter from 1956 to 1997. It was a great pleasure to meet him.

Photo courtesy of Phil Lobel,
Lobeline Communications.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Your blogger has made a mistake. In the early days of the blog, we reported that only white stallions would be coming to the USA. To our delight, we announce that Favory Alea II is enjoying the tour. He is a 25-year-old dark brown stallion (almost black but not quite) with some unusual white markings on his pasterns...and we'll have more to tell you about him in the days and weeks to come!

In this photo you can see Alea waiting for his curtain call, while a groom brushes any flecks of footing off his legs with a soft brush.

(Fran Jurga photo)

What's on their feet?

Shoes of silver? Nails of solid gold? Pads of velvet and brocade? It's quite hard to see the feet of the Spanish Riding School horses as they glide by; the footing clings to their hoof walls and you can't see much.

Most of the horses have similarly shaped (oval) feet and short upright pasterns. For that reason, the feet look like the heels are quite high and the coronet (hairline) is almost ground-parallel. works for them! And the fact that many of the stallions are over 20 years old and sound with this type of conformation, hoof balance, and shoeing is testimony to the variables of hoofcare.

All the horses I saw in Washington were shod in front with simple plain shoes with toe clips front and hind, although most were only shod in front and were barefoot behind. one horse had side clips, though I couldn't really see any difference in his feet, and still another was shod with quite a bit of length and expansion, or else the shoe had spread (I didn't want to be a noodge and ask to see the bottom of his foot on show day.)

I took these photos of Siglavy Allegra's feet in Vienna in June. He has some small drive-in calks in his front shoes, probably to help with traction and shoe wear on all the cobblestones and pavement that he walks on at home in Vienna.

The SRS stallions didn't always have such neat, trim feet; in the 1980s, they were afflicted with a hoof-crumbling disorder that was studied by our friend Dr Hans Geyer at the University of Vienna vet school. He was able to use the SRS horses for a controlled study of the effects of biotin supplementation on hoof horn growth. One of his students even earned a PhD by studying the Lipizzan feet.

That is just one of many small ways that the Spanish Riding School has allowed the horses to help in research that has benefited all our horses. Other studies on genetics, gait/locomotion, and saddle fit have been conducted in the hallowed Vienna stables.

Photos courtesy of Hoofcare & Lameness Journal's "Hocks of Steel" article, issue #79, October 2005.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Riders Check on Their Horses

FRIDAY MORNING--It was nice to see the riders show up to say hello to their horses and reassure them after their first night in the strange, cavernous building and the ordeal on the highway.

Here you see Oberbereiter Klaus Krzisch greeting the solo horse Siglavy Mantua I and Rider Herbert Seiberl offering an apple to Conversano Toscana I, the horse he rides in the quadrille. Rider Seiberl earned his rank as "rider" only in the spring on 2005.

I almost didn't recognize some of the riders in their "street" clothes...which turned out to be western cut jeans and boots for most of them!

Nineteen Trucks of Dirt...

...It's not just dirt, it's "footing". But it takes 19 dump trucks to move it from city to city. While the base is "rodeo dirt" ordered on a city by city basis, the top layers are special K-Sand mixed with washed Fibar, a wood-chip sort of footing that helps make it safer for the Lipizzans to leap and pirouette.

In St Louis, there was an instant changeover from ice for a hockey game one night, to footing for the Lipizzans the next day.

Watch for those 19 trucks to zoom up Interstate 95 from Washington DC to Philadelphia on Monday morning!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Quick Link to Dress Rehearsal Photos

Here's the url for a page of photos from the dress rehearsal performance during the Spanish Riding School's visit to Columbus, Ohio in November:

LANA dress rehearsal candid photos

The stallions arrive in Washington!

The Spanish Riding School has gone underground. The big vans rolled into DC today and unloaded the stallions in the bowels of the MCI Centre in urban Washington DC. Take a left at Urban Outfitters and follow the wheel-barrows!

It was a long, long ride from St. Louis--more than 20 hours. Here you see the red carpet that was rollled out to welcome them, and one of the weary horses being lead by a groom. And that is Maryland's Shari Kennedy DVM standing by to help with any travel-related health problems.

Photos courtesy of Lobeline Communications and Fran Jurga.

See you there!

Your faithful blog author will be in the audience on Saturday night for the Washington DC show at the MCI Center. I am looking forward to seeing you all there!

Don't forget to be doubly in awe of Siglavy Mantua I when he does his solo performance. Not only does he perform an amazing piaffe...he does it at the age of 26!

Thanks to everyone in all the cities for supporting the Spanish Riding School and the stallions. And thanks for posting comments on this blog and sharing your experiences!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Stallions Head to Washington!

