Rendezvous Le Elite “Cadre Noir de Saumur” (National Horse Riding School, Loire Valley)
Bonjour a tous!
We are currently doing all the usual replacing, repairing, fixing, spring cleaning, and oh yes painting! Oh horrors, Brian is up a ladder again and I daren’t look in view of his track record with ladders especially the last time when he slipped off one and dislocated his shoulder – he became a man in great pain and remember I drove him to the Urgences in Saumur at a speed as if he was in need of a blood transfusion – not to mention on arrival the trauma and challenge it involved in resetting it because of his broad shoulders none of the duty doctors could do it and it thus necessitated in waiting for the great Consultant man himself to arrive ‘toute suite’ and crack it back into place in seconds leaving the duty doctors in admiration of this genius and Brian in great relief!! Actually they had pumped him full of morphine. He said it was great but not worth a dislocated shoulder for. Anyway, moving on because it gives me positive nightmares to think about it again!
Anjou’s tourist sites are now slowly re-opening and we are eagerly looking forward to the start of the season and the excitement and pleasures it gives! Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to a private demonstration at the internationally renowned “Cadre Noir” which is is part of the French National Riding School located in Saint-Hilaire Saint-Florent, a commune, set in lovely countryside, about 6 kilometres from Saumur. We had been invited to view their new 2013 programme along with other partners in tourisme. It also gave us a chance to chat with other familiar faces from the locality after what has seemed an eternal winter! In actual fact, of course, it has been very mild and we have been spared the floods and snow which have hit other parts of France. Nevertheless, it has been the wettest winter in living memory and after all these years living here we are just not used to continual grey days.
The Cadre Noir, a joint civil/military equitation team, is now under the auspices of the National Riding School which is aimed at organizing the teaching of riding in France; to prepare for high level teaching diplomas and top level competition. Under the wing of the Minister for Health, Youth and Sport, the National Riding School is founded on the knowledge and experience of the ecuyers (Riding Masters) of the Cadre Noir who have followed the history of equitation in Saumur and Anjou; with a mission to develop horse training, to teach riding for sport, and to teach the equestrian professions. Saumur and Anjou in general is France’s horsey centre with a history going back to the beginings of cavalry in the French Army. Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington spent three years at the Royal Academie d’Equitation in Angers. He acquired an excellent french accent, a love of French culture and an admiration for the French Army. Like Malbourough before him, you would never hear Wellington being demeaning about the bravery and military prowness of the French Army despite, or perhaps because, he spent most of his life fighting them.
All the teachers of the National Riding School are members of the Cadre Noir. The principal purpose of the ecuyers, each one a real expert in their own discipline, is to pass on their technical and theoretical knowledge. They also have to train and keep in condition the horses presented in the Reprise de Manège (Musical Ride), and those who perform the ‘airs’ above the ground, as well as representing the school in national and international competitions. They are also entrusted with the preparation of the horses used in the training of their pupils. Taught by the great masters and with a great interest in the evolution of riding, the ecuyers of the Cadre Noir actively support and influence French equitation by their public presentations.
We took our seats in the Grand Manége, a modern and impressive huge indoor arena 83 metres long and 32 metres wide, with a seating capacity for 1500 people – in fact this is the largest indoor arena for riding in Europe. Introductions were given by Robert d’Artois (Directeur de l’Ecole Nationale d’Equitation et Directeur General adjoint de l’Institut francais du cheval et de l’equitation), the Colonel Jean-Michel Faure (Ecuyer en chef) and Thierry Lacombe (Directeur de l’Office de tourisme du Saumurois et du PTI de Saumur et sa region). One had to feel sorry for them as despite their best efforts everyone’s attention was already fixed on the Cadré Noir, doing their exercises in the background.
It was a delight to see the Cadre Noir horses entering the arena wearing their traditional gear with the riders in their famous black uniforms. These elite riders have reached the highest level of international sport being olympic or world champions. Their presentation is pure ‘equestrian art’ with the riders on the centreline parting to left and right in half pass, pulling their hats off to acknowledge us all and it’s fascinating the way that the riders part and come together. The famous ‘airs’ above the ground never ceases to amaze as they syncronise this together and needless to say there were lots of gasps from us all and rounds of applause!
After the presentation and refreshments, we were given a guided visit of the extensive stables. This took about an hour to see all the facilities including the arenas, tracks and stables but, best of all, the chance to admire the hundreds of horses. Many of our guests are tempted to take a visit during their holiday in the Loire, happily combining it with a visit to the Saumur Chateau (and its wonderful views), walks either in the town, down by the Loire or around the old Protestant Quarter, wine tours/wine tastings, in one of the many prestigious sparkling wines houses, like Ackerman, Bouvet Ladubay or the Combier Distillery, etc., etc. and of course let’s not forget midday lunch in one of its many restaurants offering good value ‘Plat du Jour’ (plate of the day) food with lots of crusty bread and a glass of wine’!!
The Cadre Noir presentation dates are on our website under “What’s On” and their first full “Gala” of the year is being held on the 15th March.
There is always something equestrian going on in Saumur, pageants and displays happen frequently and there are many riding schools close by for energetic enthusiasts. You can also take in the sights of Saumur on a horse drawn carriage or ‘Caleche’ which is so relaxing!
Wishing everyone a “Happy March”!
A la prochaine mes amis!
Sheila and Brian