Tradition and Transformation at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna
The Spanish Riding School (SRS) was an icon of Austrian national identity, the oldest riding school in the world and the primary exponent of the art of classical dressage (a "ballet" with horses). In 2012, 447 years after its founding, the School confronted a serious threat: how to survive its so-called "privatization" by the Austrian government. Elisabeth G rtler, recently reappointed to a five-year term as Managing Director needed to address three interrelated challenges: how to counter the critics of the SRS and its leadership and the avalanche of bad press they had generated, how to consolidate the significant organizational changes she had implemented during her first five years as Managing Director, and how to generate additional revenue so that the SRS would continue to breakeven financially - and in the long run, achieving financial sustainability for the SRS and preserving both its exalted status as the world's foremost institution of classical dressage and its responsibility to preserve and improve the breed of Lipizzaner horses. Since her appointment (on a 5-year contract) in December, 2007, G rtler had acted quickly to implement a series of initiatives aimed at reducing costs, increasing revenue, and improving organizational capabilities. While these changes appeared to be successful at staunching the SRS's financial losses, they were not without cost. Internally, a number of experienced riders had strongly resisted the changes and had been subsequently dismissed; externally, critics had initiated a media campaign claiming that the quality of the SRS's performances had declined and been "debased" as a consequence of the changes. As G rtler looks to her second term as Managing Director, students are asked to evaluate her organizational change efforts, and consider her strategic options going forward.