Lifestyle, Travel, Visits

Polo in Provence with The Styled Equestrian

This weekend I was lucky enough to head down to Provence to meet up with Jennifer Sims aka The Styled Equestrian at Saint Cannat Polo Club near Aix en Provence. Jennifer and I ‘met’ online on instagram. I love following her stylish life through her photos. So when I saw that she was organising a polo boot camp a few hours from where I live in France I had to message her to find out more. My hubby James and I are always looking for new places to explore in France, so I suggested that we come to meet Jennifer at the polo club.

There was an Easter tournament being played on Sunday afternoon, so we headed down there so we could watch that. It was brilliant! Jennifer told me a bit about polo and what has been like learning to play (she has only been playing for the past year). To be honest it made me really want to give it a go! Everyone there was so friendly, we chatted and drank Rosè whilst watching the polo. Trying to learn more of the rules each chukka that was played.

There are lots of things that draw me to wanting to try playing polo. Firstly, it seems really social. Everyone at Saint Cannat was so friendly. We were made to feel very welcome by everyone there on Sunday, bearing in mind we knew no one!  The players and their families were so nice, one of the teams competing had come over from Luxembourg and Graham, the father of one of the players was so friendly and generous with his rose! Lizzie one of the owners of the club came over to introduce herself and she was just so lovely and of course Jennifer and Melissa who were there doing their polo boot camp.

I have only watched one game of polo before at the Beaufort Polo Club. That was a fun day out but it was really quite posh and I didn’t feel like I could ever be part of that world. OK, the game we watched at Beaufort was at a higher level, but it just seemed more exclusive. A world reserved for only the super rich that wasn’t inviting for ‘normal’ people to join the sport. A sport I could spectate but never dream of playing. This couldn’t have been more different at Saint Cannat. I think 3 different people asked me if I was going to give polo a go and encouraged me to do so!

Another major pull for me is that you don’t need your own horse to train and compete on. From I what I understand you join your chosen polo club but can go to any polo club that you want to train and compete. You can hire horses to compete on, which is great as normally you need a horse per chukka and great for horsey people like me who love to travel and check out different clubs but don’t have their own horse.

Finally it just looks really fun and exciting! It’s fast and competitive and just looks really fun! The horses at Saint Cannat all looked so happy doing their job. They were all so calm waiting for their turn to play and then would gallop around happily.

So for anyone thinking of trying a new discipline, I would certainly look into polo. I am going to look for somewhere in Toulouse that I can go try it and keep you updated when I do. Its certainly been added to my equestrian bucket list! Also if anyone is ever in Provence I would throughly recommend Saint Cannat Polo Club. If I get the chance I will certainly go back there for a lesson for sure, as they spoke english, had happy horses and were really nice. What else do you need?!

Be sure to check out Jennifer’s equestrian travel company @eqglobetrotter on instagram. She organises equestrian holidays all around the world. This week she is playing polo in Provence. Next week it is cross country in Ireland! She may have also agreed to do an Inspo Interview too, so keeps your eyes peeled for that too!

Have you tried polo? If you have let me know how you got on in the comments!

All photos and words are copyright of Louise Dando & In Due Horse 2019.

 

Advertisements
Places to Visit, Reviews, Travel, Visits

My Visit to the National Stud in Tarbes

I recently had the pleasure of visiting The National Stud in Tarbes. Or Haras de Tarbes as it is known in French and it is beautiful! Tucked away in the city centre of Tarbes, which is in South West France on the edge of the Pyrenees mountains. You would never expect to find such a large beautiful equestrian centre as you navigate through the busy streets of this busy french city. But when you do find it you are in for such a treat!

So, a bit about the stud. The National Stud is actually classified as a historical monument. The stud was restored in 1806 by Napoleon to house stallions to produce mounts for the cavalry. It was successful as the stud actually provided 35% of the horses that were used in the light cavalry at that time. Today however the facilities are used to develop the horse industry here in France.

Now that is interesting, but on the tour what they are very interested in telling you that Haras de Tarbes is the birthplace of the Anglo Arab (Thoroughbred x Arab). This breed is common all over the world but the French have made it popular. These horses have excellent qualities as they have the characteristics of an English Thoroughbred who are fast and agile and an Arab who have immense stamina.  So with all that combined they really do make brilliant sports horses. Anglo Arabs were first bred in France in 1836 under the control of the National Stud Service. They are the 3rd oldest breed in the world and the have the 3rd oldest official stud book in France.

When we arrived at the stud I expected to see lots of mares and their foals but I was wrong. Today the stud is used for developing the horse industry by working on such things as the selection and preservation of breeds, research and experimentation, encouragement of the sector, technical support for the implementation of horse projects and horse trades training.

