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Painting of Maestoso II Catrina ridden by Shana Ritter. Painting by Janey Belozer.

Thomas and Shana Ritter perform a Pas-de-Deux to Music during the 2007 Open House Performance, aboard the Lipizzan stallions, Favory Toscana-18 and Conversano Mima. Photo by Amelia Gagliano.

Directives of the Spanish Riding School
- Translation by Dr. Thomas Ritter

©2001 - All Rights Reserved

In 1898, Feldmarschalleutnant von Holbein wrote the so-called "Directiven", the general guidelines for the training of horse and rider at the Spanish Riding School together with Oberbereiter Johann Meixner.

They have been made available to a larger audience by Dr. Bertold Schirg, who included them as an appendix in his edition of an 18th century manuscript entitled "Unbekanntes aus der Spanischen Hofreitschule" (Olms Press 1996). Purpose of the k.u.k. (Kaiserlich und Koenigliche = Empirial and Royal) Spanish Riding School

  • To preserve the equestrian art in its highest perfection, i.e. haute ecole, and, while allowing for today's views and needs, continually to promote higher horsemanship, whose principles and experiences still form the basis for modern riding, even today.
  • Educating methodical School Riders and training the necessary School horses.
  • Testing the horse material of an independent breeding program that is at the disposal of the k.u.k. Spanish Riding School in terms of the durability of the bones, joints, and muscles, as well as temperament and character, with a view to using certain individual for breeding purposes.
  • Teaching lessons - as far as this is reconcilable with the education of the riders and the training of the School horses - to individual persons from the army or civilians who are interested in equestrian art.


    About the riding system that is to be applied at the k.u.k. Court Riding School:

    Advanced horsemanship must never be conceptualized as Haute Ecole in isolation, since it comprises all three types of riding, i.e.:

    1. Riding with as natural a posture of the horse as possible, not in collection, and on straight lines: the so-called riding forward.
    2. Riding the collected horse in all gaits, turns an patterns in perfect balance: Campaign School.
    3. Riding the horse in an artistically elevated posture, with increased flexion of the haunches and regularity, maneuverability, and dexterity, in all ordinary as well as nature-oriented extraordinary gaits and leaps. Brought methodically to the highest perfection, this type of riding is called: "Haute Ecole".

    The first type of riding can be conceived and practiced on its own, however,

    the second type of riding is already a consequence of the first one.

    The third type of riding is simply unthinkable without the two other abovementioned ones, especially the Campaign School. This latter type of riding increases the horse's joy of going forward, develops his natural talents in posture and gaits, strengthens the horse in all his limbs and makes him elastic in his ligaments, tendons, and joints. - Thus, it increases the horse's dexterity and stamina, awakens the intellect and the understanding. At the same time, it gives the rider the standard for the handling, as well as for the methodical procedure in the horse's further dressage. - It is thus the only correct preparation for Haute Ecole, which is to be regarded as a whole that combines all three types of riding.

    In other words, the fully methodically trained School horse must also be able to be used in fast gaits and must be a completely useful Campaign horse, to the same degree that he possesses mobility and stamina in short and elevated gaits.

    Adhering to a methodical training in the education of the rider as well as the horse, consisting in progressive lessons and reprises, is therefore the strict duty of the riders of this institution.

    Every rider has to be perfectly clear in his own mind at what level of dressage the horse he is working is at any given moment, and as to the goal he wants to pursue and eventually achieve from movement to movement. Asked about its purpose, he must be able to answer clearly and with few words any time.

    In one word, the rider must not only be able to ride, but also to think, as only a thinking rider can reach his goal with the utmost consideration for the horse in a relatively short amount of time.

    Based on the principle that onesidedness and schematization impoverish and harm any art form, no specific orders are given. Instead, the following books on equestrian art, that do not contradict each other, but complement each other, are listed as a guideline, in order to help secure the methodical procedure in the training of horse and rider. They are considered binding for the riding system at the k.u.k. Spanish Court Riding School with the exception of a few minor deviations:

    M. de la Guérinière (1751),

    Max Ritter von Weyrother (1814),

    Louis Seeger (1844),

    Freiherr von Oeynhausen (1845-1865),

    and finally the drill manual for the cavalry, with the order that the lessons for the temporary civilian students have to follow precisely the k.u.k. drill manual.

