Category Archives: Riding Advice

Meet the Normandy Cob on your riding holiday in France – a horse with bags of personality!

Horse riding holidays in France
Dunka and Bamboo, our Normandy Cobs

If you’re looking for a calm, willing horse which is also athletic and energetic, why not ride a Normandy Cob?

They are hardy French horses which resemble thoroughbreds with a more robust frame, and they are popular for driving and riding.

In fact, in 2011 more than 33% of the horses in the French driving championships were Normandy Cobs.

They are famed for the length of their striding trots, and their stud book records seal brown, chestnut, and bay colourings. Official records for the breed have been kept for almost 70 years – the first stud book was produced in 1950.

The breed was used by the French military to pull artillery and by the French postal service to deliver and pick up mail. The cob was also used widely in agriculture in Northern France.

It originated in Normandy as a cross between the small horses of the area, the bidets, and the Carrossier Normand, a now-extinct breed of carriage horse which was widely seen in the early 20th Century.

While other breeds were threatened by mechanisation in agriculture and other industries, Normandy Cob breeders crossed their horses with thoroughbreds and that contributed to the French national saddle horse breed, the Selle Français.

In the 1980s, breeders worked hard to stem the threat of inbreeding and genetic drift to ensure the Normandy Cob had a bright future. Now, they can be seen in different parts of France, especially in Calvados, Manche, and Orne.

Normandy Cobs are hugely popular for all sorts of equestrian pursuits because they are calm and have winning personalities.

What does a typical Normandy Cob look like?

These elegant horses generally stand between 15.25 hands and 16.35 hands high, and weigh between 550kg and 900kg.

There are large variations in weight and height throughout the breed, though, caused by the different uses for the horses.

Look for a square profile and a short back, a head with good proportions, a convex or straight facial profile, wide nostrils, and small ears.

Normandy Cobs have a deep chest, broad, angled shoulders, muscular, short legs, and powerful hindquarters. They have round, strong feet and shed their shaggy winter coats in Spring.

The most popular Normandy Cob colourings include bays with white markings, chestnut, and seal brown.

Bamboo is schooledMeet our Normandy Cobs…

Dunka – Standing at 16.3 hands high, Dunka will be five this year. She is gentle, friendly, and loves to have fun. Our visitors adore her!

Bamboo – He will be four this year, and is a typical example of the calm, friendly Normandy Cob. Bamboo stands at 17 hands high, so is a large example of the breed. He is very popular with our riders.

Would you like to meet our Normandy Cobs in person? They’re ideal horses to develop your riding skills because they’re calm and friendly. Book your French riding holiday today. You can contact us here.









Want to improve your riding or horse-handling skills? Discover our week-long intensive training course

Riding holidays in France
Get closer to horses and learn valuable skills with our intensive training

Have you hankered after a week-long experience which would allow you to spend as much time as possible with horses?

If so, our intensive training week would be an ideal experience for you. It’s back by popular demand in 2018 after two courses in May and September 2017 and will help you learn about horse care, bonding with your horse, and riding skills.

For the week starting May 5, 2018, we’re offering you our all-inclusive, bespoke intensive riding workshop holiday.

Alongside the long, leisurely rides for which Château de Laumière is famed, you’ll receive a one-to-one training programme which we tailor specially to your individual needs.

You’ll be able to spend the entire day handling and working with horses.

This is ideal for riders who want to learn more or those who want to improve their confidence.

For some riders, a fall or a scare can knock that confidence in the saddle.

Our highly-qualified riding instructor Tanya will help you overcome your fears. She is calm, sympathetic, and has years of experience.

The intensive course will give you valuable skills including:

  • Groundwork – the basis of riding and handling skills, with lunging, join-up, long-lining, and work on the ground.
  • Dressage – our manege is the perfect place to learn and hone dressage skills, especially if you’re interested in competitions.
  • Jumping – always wanted to jump but have never learned how? Perhaps you need a refresher after a break of several years. Come to our intensive course where our experienced instructor will show you what you need to know.

