In 2014 Normandy hosted the world famous World Equestrian Games (August to September). It isn’t surprising that Normandy was chosen as the perfect location for this prestigious event since it has a rich heritage of horse breeding, two national studs, hundreds of equestrian centres and equestrian events taking place throughout the year. Normandy truly is the home of the horse. Whether you are a novice or an experienced rider, Normandy offers a fantastic choice of great places to ride and to stay where horse lovers are made truly welcome.
We look at some fabulous horse riding holidays in Normandy and great horse focused events…
Horse riding in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel
The magnificent Mont-Saint-Michel is one of France’s most iconic sites and a marvel to be enjoyed on horseback. The Tannière equestrian centre in the bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel offers guided horse-rides for all levels. The half-day ‘Discovery’ excursion is suitable for beginners while the 3-day ride introduces the more experienced rider to the diverse natural environment surrounding the bay. www.club-taniere.fr
Horse Riding in the Suisse Normande
The green and mountainous terrain of the Suisse Normande offers all manner of activities for the outdoor enthusiast but hacking along its spectacular bridleways is perhaps the best way to explore the area. Saddle-up on a nimble Camargue pony at the Ferme du Mesnil and take in the waterfalls, rocky cliffs and the gentle valleys of the region. Beginners to experienced riders are welcome on tailored excursions from a half-day to a three-day ride with experienced guides. fermedumesnil-randocheval.com
William the Conqueror’s Route by horse
Opened in April 2014, this new equestrian itinerary follows the route taken by the future King of England on a winter’s night in 1047. Pursued by attacking Norman Barons, the then 19 year-old William fled from Valognes to his castle in Falaise, covering over 100-miles in less than a day. This incredible escape has become something of local legend. The 125-mile historical signed route starts in Géfosses-Fontenay in the Baie des Veys, crosses the Suisse Normande and ends at Falaise castle taking in the typical ‘bocage’ countryside along the way. www.normandie-tourisme.fr
The National Stud Route Normandy
The National Stud Route connects the Pin National Stud in the Orne with the Saint-Lô National Stud in the Manche. This route travels along peaceful tracks through spectacular scenery, quaint villages and offers many stops at places of interest along the way. This 120-mile route through glorious countryside is divided into 9 stages, each made up of several sections. There is a downloadable map and information page available for each of the 9 stages with practical information for finding blacksmiths, equine vets, hitching rails, water points, “Accueil Cheval” approved accommodation and parking places.
Map and detailed leaflets of the stages can be downloaded at www.normandie-tourisme.fr/articles/the-national-stud-route
Equestrian Theatre in Normandy
Situated in the heart of the Suisse Normande just south of Caen, the Equestrian Theatre of La Pommeraye has made a name for itself in the world of equestrian shows. Staging shows since 2012, the four young performers – Antoine, Alice, Sébastien and Lucien – mix equestrian prowess with acrobatics, music and storytelling. This year three different evening shows will alternate throughout the summer, each inspired by a time when Cavaliers and Counts would fight duels over love.
Open from May to September the theatre boasts an 8000-square foot stage with tiered seating for 300. Surrounded by a beautiful landscaped garden with a bar onsite, the public are invited to enjoy the friendly and relaxed atmosphere. http://spectacleequestre.com
Le Pin National Stud, Haras du Pin
Known as the ‘Versailles of Horses,’ the magnificent Pin National Stud was built by Louis XIV in 1715 and today is a working stud, professional equestrian school and welcomes visitors to tour the site and visit the museum.
From June to September, every Thursday afternoon at 3pm( excluding Thursdays during the W.E.G.), the Courtyard of Honour at Le Pin National Stud transforms into an outdoor theatre with exhilarating displays of dressage and show-jumping for a show called, “Les Jeudis du Pin.” www.haras-national-du-pin.com
Horse races in Deauville
Built by the Duke of Morny in 1864, Deauville is a seaside town dedicated to a passion for horses – the Duke of Morny built la Touques racecourse before he built the town’s first church. This glamorous resort, famous for its white sandy beaches and annual American Film Festival, boasts two racecourses – La Touques and Clairefontaine, as well as the Pôle International du Cheval – an International Equestrian Complex opened in 2010. Together, these equestrian centres host races during seven months of the year, auctions of thoroughbreds and trotters, a polo world championship, horse-racing and dressage competitions, a traditional-carriage competition, paddock-polo, horseball tournaments and offer training facilities.
Deauville is known the world over for its horse sales with many equine stars bought at the Deauville horse-sales going on to become world racing champions. Today, along with Lexington in the USA, Newmarket in the UK and Dublin, Deauville is the world’s fourth most important centre for sales of English thoroughbreds.
Held every August since 1887, the most prestigious sale, that of the yearlings attracts buyers from France and abroad. These Yearling Sales have been known to break all kinds of records thanks to their popularity and quality of the yearlings. In October 2012 the average horse in the Yearling Sale went for €32,000 with the most expensive horse sold for €210,000. www.deauville.org
Where to stay in Normandy for horse friendly accommodation
“Accueil Cheval”: Along Normandy’s major bridleways you will find the “Accueil Cheval” label used to identify horse-friendly accommodation, adapted to the needs of guests travelling on horseback. In order to meet the “Accueil Cheval” standards, accommodation must offer comfort and safety for both horses and riders. It must be located no more than 2-miles from bridleways, it must offer a field or paddock no more than 500 yards from the establishment and it must offer early departures and luggage transfers. www.chevalnormandie.com
Normandy Equestrian pages for more information: www.normandie-tourisme.fr