    The circles, turns, lateral movements, and all gaits that are described therein must be ridden.


    Special emphasis is placed here on the riders' responsibility to be familiar with other older and more recent publications on equestrian art.

    During the winter, lectures on veterinary medicine have to be held for a wider audience. Their practical applicability for the equestrian art has to be discussed immediately by the director of the institution. Debates of conflicting opinions contribute very much to the clarification of technical terms and to the execution of a uniform methodical riding system.

    On the etiquette at the k.u.k. Spanish Court Riding School:

    Obviously, the fine etiquette befitting any k.u.k. Court institution must be observed at all times by every employee and servant of the institution.

    In particular, the director of the Court Riding School must enforce strictly that no rider takes the liberty to make comments, much less to argue, while mounted on horseback. If a comment appears necessary, it must be made formally and modestly after having dismounted.

    The impeccably groomed and carefully tacked up horses are led from the long side to the center line and squared up parallel with the short side.

    Before mounting, every rider has to check the grooming, saddle and bridle of the horse that was brought to him. He immediately alerts the Chief Rider as to any irregularities and remains responsible for the proper tack as long as he is riding.

    The rider always begins on the right rein and salutes the portrait of Emperor Charles VI.

    Every rider has to salute the director of the School as well as his teacher after dismounting.

    When two riders meet, the one riding on the right rein always makes room. In lateral movements, there are the following exceptions:

    Riders who are practicing the shoulder-in make room, regardless of whether they are on the right or left rein. Riders who are practicing haunches-in, piaffe, or an extraordinary gait, remain alongside the wall, regardless of whether they are on the right or left rein, while the other riders always have to make room for them.

    Riders who are practicing renvers or gaits in counter-position always have to leave the outside track to the other riders.

    If two riders meet who are both practicing lateral movements, renvers, piaffe, or extraordinary gaits, the one on the right rein has to yield, as indicated above.

    When individual riders ride patterns, it is the responsibility of the other riders not to disturb them.

    Passing on unspecific lines is to be avoided as poor etiquette. Instead, the rider must pass on a straight line until he reaches the next corner, or he has to turn.

    It is strictly forbidden at all times to wander around aimlessly. Every rider must adhere to the formal lines, circles, and turns.

    The teacher as well as every observer will then be able to recognize the rider's intentions immediately, because the latter cannot cover up the mistake when he succumbs to the horse's will. Instead, he is forced to keep the horse obedient every step of the way.

    The various gaits, circles, turns, and patterns that are ridden at the k.u.k. Spanish Court Riding School:

    The horse's gaits are subdivided into ordinary, extraordinary, and artistic ones.

    Ordinary gaits: Walk, trot, canter, and jumping - are those in which horses move outside, when they are not influenced in any way, including any jumps that may be necessary to clear obstacles.

    Extraordinary gaits: The passage, a trot related movement that is executed in moments of excitement, as well as turns and leaps, school parade, pirouette, levade, courbette, ballotade, and capriole, which can easily be observed when horses play and fight with each other in herds at liberty. The latter four leaps are also called airs above the ground.

    Artistic gaits: These are gaits that never occur at liberty, such as the school position, school walk, school trot, school canter, piaffe, lateral movements, and all gaits that are ridden in counter position.

    In addition to the ordinary gaits that are addressed in the k.u.k. drill manual, all the abovementioned turns, gaits, and leaps are to be practiced at the k.u.k. Spanish Court Riding School.

    The specific circles, voltes, and patterns are indicated in the plates with the comment that it is up to each individual rider, to combine these circles, voltes, and patterns, depending on his own skill level, and to form an overall unified whole for the purpose of an exhibition.

    By the same token, it is the responsibility of the Chief Rider to form School Quadrilles with the individual lines, voltes, and patterns for his riders and students, in order to present exhibitions for the nobility. - So-called circus tricks are beneath the dignity of the institution and must be strictly avoided in exhibitions as well as at all times.

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