By Don Stacey and Dominique Jando
high schoolA display of equestrian dressage by a rider mounting a horse and leading it into classic moves and steps. (From the French: Haute école) rider of the first half of the twentieth century, Emmerich Ankner (1885-1954) was born in Vienna in 1885. He was the son of an official on the staff of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. As a young man, he had served as a cavalry officer for the Austrian Army, and was later trained in the classic art of riding and dressage in the Imperial Riding School in Vienna. One of his fellow pupils there was Karl of Austria, who was to become the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. Ankner left the army with the rank of Captain, and he would be often billed in his subsequent circus career as "Captain Ankner."
From Vienna, Ankner went to Berlin and was taught high-school riding by the famous equestrian and high-school rider, Georg Burckhardt-Footit, at Circus Busch, where he made his debut in the ring in 1905. He was attached for a time to Circus Busch, and then toured with various circuses in Germany, Austria, and Holland, and was often featured in the Parisian and other European resident circuses. He also worked with the legendary Circus Sarrasani, with which he toured South America in 1923/1924. In 1928, Ankner brought a stud of horses from Circus Carl Hagenbeck, in Germany, for Bertram Mills, who sold them to Harry Carmo for his newly formed Great Carmo’s Circus in Ireland—and thus Ankner became the Equestrian Director of the Carmo show.
Ankner appeared with Carmo’s horses at Olympia for the Bertram Mills Circus 1928/29-season. In 1933, the Carmo show was deep in debts, and Ankner went to the Backpool Tower Circus, which had acquired Carmo's horses. He stayed a couple of years at Blackpool, and appeared at the Agricultural Hall in Islington, London during the 1933/34-winter season. The horses were eventually sold to the Bouglione family in France in 1935, and by 1937, Ankner vas back with Circus Busch in Germany. Emmerich Ankner died in 1954.