Spanish Riding School Embroiled in Political Squabble Over Selection of New Managing Director

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Spanish Riding School performance.

VIENNA, JAN. 19, 2019–The Spanish Riding School whose white Lipizzan stallions have made it world famous and at 450 years the oldest institution of its type, has become embroiled in a political squabble that has led to a panel including top Austrian dressage officials charged with finding new management to quit in protest.

The institution’s supervisory board ignored the panel’s recommendation and selected Sonja Klima, ex-wife of former Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima, for the executive post.

The panel that included Elisabeth Max-Theurer, Olympic gold medal rider, 5* judge and CDI show organizer; Thomas Lang, also a top ranked 5* judge and successful Grand Prix rider, and Klaus Haim Swarowski, a successful breeder and international horse show organizer, had recommended 40-year school rider Herwig Radnetter to be the new managing director. Former Miss World, Ulla Weigerstorfer, was also a candidate as was Sonja Klima. Follow-up independent personnel reviews endorsed the panel’s recommendation.

In addition to the riding program, the school has an extensive breeding program.

The supervisory board, made up of politicians and government officials, decided on Sonja Klima.

The panel then resigned in protest and issued a statement that said, “We regret this political decision, which has already led to numerous critical comments both at home and abroad. Here, long-term damage is done to an internationally unique institution.”

The Lipizzan horses have a special connection to the United States Army which saved the stallions and performing horses in the waning stages of World War II.