Vienna's dancing horses get first female riders

Young Lipizzaner stallions gallop through the the Spanish Riding School of Vienna during a photocall January 8, 2008. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

VIENNA (Reuters) - Two women have made history at Vienna’s Spanish Riding School by becoming the first female riders to pass the entrance exam in 436 years.

An 18-year-old Briton and a 21-year-old Austrian must now pass a one-month trial to train at the school, set up in 1572. The school will not name the pair until they pass the trial.

If they pass, the new recruits will train for five years before they can take to the saddle in public on the white Lipizzaner dancing horses which are trained to perform tricky moves such as springing from their hind legs.

“There has never been a ban for women,” Erwin Klissenbauer, the school’s manager, said on Friday. The school has, however, had a masculine image because of its military background, he said.

The horses and riders, clad in uniforms designed in the 19th century, draw sell-out crowds in Vienna and on tour abroad.

Reporting by Alexandra Zawadil; Editing by Janet Lawrence