Whatever you need, we’ll tailor our course to help you. It’s all about helping you to enjoy horses and riding.

Our course is for all levels of rider, not just those who are very experienced, and you can attend whether you own your own horse or not.

It’s about developing your skills the way you want to take them. Whatever you want to do more of, we’ll help you achieve that.

We’ll be offering the usual morning ride, with intensive sessions in the afternoons.

Our intensive training week always starts with Tanya discussing the group’s needs, them formulating the training.

You’ll enjoy the beautiful countryside, riding trails free of traffic, authentic local cuisine, and relaxing atmosphere, too!

Meet our horses…

We have a horse to suit every rider – from traditional French Mérens horses to thoroughbreds.

Here are a few of them:

Hope – An Arab/Mérens cross standing at 14.3hh. A beautiful horse with a wonderful character.

Ursala – A beautiful Heinz standing at 14.3hh. A safe, comfortable, and kind horse.

Rocco – A Portuguese standing at 15hh. Bags of character and a sense of fun, but a safe ride.

Chico – An Andalucian standing at 16hh. One of our most popular horses, who loves our visitors.

Atila – A Lusitanian standing at 16.3hh. Likes to show off skills in dressage.

Nao – A Mérens standing at 15hh. A sensible and comfortable horse.

Would you like to book a place in our intensive training week? It’s worth doing so soon – they tend to go quickly. You can contact us here.

Meet the MĂ©rens, a horse with a unique place in French history

French riding holidays
Our MĂ©rens horse Mollie.

If you’re looking to ride a sure-footed, hardy, and docile horse, look no further than a Mérens.

Also known as Ariégeois ponies or Cheval de Mérens, the small horses are native to the Ariégeois and Pyrenees mountains of the south of France.

Always black, the MĂ©rens can either be a small and traditional mountain horse, or a taller, more modern horse.

They were often used for farming and as pack horses because of their superior endurance, and were traditionally taken on a summer migration higher into the mountains – a practice which is being revived in the area.

Now, MĂ©rens horses are used primarily for riding and carriage driving.

The breed standard says a MĂ©rens should have an ideal height of 14.1 to 15.1 hands and a weigh 400kg to 500kg.

Their black coats can take on a ruddy tinge in the winter and foals can be born silver-grey, black, or coffee-coloured. Their coats become black as they grow.

Some may have small, white markings on their face.


Thousands of years of MĂ©rens history

The MĂ©rens breed is thought to have originated in prehistoric times, either from Iberian horses or Oriental horses brought to the area by settlers coming from the east.

There are records of small black horses in the area which go back to the time of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.

They have been associated with famous historic figures include Charlemagne and Napoleon Bonaparte. They pulled the artillery used by Napoleon’s Grand Army in its Russian campaign.

Smugglers used these horses to haul their ill-gotten gains through the Pyrenees, they were used by miners, and at the end of the 19th Century they had become known as light cavalry horses.

Widespread cross-breeding had led to decline in the pure-bred population. So, in 1908 a local agricultural society too charge of the breed, creating a registry in 1933 and a stud book in 1948 under the control of the French National Stud.

As machines replaced horses in French agriculture, the population declined disastrously, putting the breed on the verge of extinction in the 1970s.

Then, there were just 40 pure-breed MĂ©rens horses registered with the stud book and a reported 2,000 animals of MĂ©rens descent.


How hippies saved the breed

Hippies looking to escape the rat race and become self-sufficient discovered the breed when they moved to the Ariège mountains.

They resettled areas which had become depopulated and brought a welcome boost to the local economy.

They also started MĂ©rens breeding programmes, just at the time there was a resurgence in interest in riding during the mid-1970s.

Many MĂ©rens horses are descended from a semi-feral horse called Bonbon who was orphaned by an accident and raised on goat milk, returning later in life to his herd in the mountains as a prize stallion.

Numbers recovered to a reported 4,000 animals in 1985 and there are 600 pure-bred horses now in the stud book. There are now around 500 births every year.

