Life is a series of opportunities and last spring, a chance comment by a horse owning friend meant that after a 30 year gap, this year, I became the proud owner of my second horse, a black Trotter Francaise called Rasta. There are many Trotters in France, just as there are Thoroughbreds in the UK as they are bred for racing and those who do not make the grade, are retrained as riding horses.
As in the UK, horse racing is a very popular sport, and trotter racing even has its own television channel. The difference between the UK horse racing and French is that whilst in the UK the rider is on the horse, in France, the horses are driven and the driver sits in a small two-wheeled buggy called a Sulky. Hippodromes, or horse racing circuits, can be seen, often in quite small villages, throughout France, and there are many large studs, which breed, train and race these beautiful horses.
Through my horsy friend I was invited to visit one of these lovely stables in the village next to ours, called Beaumont-Pied-De-Boeuf. As we turned off the road onto the long drive, I could not fail to be impressed by fields of beautiful horses. Over a lovely lunch, the owner Phillippe Ferrer told me a little of his lifetimes experience in the trotting world, which started in 1966 when he was 14 years old. He opened his own stud in 1985 and one of his sons works with him.
After lunch, we walked out into the bright sunshine and I was taken to see the impressive stable yard, which had 28 boxes for the horses in training, and a further 8 for the breeding stock. As far as the eye could see, there were acres of horse paddocks and he told me that they also had another ten-acre farm for the breeding stock.
Then we wandered through the paddocks, fighting off the inquisitive noses of the inhabitants, to the 800m training circuit where we were lucky enough to watch one of the horses being put through its paces.
As we walked back, Philippe told me of a wonderful project which they have launched. They have come up with the idea of allow horse-racing enthusiasts to buy a partnership in the trotter horse racing stable for two years, starting 31st December, this year. They will be able to visit the racing stable when they wish (apart from race days and holidays), watch the horses in training on the circuit and to enjoy following the fortunes of the stable’s horses which race under the colours of black silks, red star, red sleeves. He then added that there was much more to it, and, if I was interested why didn’t I take a look at his web site, www.ecuriephilippeferre.com maybe I would like to ask my husband to buy me a share as a Christmas present?
Well, I think I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to own my own horse again, after such a long break, but it is a very good idea, certainly something totally different.
Susan Keefe is an author and book reviewer