Admittedly, lacking a passport, does make some of these interviews logistically challenging. The silver lining to that is, any time I’ve asked a person or organization for their assistance, they’ve been tremendously gracious and forthcoming. I guess, in a way, I’m getting my blog passport stamped, and this week, I’m in Vienna, Austria.
The Spanish Riding School, a significant part of Austria’s cultural heritage, is not only the oldest riding academy in the world, it is also the only one where the High School of Classical Horsemanship has been cherished and maintained for over 430 years.
Through a LinkedIn connection, who’s a Chief Rider, and their lovely PR contact, I’m introduced to a 21 year old Assistant Rider by the name of Christopher Egger. Christopher began with the Spanish Riding School in September of 2008, as an Eleve. Based on his description, apparently I’ve been an Eleve for many years, who knew I actually had a distinguished title!? “As an Eleve, you have to groom the horses, keep the equipment clean, take care of the horses… You start riding on the lunging line and get lessons every day. Later you also start riding the young stallions and get lessons on a fully trained School Stallion. If you are able to successfully ride a fully trained stallion in the performance, you get promoted to Assistant Rider. I became an Assistant Rider in Spring 2012. Now I’ve got a young stallion, Conversano Allora, and I have to train him until Performance Level (Grand Prix Level).”
A typical “day in the life” begins at 7am, and ends around 1pm. As an Assistant Rider, you no longer have to handle your own grooming, all the “dirty work” is performed by the Eleves, who Christopher explained, “are all very good horse people.” Spoken with the voice of experience, I suspect.
Christopher is responsible for riding and training three horses during his day, and the teams that are formed, remain throughout your performance time. His young stallion, Conversano Allora, is still in training, so he does not perform yet. He has a school quadrille horse from the 1st Chief Rider Eder, Maestoso Fabiola, and on horse for All Steps and Movements of the Classical School from Chief Rider Hausberger, Favory Dubovina. He has yet to tour with the troop, but I suspect, is eager to.
Two of Christopher’s favorite moments, occurred when he got the phone call that he could begin his career as an Eleve, and later when he was promoted to Assistant Rider, and received his first stallion to train.
I asked, when you see the photos and videos online, or if you’re lucky enough to witness a live performance, it all seems very serious, is it that way all the time? His response was, “while sitting on the horse it IS all serious stuff, but off the horse, for sure we also joke around!” I also asked what seems to surprise the spectators the most, when viewing a performance, his answer, “perfection and harmony.” I remember the challenges of only having to take my own horse and myself through a ride, let alone having to match stride for stride with other horses and riders, and to music… yikes! Intense stuff!
Christopher also went on to explain, that even to the least horse-savvy person, when you enter the Winter Riding School, it’s such a special feeling, and so rich with tradition.
Photo credit to the Spanish Riding School, and Stefan Seelig, thank you! You can learn more about their traditions, riders, and stallions at http://www.srs.at, and follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SpanischeHofreitschule