In 2006 the 1st regiment Paratroopers set up a military equestrian club at the stud with 30 horses and military personnel. This includes a programme that supports injured soldiers. There is a therapeutic programme that offers equine meditation for soldiers that suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is also an adapted sport programme that are riding lessons for military personnel that are in the process of physical or mental recovery and there is also an ambitious sport programme for soldiers that would like to train with support of the Federation Français d’équitation (the national federation for equestrianism) to get to the para olympics.

The equestrian centre is very beautiful even just seeing the old buildings and stables set amongst the trees is very special. It still feels very grand and when you are there you do not think you are in the middle of a busy city! We arrived without booking on a Saturday afternoon. Me, my husband James and our Jack Russell Ziggy were all welcomed and shown to the little museum where they were playing videos of their big summer show as we waited for everyone to arrive for the guided tour. The tour guide was very nice and spoke English and French. The tour we took was in French but he spoke English to me and said that if there was anything I didn’t understand he would happily translate for me. Tours can be done in English if you pre- book.

As it was Saturday we benefitted from a farrier demonstration on our tour. We were shown how he makes horseshoes, shown different types and how they are fitted. My non- horsey husband James particularly enjoyed this part.

After the farrier demonstration we were shown around the stables. Each stable block had different types of horses in them. When we visited we saw the military equestrian club, another stable block with former police horses in and a few Anglo Arabs. The stable blocks were beautiful. On the guided tour you are shown around the whole site and can see all the original old buildings still being used. We also got to meet some of the old and very young horses who were out in the paddocks.

The stables and yards were so clean. They showed us how they had made a specialised system to help them muck out. Each stall had a trap door at the back where you would place all the muck you want removed through the trap door. From there a conveyer belt would sweep all the muck along to one big pile a the end of the yard – genius huh? I needed that when I worked at a riding school!

If you are ever in Tarbes, I would throughly recommend a tour of the stud. It really is special. The tour is informative and full of history but it equally as interesting seeing the stud and what they are doing there today. Most of the people on the tour weren’t horsey and my non horsey hubby enjoyed it so it is suitable for everyone including children.

I have read since my visit that the council have bought the stud and plan to invest more money into it creating a public garden and a gourmet restaurant so it sounds like it is getting to get even better!

For more information visit http://www.tarbes-tourisme.fr

Reviews, Travel, Visits

Living My Best Horsey Life! My Beach Ride in France.

Ok I don’t have many things on my bucket list but galloping along a beach is one of them! So when I saw an advert for a stables offering beach rides on my holiday in France recently I just had to go.

E06A7F1D-B1F1-45F8-804E-6EE988901DFD

I chose to go to Le Corral a stables that I had driven past on the way to the beach and man I am glad I did! It was FANTASTIC! When I arrived I was warmly welcomed and provided with a riding hat & hairnet (a French thing it seems) and some half chaps which was very handy as I did not take my riding gear on holiday with me, so I just wore my hiking gear.

I rode Jambo who did exactly what I wanted him to do for the entire ride. He was pretty forward going but stopped easily so he was perfect. We hacked for about 30 minutes through the forest to get to Saint Girons beach, so we didn’t need to go on any roads and arrived at the beach just as the sun was going down. It was beautiful! Handy tip – spray yourself with at least 1 gallon of anti mosquito spray as there were a lot of flies en route.

Our group consisted of 9 of us in total and all of us had ridden before. Although all abilities of riders are welcome. When we arrived at the beach it was completely empty apart from us. So we were able to gallop up and down the beach several times and we walked through the sea on the horses. It was AWESOME!

Our guide was called Bastion who spoke English, French and Spanish. He made sure everyone was having fun chatting to each person as we hacked to the beach and lead the way when we galloped. There were 2 other guides too, whose names I did not catch as they only spoke Spanish but they were also very friendly and made sure the horses kept a good pace and that the group stayed together.

1E5711A4-658B-41E3-9F8C-5C9A2ED391CC

We left the beach after about an hour just as the sun was setting. Everyone was happy and chatting after having such a good time on the beach. Bastion even sang to us on the way back. He was a real character he told me he had recently discovered Otis Redding and the English breakfast on his recent trip to the U.K.

I really appreciated how friendly the staff were as I went alone and was speaking French (which I am still learning.) The staff did a really good job of making sure everyone had a good time and could understand my French so bonus points for them! My husband and I even stayed for a glass of rosè with the staff after the ride as they were so nice and they made a fuss of my little dog too.

img_8961

Le Corral is only open throughout July and August and 1km from Saint Girons plage, Landes, so if you are in the area I thoroughly recommend you go for a ride. There are 4 rides per day but I thoroughly recommend the sunset ride. It was €40 for a 2 hour ride.

Le Corral have a Facebook page- Le Corral promenade à cheval Vielle St Girons for more information. Their address is Route de la Plage, Vielle Saint Girons, Landes France 40560.

It is certainly something I can now tick off my bucket list!