Anna Grace turned 13 this week and still very much prefers horses to boys. This pleases Tony to no end. Extra riding lessons in the summer? No problem. New apparel to fit in with fellow Austrian riders? But of course. A birthday morning spent at the Spanish Riding School, home to the famous Lipizzaner Horses, followed by lunch at a favorite restaurant and shopping with our credit card? Natürlich!
A little history. The Lippiza breed from what is now Slovenia is the basis for the Spanish Lippizaner, the horses used exclusively at the school in Vienna that was established way back in the Hapsburg Empire days of the 1500s. Hence, the Spanish Riding School. The school is the oldest in the world, too.
The horses have a long and glorious history, but have met with danger often during wartime. After the fall of the Empire the horses were divided between the new independent nations, with the breed mares consolidated at the stud farm in Piber, Austria (about two hours or so from Vienna).
Under Nazi occupation the horses were relocated to Czechoslovakia by Hitler’s men, and then rescued under U.S. General Patton’s command. “Operation Cowboy” in 1945 moved the horses to Germany before ultimately resettling them in Piber. A part of Austria’s cultural heritage most definitely worth saving, we all agreed.
Fast forward in time. The Empire is no more, Communism and the Cold War is (mostly) over, and the horses continue to frolic happily in Piber. For two months each summer, though, Vienna is treated to the mares and their new foals from Piber enjoying the grass in the former Emperor’s Garden. Beauty and grace in the Imperial City.
While the horses are in town the Spanish Riding School offers the “Piber meets Vienna” program, a chance to see the up and coming horses for the school. The recipe was complete: a 13th birthday; a grand Baroque setting; classical music; and, the horses. Tickets were purchased.
But first, a Schokobomben birthday treat from Demel, the Imperial and Royal Court Bakery.
Someone floated on their sugar high all the way to the Inner Stadt…
Even famous Lippizaners appreciate a good roll in the dirt.
Mares and fillies and colts, oh, my!
Lunch at a favorite restaurant, and then a romp with mom and dad’s credit card along Vienna’s trendy shopping streets wrapped up the celebration. Happy 13th Birthday, Anna Grace!