On Saturday, a herd of horses will gallop in the Arena at Gwinnett Center. But these aren't just any horses. They're white Lipizzaner stallions trained at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.
The Spanish Riding School show, which will be performed Saturday and Sunday, will feature 30 horses and 10 riders in an equestrian ballet.
"I think overall, altogether, it's a beautiful show, not only for riders, but also for everybody who loves art, for everybody who loves ballet, for everybody who loves horses," said Herwig Radnetter, of the Spanish Riding School in Austria. He visited Duluth in September.
At age 15, Radnetter left southern Austria to move to Vienna when he was accepted by the Spanish Riding School. His mother was sorry to see him leave home and worried that he might get into trouble in the city.
"Now my mother is very happy, because nothing bad happened to me. I finished my education and I became a rider," Radnetter said.
During the show, the rider and his horse work as a team. "You get the feeling that the rider and the horse belong to each other - that they're one," Radnetter said.
The Spanish Riding School was founded more than 400 years ago, but the Lipizzaner breed was almost lost during World War II.
"The reason we still have the Spanish Riding School is because Gen. (George) Patton saved the horses 60 years ago," Radnetter said. "It was a very, very close call."
To honor Patton and the troops that saved the horses, The Spanish Riding School is visiting the United States for the first time in 15 years.
In Austria, The Spanish Riding School breeds and trains horses. About 25 stallions are born each year on the breeding farm. Six to eight 3-year-old stallions enter the school's training program each year.
The horses have always been bred for looks and for character, Radnetter said. "The horses have a beautiful temperament. There are no lazy horses. They want to move. They also have a very good mind. They like to be ridden," he said.
The training program used by the riding school is based on the animal's natural movements.
"All that is done by the horses, the classical art of riding, are movements that the horses can already do," Radnetter said. "You would see all these movements on a field with stallions together, if you have time enough."
If you go
•What: Spanish Riding School of Vienna
•When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
•Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth
•Cost: Tickets are $35, $45 and $75.
•Info: Call 404-249-6400 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.