French Equine Experience - Melissa Wise


Posted: June 13, 2012

The most difficult question to answer is what was my favorite part of the trip...
The city of Paris from the steps of the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmarter

The city of Paris from the steps of the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmarter

As the plane landed I suddenly became aware that I was actually getting to visit France!  A full ten days of tours through out the Providence of Normandy with, behind the scenes experiences and learning about France’s Equine Industry from industry professionals, I was blown away by the experience. 

The most difficult question to answer is what was my favorite part of the trip.  Between the farm and facility tours I learned a lot through seeing management practices in action.  One highlight was touring “M Stud” a sport horse breeding and training farm.  M Stud is highly regarded throughout Europe for their advanced breeding techniques and high quality horses.  I very much enjoyed listening to the manager talk about practices they use as compared to the typical breeding farm in the United States.  Not only was the management unique but the architecture of the barns and buildings were in the French architecture style.

Later that day we were privileged enough to visit Le Pin National Stud.  We learned that the national stud was and continues to be an important part of the French Equine Industry.  With technical centers for horse owners, museums, youth programs, and vocational training programs the national stud drives the equine industry.  Being able to see the rich history and the advances that have been made taught us a lot about if groups of people come together so that asset can be developed for all to enjoy.  This theme was also discussed with the president of the Normandy Horse Council as he told us that it does not matter what political or social group people are in, the horse unites them and progress can be made all because of a horse.

A truly unique experience was being able to watch the Thoroughbreds train on the beach near Mont-Saint-Michel.  WiseFrance1.pngMont-Saint-Michel, which we later were able to tour, is an island city build by monks with a beautiful abbey on the top and a view to match.  A group of horse trainers in the area maintain a beach track where the soft sand and relaxing atmosphere allows the horses and riders to train with decreased wear on the horses joints and mental stress.  Feeling the ground tremble then hearing the hoof beats and finally seeing the horses round the turn and gallop past with the shadow of Mont-Saint-Michel in the background was picture perfect. 

Another highlight of the trip was the opportunity to stay at a jockey school.  The school housed us for two nights, it is an alternative to middle school were the students study their regular classes and can train to have a career in the racing industry going so far as a jockey or sulky driver.  After taking a tour of the school and barns we were taken on training sulkies around the racetrack located next to the school.  Being able to ride in a sulky behind an ex-race horse on a real track was amazing!  We all took a little piece of track with us as everyone in the group was covered in track from the horses’ hooves throwing it behind them as they ran.

WiseFrance2.pngOne experience I will never forget is visiting the World War II Memorial at Omaha Beach and the cemetery.  A truly humbling feeling met us as we walked through the cemetery and memorial thinking about the sacrifice over 9,500 American soldiers gave on that beach.

After an amazing eight days touring the Normandy country side and experiencing the equine industry we went to Paris for last of our time in France.  Sight seeing, shopping and eating filled our time as we explored the city.  Between the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc De Triumph, and Notre Dome I would have to say the highlight of my Paris experience was the trip up the hill to the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmarter.  A beautiful chapel that overlooks the city of Paris was well worth the climb.  Complete with original French architecture the chapel was a reminder of the history and unique experiences we were able to have while in France.  While learning about a new culture, gaining knowledge about another country’s equine industry, and networking with other people I have gained a great experience being put into a new situation and learning a lot.