Vienna is a city that revels in its past. Over the centuries, the clatter of Fiaker plying their trade in the 1st district has never stopped and every Viennese knows how charming Empress Sissi looked riding sidesaddle through Laxenburg. With centuries of equestrian history, Austria’s capital still offers many possibilities for horseback riding in town and just a short distance from the city.
A TROT IN THE PRATER
Just 20 minutes by bus from the U3 station Schlachthausgasse will bring you directly to the Lusthaus, an 18th-century former hunting lodge at the very end of the Prater Hauptallee, which is just a few steps from the Reitverein (riding club) Freudenau. The city around you disappears and you feel transported to the middle of the countryside: Couples in trekking boots take their morning constitutional through the woods; a young student jogs along, her ponytail swinging in the breeze; and three middle-aged ladies on horseback pass by, leaving a trail of gossip hanging in the air. At 11:00, the riding club was already buzzing with activity. Kids were running inside the clubhouse, a stable boy was shoveling straw in the stalls and a 40-something woman in a parka and trim-fit riding breeches was directing her tall, black horse to the paddocks, a quilted blue blanket buckled securely around him.
One of the oldest riding clubs in Vienna with over 60 years of history, Reitverein Freudenau offers private and group lessons on dedicated training horses for ages 14 and over every day. Robert Novak took the reins of the Reitverein Freudenau in 2015, completely renovating the stables in 2018 along with his team of Dr. Herbert Mandl, Julia Einberger and Cordelia Purzner. The school has 9 training horses, but the club can host up to 180, with boxes available for rent.
Open to beginners, experts and returners, the curriculum ranges from just walking next to a horse and learning how to hold a bridle to exam preparation and parade performances – the next one will be “Carnival Riding” on March 2: fancy dress only, Krapfen available.
The complex also hosts programs in therapeutic riding, bringing those with mental and physical challenges together with horses in activities shown to rehabilitate motor skills and social empathy. Under the hand of Dipl.-Päd Susanne Müller since 1997, this year’s Austrian Equestrian Division of the Special Olympics will be held at Freudenau for the first time on April 26 and 27. And for the very young, there’s the Reitverein Cavallino right next door, which offers lessons on training ponies suitable for elementary school children.
With expansive training areas, excursions to the Prater woods and an almost familial sense of community where everyone helps each other, Freudenau provides the ideal solution to passionate equestrians. Expert riders can canter through the forest along kilometers of well-tended trails or across the soft, natural turf of the Ameiswiese, a training area surrounded by thickets just 10 minutes away on horseback from the stables. With dressage courses, a drop zone, a galloping track and many natural obstacles, it’s all still just 20 minutes away from the U3 by bus.
HORSEBACK RIDING FURTHER AFIELD
Training areas within city limits still have certain restrictions though; at the Prater, the sound of speeding cars on the Ostautobahn and Südosttangente are never too far away. Fortunately, there are many possibilities in the surrounding countryside for those who yearn for adventure beyond the paddock, leaving the stress of the city far behind. Just 11 S-Bahn stops away, the Dutch native Coos Willemsee can guide you through Lower Austria’s Weinviertel for a few hours or a whole day on one of his horses. There are options for every type of rider, from a beginner’s 90-minute ride all the way to expert courses where you gallop for up to 5 hours before enjoying a meal in a forest hideaway. Prices range between €60-179, with a transfer from the nearest train station at Leobensdorf possible for a small surcharge.
And if it’s the royal treatment you’re looking for, the Equestrian Centre Austria is the perfect place to keep and train your mount. Just 30 minutes by car from the city center, this members-only club managed by Anna Kleindienst and her fiancé Sebastian Jilly boasts two riding arenas, two dressage quads and a jumping section. For €640 a month, your horse gets a box with cement floors (good for the horse’s legs) and a private paddock, plus daily feeding, bedding, and mucking out and four hours in a larger paddock nearby. Here every detail is attended to: The stables have solariums and washing stations, riding areas with different surfaces and mirrors that let you check your form. The clubhouse is tidy and heated with big windows looking out over the riding hall – a great place to relax with fellow enthusiasts and have a chat after your ride.
However, the Equestrian Centre is not a riding school, so you have to have your own horse. It’s intended for advanced equestrians who want a quiet place to train and care for their horses. But if you’re in the market for one of your own, Kleindienst and Jilly also breed and train blooded sport horses that can be purchased on site.
Vienna may be a charming and beautiful city, but it’s a city nonetheless, with its noises, stress and concrete. Some days, you just need some time away from emails and calls, immersed in nature and connected with a noble animal who feels your fears and joys.
So, go! Take a bus and hop in the saddle, gallop away, and, finally, feel that wind in your hair.
Take time out in the saddle
Here are our picks for urban and suburban horseback riding
2., Freudenau 555
(01) 728 95 94
Annual membership fee €175
Annual membership fee €205/275; Day fee: €19/24
register at email@example.com for a time slot
2., Freudenau 555
Mon-Fri 15:00-18:00 / Sat 10:00-13:00
+699 12 18 48 82
Lessons on ponies just for kids
Dipl.-Päd. Susanne Müller
8., Fuhrmannsgasse 1/14
+43 664 445 32 01
Schallerhof 1, 2100 Leobendorf
+43 676 737 34 12
3 hours guided ride with horse €100, transfer from Leobendorf station €10
Equestrian Centre Austria
Wasenweg 4, 2201 Gerasdorf bei Wien
Mon-Sun 6:30 -21:00 (22:00 in summer)
+43 664 182 67 89
18., Weimarer Straße 13
Mon-Fri 10:00 -18:00 / Sat 9:00-13:00
+43 677 627 05 057
19., Weinberggasse 53
Mon-Fri 10:00-18:00 / Sat 10:00 -13:00 (closed Wed)
+43 1 367 49 96