The stallions are scheduled to leave the National Equestrian Center outside St. Louis today and head to Washington, where they will be stabled at the MCI Center in preparation for two shows this weekend.

Washington is a very special stop for the Spanish Riding School. Ticket sales are extremely strong for these shows, and Sunday's show is expected to be completely sold out.

I talked to a farrier this week who will be going on a bus chartered by one of his clients. All the boarders and students at that barn will be attending, thanks to a very organized barn owner who ordered tickets the day they went on sale!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

TODAY Show Leaps for Lipizzans!

The Spanish Riding School was featured in a special segment of the TODAY show on NBC News on Sunday, November13. Oberbereiter Johann Riegler, spokesman for the Spanish Riding School, and rider Rudi Rostek were interviewed by the Today Show's Janet Shamlian who also enjoyed a visit with James Totten, grandson of General Patton, and a few of the horses. That's NBC Producer Nancy Field in the middle photo.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Spanish Riding School Re-Connects with General Patton's Family

Chief rider Johann Riegler poses with James Patton Totten, grandson of General George S. Patton Jr. before the Columbus performance. General Patton was instrumental in "rescuing" the Spanish Riding School mares out of Czechoslovakia at the end of the World War II, as well as protecting the stallions of the school at their evacuation encampment at St Martins in Austria.

Mr. Totten is the editor of the newly published book "The Button Box", a biographical memoir of Beatrice Patton, wife of General Patton and Mr Totten's grandmother. The book does not have information about the Spanish Riding School but it does have fantastic details about the Patton family's passion for horsemanship and riding. You can play polo, ride in the Olympics, and go foxhunting with the famous general in the pages of that book, which is published by the University of Missouri Press and available from your local independent bookstore.

Photo courtesy of Lobeline Communications, Los Angeles.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NEWS FLASH: SRS Lipizzans on The Today Show

NBC's popular TODAY show is on its way to Columbus, Ohio as I write this. They will be taping footage of the Spanish Riding School's rehearsal for the opening performance this weekend. I am not sure when it will be on the air. You might want to tune in on Friday morning.

Try this link at NBC ( and check the "coming up" box to see if they announce the broadcast date. Or check the blog again soon!

Worth Their Weight in Silver

Did you know...that the Austrian five schelling coin was emblazoned with the image of a Spanish Riding School Lipizzan? The coin was real silver, but its use was discontinued when Austria switched to the ubiquitous Euro system in 1999.

One of the nicest souvenirs (in my opinion) sold on the 2005 USA tour is a pendant of this coin. I think you can order one online at

Santa, are you reading this?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sire Bloodline Breakdown

All six stallions lines of the Lipizzan breed are represented in the American tour with the following breakdown (in alphabetical order)
Conversano 7
Favory 5
Maestoso 4
Neapolitano 5
Pluto 2
Siglavy 7
(total 30 stallions)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Quarantine in New York

The US Department of Agriculture's quarantine center at Newburgh, New York is about an hour's drive north of New York City. You might see any animal on the planet at this important place. The USDA isolates and inspects animals for agriculture, zoos, and pets. Bird flu is in the news this week, and this center processed over 1000 exotic birds last year! But horses, by far, are the most popular animals to pass through Newburgh. In 2003, 5000 horses passed through Newburgh.Most were imported from European countries.

Whenever an animal-carrying international plane lands at New York's JFK or LaGuardia airports, or at nearby Newark, New Jersey, a USDA inspecting veterinarian boards the plane and makes a routine check to identify the animals. They are then transported by truck to Newburgh.

What follows is lots of paperwork, as identity checks continue and health records are scrutinized. Stallions are especially carefully checked, since they can be carriers of Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) and Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM), two venereal diseases that the USDA is trying to control.

Some countries in Europe have much more lax attitudes toward EVA, and it is often a controversial topic among international veterinarians. The UK and USA are very strict about stallions being tested. All the Lipizzans tested free of EVA in Europe before they left.

Once the horses arrive at Newburgh, they are moved into barns that are very far apart. Only about 125 horses at a time can be housed at the facility, so bringing in 30 stallions at once was an unusual order. There is about 100 feet of space between the barns and the staff is very careful about going from barn to barn. They wear special clothing and disinfect their feet before entering buildings.

It doesn't always go so smoothly for horses entering the USA. If a sick horse is in a shipment, it can hold up all the horses for a long time, until they are all determined to be healthy. To make matters more complicated, the regulations differ among countries, because of the geographic distribution of diseases.

Horses from countries that have African horse sickness are subject to the most strict regulations.

Once the Lipizzans leave Newburgh, they will still technically be "quarantined". They will not come into contact with other horses and their health will be carefully monitored.

To learn more about quarantine regulations and the USDA, visit the APHIS web site.