Friday, June 29, 2012

Beaucoup de Bisous

Rider of the Cadre Noir

"The Cadre Noir is an equestrian display team based in the city of Saumur in western France. The troop was founded in 1828, and gets its name from the black uniforms that are still used today. It is one of the most prestigious horsemanship schools in the world.

The historic role of the Saumur School of Cavalry was to provide training for the officers and non-commissioned officers of the French cavalry. After World War II the mounted element of the French Army had been reduced to a few squadrons of spahis (disbanded in 1962) and the primarily ceremonial Cavalry of the Republican Guard. While the need for a purely military riding academy had almost vanished, the international prestige of French horsemanship ensured the survival of the Saumur training centre in the form of a national riding school under the Ministry of Sports.

Accordingly in 1972, the National School of Équitation was constituted around the Cadre Noir, which form its core teaching staff. Today, there are about 50 horses and a team of elite riders, usually limited to 22. The members of the Cadre Noir have either civilian or military status. Some of the riders have reached the highest level of international sport, being Olympic or world champions.

Metal statue of horse at entrance
The equitation on which the school is built was taught by Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere, the French riding master to King Louis XV and author of the book École de Cavalerie, which was published in 1731."  [Wikipedia]

We had a tour of Le Cadre Noir when we were last here, watching a video of the performance, visiting the stables, taking time to pet the horses. We did not, however, attend a demonstration since the Cadre Noir was on tour in Nîmes. This time, however, we got our tickets early and attended the demonstrations!

These demonstrations allow us to discover the work involved for both riders and horses to bring them both to the level of performance associated with this elite group of equestrian professionals.

This was a practice in one of the outdoor arenas.

The indoor demonstration now begins.  There is a running commentary to everything happening in the arena.

Horse and rider are put through their paces, learning to respond to the touch of the bridle then going on to learning the steps and cadence.

Going to the right, going to the left - always the horse is exercised in a symmetrical manner to ensure a top athletic physique.

This is the only woman who was riding today.  Her horse is named Eulalie!

We recognized some of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) moves, but this is very, very precise.

We weren't able to get a picture of this, but some of these horses jump and kick at the same time so that all four legs are off the ground.  This is phenomenal and only a very few horses ever reach this ability.

After the amazing demonstrations in the big indoor arena, we were able to chat with some of the riders who were in the outside arena.  Apparently it takes 6 years for a horse to reach its peak, and then he or she retires at 9, so there are not too many years of performing.

We loved walking down the rows and rows of stalls and meeting all the horses. 

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This is where the fun began.  This horse took a real liking to Karl, or should I say a real licking.

Perhaps he loved the taste of salt on Karl's skin, but he licked and licked and would bite Karl's shirt if Karl tried to move away, drawing him back closer.

The day was very hot and we were all sweating, but only Karl would allow the horse to lick him so much that Karl's arm was slobbery wet.

With Karl giggling and the horse licking, I just kept clicking and we all got a huge thrill out of it.

Karl would try to pet the horse on the mouth, but the horse would show his teeth and go right back to the arm for another lick.

Kisses, kisses, and more kisses.  Hence the name of this posting "Beaucoup de bisous", which means many little kisses.

Eventually, all this jocularity had to come to an end.

We visited the rest of the establishment.  This is a small museum set up with all the various saddles and bridles used.  There are videos showing constantly with information about the ferrier (blacksmith), the vetrinarian, the warm water showers for the horses followed by heat lamp dryers, etc.  These horses are better cared for than most humans.

I would say there are dozens of these long stalls.  There are about 600 horses here now, but the place can accommodate up to 900.  Horses and riders come from across Europe for competitions.  Not only is there dressage, but there is jumping and acrobatics as well.

No, Karl, you cannot join the Cadre Noir as a horse.  You do not have the face for it.

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The step this horse is doing is alternating from left to right at every step.  Sometimes a horse alternates at every 2 or 3 steps.

Needless to say, we had an excellent day at l'Institut français du cheval et de l'équitation.

1 comment:

  1. That brought back good memories...I used to go to the Saumur Carousel every year where the Cadre Noir gave a performance.