Horses and France, What More Could You Ask For? Katie Branham


Posted: June 13, 2012

This was an experience of a life time! If you love animals, especially horses, and would like to experience an unforgettable cultural experience this is the trip for you!

During my time in Normandy and Paris I was able to visit Le Pin and Saint Lo National Stud, Thoroughbred and trotter races tracks, stud farms, private breeding farms, bunkers on Omaha and Utah beach, American memorial at Omaha beach, memorial museum for the battle of Normandy, Mount Saint Michel, racehorses exercise on the beach, the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, drive a sulky and so much more!

My favorite horse experience was being able to ride in the sulky with the main trainer of a riding school in Deauville. I have watched sulkies race on the television and I have always wanted to see a sulky race in person. This experience was even better; I was able to ride in the sulky! Being able to ride in the cart with the trainer was an amazing feeling. I was even able to hold the reins and steer the horse! It is so amazing how fast the horses can run at a trot.

The sand track was just watered down before we started trotting so the sand from the horse’s hooves flicked everywhere! Even though, at times, the sand was hitting me in the face so hard I could barely see, I forced my eyes open anyway to watch every second.  We were even lucky enough to race other sulkies. The trainers and students helping steer the sulkies let me go so fast I felt as though we were flying around the race tract. It was an experience I will never forget.
BranhamFrance2.pngAnother horse event that I really enjoyed was watching the racehorses train on the beach in the morning. We had to get up really early to see the horses on the beach because the racehorses usually only run at 7:00am and 9:00am. We arrived at the beach around 8:30am and walked to the beach where we could get a good look at the horses. What a beautiful site it was! To see the horses galloping around the track, around sharp bends, racing each other the whole way was an incredible view. The horses looked as though they were having a great time. The purpose of training the racehorses on the beach is to give the horse a break from the race track and the sand is a lot harder to run on than a dirt or grass track. This trains the racehorses to be ready for any ground and any track that they may race on. The horses also gain a lot of muscle from running in the deep sand.

This particular beach track is 2,400meters long and there is no cost to come here except helping to pay for the tractor to drag the track. Each horse will run for about ten minutes on the track and then the trainers or exercisers ride the horses back to their stables. Because the beach is very close to a lot of farms, the trainers and exercisers can just ride the horses to the beach. The interaction with cars, roads and people help the horses be better rounded and ready for anything that they may see on the race track. About forty horses a day visit this track, half of these horses are racehorses and the rest are pleasure horses.

From this experience I have improved my communication skills while in Normandy and France. The language barrier was tough at first but I learned over time
 that facial expressions and hand expressions say a lot about the message your are trying to convey. Many words sound similar in both languages so it was fairly easy over time to speak to people in France. I have also learned how important it is to speak slowly. When you speak too fast, people cannot understand you and they become frustrated if they cannot answer your question. Most of the racetrack owners felt bad when they could not understand a question if the question was said to quickly. 

I will explain this experience to a potential employer by first off saying I have no regrets about this trip. It was an experience of a lifetime. I was able to navigate my way around Paris with the help of a map and the metro, visit many restaurants and order traditional French food, speak to stud farm owners and discuss breeding protocols and even discuss nutritional needs of racehorses at private farms as well as veterinary facilities. I felt as though I made the most of my time while in France. I woke up early every morning and went to bed late every evening. While visiting the D-day beaches in Normandy, I was able to climb in many of the bunkers and look out to see the same view that many soldiers would have seen. I almost cried because to see the beach from their point of view was a completely unique experience.  This trip was the perfect balance of equine experiences and historical events that I felt as though I was able to really enjoy Normandy and Paris for all it has to offer.