I have always loved horses, I find them beautiful, graceful, gentle and strong. So one of the things I enjoyed about my time in Saumur was seeing horses everywhere, and even being able to walk up to a few of them and pet their soft muzzle and coarse mane. It is truly horse country. In fact, Saumur is home to the Cadre Noir, the École Nationale d’Équitation (National School of Horsemanship), known for its annual horse shows.
According to Wikipedia, 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 all but 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.
Therefore 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.
Here are a couple of shots of the Cadre Noir (photo’s by: Alain Laurioux, IFCE).
The Ecole Nationale d’Equitation’s La Grande Semaine de Saumur (the great week of Saumur) is being held this week, but I am back in Paris now, so unfortunately I will not be able to attend. I’m so disappointed!
I did see a lot of horses while in Saumur, in fact, I think I found the Prince of Saumur training his horse.
I found these beautiful mares while out for a walk one afternoon.
When I first arrived in Saumur, I booked a 2-hour ride in the countryside and along the Loire River, but alas, the day my ride was scheduled it was pouring down rain , and my excursion was cancelled. I really must get back to this area for more horsing around. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.