Legendary Horses of Camargue guest post by Ferne Arfin.
Camargue horses are legendary. White or grey and cream, short-legged and sturdy, with bushy tails and thick, glamorous manes, they are really a kind of pony. The origin of the horses, unique in the world to this corner of France, is something of a mystery. At one time, they were thought to be descendants of Arabian horses left behind by Saracen invaders. But they bear little resemblance to the tall, elegant Arabian breed. In all likelihood, they are the product of crosses between native, paleolithic horses and other breeds.
The horses were once completely wild, but today they are semi-feral. They graze freely in the areas known as sansouires – salty, dry plains covered with grasses and glasswort – coexisting with herds or manades of native bulls which also graze there. They form their own herds and breed in the wild.
The horses are rounded up annually to inspect and brand the foals. While not a horseback riding vacation, Gardians (Camargue cowboys) and manadieres (ranchers), use Camargue horses for working with cattle. Once broken to the saddle, the horses are reliable and sure-footed for those interested in a horseback riding vacation.
Where to ride on your horseback riding vacation
A number of stables hire the Camargue horses out for guided rides during horseback riding vacations. Confident horseback riders, with a good knowledge of French, can fulfill the fantasy of galloping through the Mediterranean surf on the back of a native Camargue horse during your horseback riding vacation. Or, visit a manade to take part in le triage du bétail , when the cleverest bulls are selected and prepared for games and Abrivados – bull running in the streets.
Manade des Baumelles 0033 4 90 97 84 37, where some of these pictures were taken, offers a variety of taurine demonstrations, equestrian activities, horseback riding vacations and traditional meals.
If You Go:
The very helpful, English speaking, tourist office staff in Les-Saintes- Maries-de-la-Mer 0033 4 90 97 82 55 can help you find a manade with activities that suit your interests and riding ability.
Ferne Arfin is a UK-based freelance writer. She writes about travel at TimeZoneTraveler.