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Spanish Riding School

Queen of Englands favourite horses used as lawnmowers in Vienna

Horses from the famous Spanish Riding School are being used to help keep the grass down in city parks in Vienna.

Despite its name the Spanish Riding School is 100 percent Austrian, a leftover from the Austro-Hungarian Empire which once included Spain.

And the famous white Lipizzaner stallions that are used in the school were originally from the Spanish Iberian Peninsula.

A cross between Spanish, Arabian and Berber horses, the daily performances by the horses have won fans all over the world including Queen Elizabeth.

And now as well as seeing the stallions perform dressage shows at the school, tourists will also have the chance to see mares and foals being let out to graze and roam over the grass of city parks.

Spanish Riding School boss Elisabeth Guertler said that the idea had been really well received across the board and added: "There will not be much need for mowing the grass."

The horses will be let out for an hour every day except Sundays and Mondays until 2 August, and are distinctive because while the adults are snowy white the foals are born dark and only later develop their grey-white coats.

A spokesman for the city council park authority said that they were not concerned about damage to the turf because although it would be well-nibbled, it would not be destroyed as the horses have not yet been shod. The mothers and foals will be chaperoned whilst they are in the park, and visitors are warned that they are not allowed to stroke them, however tempting that may be.

Previously the horses were expected to stay in the confines of the Spanish Riding School but Guertler said her heart went out to them after she noticed them vainly trying to nibble at a few chestnut tree leaves, and realised they were deprived of greenery.

From 2 August the foals will spend the rest of the year roaming the pastures of the Lipizzaner Stud farm in Piber, in the Austrian state of Styria.

The Spanish Riding School is the oldest riding academy in the world, and the only one where classical dressage has been maintained for over 440 years.

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