Horsing Around With Zumtobel Group

In a joint project between the Spanish Riding School Vienna, Zumtobel Group, and zactrack, a dynamic lighting system with special technology combines radio-tracking software with movable spotlights to bring added drama at its latest Lipizzaner horse show.

[dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#edb036″]T[/dropcap]he Spanish Riding School in Vienna is the only institution in the world that has practiced “classical equitation” in the Renaissance tradition of the Haute Ecole for more than 450 years. According to the school, the objective of classical equitation is to study the way the horse naturally moves and to cultivate the highest levels of Haute Ecole elegance through systematic training. The result creates extraordinary harmony between rider and horse.

Zumtobel Group
The unique dynamic lighting system recently installed at the Spanish Riding School perfectly stages horse and rider: Radio-controlled tracking locates the horse and its rider; movable spotlights then automatically focus on the horses to ensure that they are not distressed by their own shadow.

Lipizzaners are an intelligent and lively breed of horses that, due to their build and grace, perform particularly well in the high school dressage at the Spanish Riding School. They were the first breed to be stud-bred in Europe, and the Spanish Riding School is primarily dedicated to performing and preserving classical dressage.

The world-famous Lipizzaner horse shows – the “Ballet of the White Stallions” – take place in the baroque Winter Riding School of the Hofburg and are the result of many years of training and intensive work on part of the Lipizzaner horses and their riders.

Recently, the Spanish Riding School in Vienna had been looking for a lighting system to more precisely stage its shows. To that end, the new lighting solution created for the world’s oldest riding school employs small radio transmitters that are attached to the front and the back of each saddle. There are 10 aerials mounted on the wall to receive the transmitted radio signals and make it possible to accurately locate each horse. The positions of the horses are then transmitted to the lighting system via a network featuring specially developed software that automatically controls the 20 LED moving spotlights installed on the upper gallery.

An essential part of this process is that the software needs to calculate the direction in which the animal will be moving in advance so that the horse does not have to walk into the dark. The spotlights align automatically, focusing on the horses to ensure that the animals are not distressed by their own shadow. While Viennese start-up company zactrack® supplied the software solution, it was Austrian-based lighting manufacturer Zumtobel Group that handled the lighting. 

The new lighting system was previewed in late November before an audience of 300 people in the school’s most recent show. The special tracking system made sure that the lights were angled in a way that kept the horses in the center of the light, regardless of where they were in the arena. The first public show to include the new lighting system is scheduled to take place on New Year’s Eve.

zactrack, a dynamic lighting system
At a pre-premiere, 300 guests were able to see how well suited the new lighting system for the show of the “White Ballet” is.

“We are out to ensure that our precision performances are displayed to even better effect through this stage lighting system,” says Elisabeth Gürtler, Managing Director of the Spanish Riding School.

Georg Ebner, Head of Sales in Austria for Zumtobel Group, notes, “As the future lighting partner of the Spanish Riding School, we are proud to have been asked to support the installation of this unique lighting system. We maintain an open technology partnership with zactrack and are developing new fields of application in the area of dynamic lighting within the scope of this cooperation. As a lighting company, we are focusing extensively on the possibilities in the area of smart and connected lighting. Solutions that allow the customer to adapt the lighting flexibly to different requirements will clearly shape the future.”

The zactrack automatic tracking systems have been used over the past several years at sports events and on theater stages. The radio-controlled tracking technology is tailored to suit each individual occasion. For this installation, great care was taken to ensure that the sensitive horses – which are easily distressed by external influences – do not notice the zactrack system.  “[Our] mathematic calculation provides just enough light in front of them to ensure that they don’t have to walk into the dark,” says Werner Petricek, CEO of zactrack.

In addition to its collaboration with Zumtobel Group, zactrack has also partnered with Red Bull, BMW, Audi, PRG (USA), Holiday on Ice (Netherlands), and Cinelux (Spain), among others. 

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