Ride On in SW France
With a wealth of options from private riding and pony clubs through to organised tours and trails, horse riding presents a unique opportunity to see the most beautiful scenery and historical landmarks from a totally different viewpoint.
We asked Louise Bowles, owner of La Ferme de Grand Jean, livery yard and breeders of Connemara ponies in Creysse, about the legal aspects of riding and learning to ride here in SW France.
“Riders have the right to use a GR (Grande Randonée) and marked paths as long as there isn’t a no horses sign (usually because it’s unsafe)”, she explains. “Maps for these paths can be found online and at the local Mairie or Tourist Office. You can also ask the local farmers for access and, generally, they are happy as long as riders are respectful. The Mairie will know who owns parcels of land marked on cadastral maps. Rights of way are also shown on these maps, www.geoportail.gouv.fr/carte, and on the IGN (Institut National de l’Information Géographique et Forestière) blue 1: 25 000 maps which are very useful but not always reliable.”
Louise Bowles of La Ferme de Grand Jean, livery yard
“Thankfully”, Louise continues, “there are lots of well-run riding schools in the region, catering for all levels of experience and ability. These can be found by looking at the FFE.com (Fédération Français d’Equitation) website. If the riding school/centre équestre is labelled, this means that it can offer specialist training such as Equi-handi (riding for the disabled), Ecole Française d’Equitation (riding school), Ecurie de Compétition (competition training), and so on.
“French riding coaches will have the BPJEPS equitation mention or, as it was previously known, the BEE 1 (a sports qualification). They must also hold a carte professionelle which confirms their right to teach commercially and which also enables them to obtain the correct insurance cover. A copy of their certificates should be on display.
“When you find your riding school you will need your own insurance which you can acquire through the riding school via a ‘licence’. Those riding for a month or less will need the ‘licence vert’. If you own a horse you can supplement your licence with extra insurance. Your licence is also where you register your successes with ‘galops’ (horse riding related exams). These give you the right to enter competitions.
“Competitions are entered via the FFE and a medical certificate forms part of the entry conditions. By law, all horses in France must have a passport and a microchip. Horses are registered with the organisation IFCE (Institut Français du Cheval et de l’Equitation).
“Bio-security”, she concludes, “is very important In France and, if you have three or more horses, you will need a ‘régistre d’elevage’ where you record all the movements of your horses and their treatments.”
A useful source of information is UNIC which has interesting videos, in English, about the world of horses, ponies and donkeys, as well as information on jobs and training programmes, breeding, veterinary practice, national studs and French horse riding traditions.
From jumping, dressage and vaulting through to eventing, trekking and even western horseback riding, France has much to offer. As well as hundreds of clubs and regional competitions, there’s the popular racing scene with hippodromes dedicated to flat and jump racing and the exciting harnessed-trot and saddle-trot events. lescourseshippiques.com
For residents and visitors alike, one of the best ways to see the region and enjoy the sport at the same time is to take a horse riding tour or an equestrian vacation. These can be combined with a stay in a gïte or châteaux and/or wine/food tastings for a real SW France experience. Take a look at Travel and Tourism, Equestrian holidays.
If you don’t ride but would like to support horses, ponies and, of course, donkeys, either when they are retired or in ill-health, there are a number of charities that can help in addition to the local refuge centres. The larger charities include: Brantome Police Horses and Friends, Phoenix Association:, Société Protectrice des Animaux for equine and animal welfare, race horse welfare:
Ride On in SW France with these useful “bits” of vocab
Mane: la crinière
Tail: la queue
Stallion : un étalon
Foal : un poulain
Hoof : un sabot
Mare : une jument
Harness : le harnais
Bit : le mors
Reins : les rênes
Saddle : la selle
Stirrup : un étrier
A horse shoe : un fer à cheval
First published in the March and April 2020 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Louise Bowles and Shutterstock