One genetic study in 2008 however, still considered the traditional MĂ©rens an at-risk breed.

The breed has become more and more popular. In fact, French magazine Cheval Pratique ranked the MĂ©rens one of the 23 most beautiful horse breeds.

There are now MĂ©rens horses registered in Italy and Belgium, and some are reported in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, India, and Tunisia.

In 1998, the French National Stud reclassified the MĂ©rens as horses rather than ponies.


Our MĂ©rens horses, half-sisters Nao and Mollie, are beautiful examples of the breed.

Both are docile and sure-footed – and ready to meet you!

Find out more about our horses here.

Are you ready to book your next French riding holiday? Book here.


Two Upcoming Events for Riders

Own Your Own Horse Week – 27 May



Do you ride regularly but not actually own your own horse?  Is it your dream or are you just curious as to what’s involved?  Well for week commencing Saturday 27 May you can make that dream come true for a week.  Take this opportunity to experience horse ownership in the most ideal surroundings with the reassurance that there is a knowledgeable team on hand to help if needed. Own a horse week enables you to to be as hands on with your four legged friend as you wish to find out what it’s really like to have a horse of your own.  img_20160503_084405




Training Week – 16 September


Last year’s training week was a real success and we were asked to think about another one this year.  Well we did and scheduled it in for the beginning of May – it was full almost as soon as we advertised it and there has been interest shown in another one being added.  We have looked at the diary and can now say that we will offer this for week beginning Saturday 16 September.  If you’re interested do get in touch asap.

Some people mentioned that they were a little worried by the phrase ‘Intensive Training’ as they thought it meant it was only for very experienced riders so let me put your mind at rest over this because that really isn’t the case at all.  It’s more of a usual week with the opportunity to do extra training – riding, horse care, bonding with your horse or whatever you have problems with or want to do more of.  It’s for riders of all levels – horse owners or not – and as with all of our rides it’s tailored to you.  There is the usual morning ride then as an addition in the afternoons Tanya can help you to work on any issues that you would like help with.  She will talk everything over with the whole group at the beginning of the week and work out a program that fits and can be worked on through the week.  11870817_1787696334790436_6895041293615577366_n

English Instructors, French Countryside – The Perfect Riding Holiday

Riding InstructorThe countryside of Southern France has much to recommend it: beautiful scenery, picturesque villages and gorgeous sunny days. If you are thinking of taking a horse riding holiday and would like to go a little further afield than the UK, then France might prove to be the perfect solution.

The French countryside is an idyllic place to explore on horseback, with significantly more open access areas to explore and much quieter roads than the UK or other parts of Europe. It’s for these reasons that Southern France is the favoured choice for the more discerning holidaymakers looking for a tranquil riding holiday.

Horse Riding Instructors

If you are a beginner horse rider, or if you are unfamiliar with the countryside, having a qualified Instructor at hand to offer assistance is an important consideration. Maybe you need to brush up on your equestrian skills, or simply need a guide to help you negotiate unfamiliar roads and trails?

Most French riding schools have excellent Instructors, well skilled in all aspects of horse riding. France is well-set up for horse riding, and so you will not have much difficulty finding an Instructor with the skills to give you the tuition you need.

Will Language be a Barrier?

The ability to communicate effectively with your Instructor is vital. When you are being given information about how to ride, safety, equipment or where you are heading on your trek that day, it is crucial that you understand every detail.

Many French riding Instructors speak excellent English, but, as you would expect, this varies greatly from person to person. If you have a fluent grasp of the French language this isn’t going to be an issue for you. However, if your French isn’t that great, then you may find the language barrier gets in your way.

Therefore, when you are making your selection about a riding holiday venue abroad, always check whether they employ English speaking Instructors.

Feel at Ease With Your Instructors

At horse riding holiday venues such as ours we cater for many tourists coming in from the UK. We therefore make sure there are always English Instructors available on all our organised excursions. Our instructors are completely at home in southern France and are comfortably bi-lingual, so they make the perfect guides and companions on your riding holiday.

