22 April 2016 by Jessica Boston
Horse around on holiday in Normandy!
Horses have always been an important part of Normandy life from their role in agriculture and historic battles to their popularity for leisure pursuits. A trip to the region is not complete without taking some time to appreciate this proud equestrian tradition, either as a spectator or in the saddle.
A history of horses
The most famous Normandy horse is a breed called the Percheron. These large, strong horses are similar to the British Shire horses and were once a vital part of farming in Normandy; some farms and forestry commissions still use them in their traditional role pulling ploughs, carts and other agricultural machinery to this day.
Percheron horses were used in battle in the First World War. They were also popular as driving horses in 19th century Paris and are now the favoured breed used to pull the horse-drawn carriages at Disneyland Paris.
Le Pin National Stud near Argentan and La Ferme du Cheval de Trait at Juvigny-sous-Andaine are great places to visit to find out more about the history of horses in Normandy; take a tour of the stables and see different breeds of local horses demonstrating their traditional roles.
A unique way to explore
Horseback riding excursions are available all over Normandy and trekking with a guide is a delightful way to explore the coast and countryside. You’ll find options suitable for everyone from experienced riders to complete beginners and children. Discover the Saint-Sever forest trails, enjoy a breath-taking gallop along the D-Day beaches, or walk one of the many bridle paths that follow the rivers and canals of the region.
If you are not keen to take to the saddle you could try a horse-drawn carriage ride. Many towns offer this unique way to see the sights, it’s a wonderful way to immerse yourself in local history and culture and especially exciting for children.
Take a carriage tour of your nearest town – the local tourist office will be able to tell you what’s available. Alternatively, why not visit L’Attelage des Grandes Marees at Gouville-sur-Mer? Here you can take a ride in a horse and carriage across the sands at low tide to see the oyster beds and mussel farm.
An exciting day out
Experience the glamour and excitement of a day at the races when you visit Hippodrome Deauville la Touques. Polo matches are also held in the centre of the racetrack during the season and you can see these for free on weekdays
Entrance fees are very reasonable and even when there is no racing you can walk round the stables and see horses for sale. There are games and activities laid on for children on race days and plenty of excellent food options at the site; it’s a great day out for all the family.
And don’t forget the donkeys!
If horses are too much you could always try a donkey trek! There are plenty of places in Normandy where you can rent donkeys and take them for a walk on leading reins. They have panniers so you can load up a picnic and have a wander.
It’s a lovely way to see the countryside and the donkeys are so cute and friendly – kids will love it! Ask your holiday home owner or the local tourist office for details.
Our pick of Normandy gites (with horsey neighbours!)
NO001495 – La Tuilerie du Perron
Stay at La Tuilerie du Perron, a family owned stud farm in Orne offering a choice of 1 or 2 bed cottages. The working farm breeds top quality sport horses and Welsh Cobs which the owners are happy to show you. The properties are also close to the famous Haras du Pin National Stud.
NO003444 – Haras du Gazon
Haras du Gazon is a working stud farm where world class show jumpers are bred and trained. Stay at a choice of gites that sleep up to 12 guests. With beautiful grounds and luxurious accommodation this is a perfect horsey hideaway in rural Normandy.
Two three-bedroom gites converted from a traditional Normandy farmhouse near Avranches that make ideal accommodation for a family holiday. There are chickens, ducks and a friendly Shetland pony in the grounds.