Great Climate, Great Location

With our English instructors and the rolling French countryside you can relax and explore more of the local area at your own pace. If the thought of sunny days, beautiful country and English speaking instructors sounds good to you, then heading to the French countryside for a horse-riding holiday with us this year may just make for the perfect holiday.

Our Top 5 Tips For Making The Most of Your Riding Holiday

A riding holiday can offer a wealth of benefits. There is the element of being outdoors, the physical exercise, the beautiful scenery, the connection with your horse and of course the enjoyment of being with other riders on a great vacation.

There are ways however, of making your adventure the very best that it can be. Below we explore five tips for making the most of your riding holiday.

1. Decide On The Type Of Holiday

Riding holidays come in all shapes and sizes, from genteel trekking through beautiful countryside to riding on the beach and then on to more athletic equestrian pursuits. It is important therefore to decide on the type of holiday you want before you even start looking.

You also need to take into consideration the location of the holiday. Do you want to go somewhere short haul like Southern France or would you prefer a holiday further afield?

2. Be Honest About Your Riding Ability

To fully enjoy your riding holiday, it is best to be totally honest about your horse riding ability. If you are a novice and need to gain confidence, then make sure that the holiday organisers cater for new riders and can offer horses that will be suitable. If you are a completely inexperienced rider, then you are also going to need some training when you arrive.

Alternatively if you are a very experienced rider you may want an experience that is going to challenge you a little more. Honesty is the best policy to ensure you get the most out of the holiday.

And of course, any additional riding you can fit in before your holiday to sharpen your fitness and technique certainly won’t do any harm.

3. Make Sure You Are Protected

Wherever you are traveling make sure that the riding holiday organisers hold the correct insurances and adhere to health and safety best practice. Any sport, horse riding being no exception, has its risks, and it is better to be safe than sorry. This is another good reason why you also need to check that your holiday company offers professional instruction from qualified Instructors.

In addition, when you take out your travel insurance, make sure that you declare you are going on a riding holiday so that you have the necessary protection.

4. Dress Correctly

Before you leave for your holiday check with the organisers what clothing and footwear you will need. Also find out whether they provide a hard hat or whether you need to take one of your own. Better to be prepared than to find yourself in a location where it is difficult to purchase the necessary equipment.

5. Enjoy yourself

Above all, the best way to make the most of your riding holiday is to have fun. A vacation is meant to be full of relaxation and enjoyable company so that you return home rested and rejuvenated. A riding holiday is no exception to this, but it also offers the bonus of letting you spend time in the saddle.

Ready to Ride?

If our top-tips have whetted your appetite to take a riding holiday then the first step is to check out our riding holidays here in the South of France. Head to our home page and browse through the information pages or if you’d like to get in touch, you can do so via our contact page.

Is France The Best Place in Europe For a Horse Riding Holiday?

The French SceneryFor us, the answer to this question is very simple: yes, although to leave it at that wouldn’t make for a very interesting blog post! France is a paradise for anyone who loves horse riding. You really only need to come here for a holiday in order to see for yourself, and we are certain you will leave convinced as well.

So here are the top reasons we think France is the best place to go for a European horse riding holiday:

The Varied Landscape

France has an astonishing variety of landscapes to offer horse lovers, with each region offering its own unique character and set of challenges to equestrian holidaymakers. From the rugged coasts and forested valleys of Celtic Brittany to the long dune fringed beaches of the South-West, there is something for everybody here. Our own area in the Lot region of Southern France is a peaceful, verdant country or rivers, picturesque villages and small fields, unspoilt by major towns. Here horse riders can enjoy the use of over 2,000 km of rural chemin rurale with the occasional tractor the only vehicle you are likely to pass.

French Food!

Traditional French food is a truly wonderful thing, and keeps many horse riders coming back to France for their holidays time and time again. Far removed from the pretensions of the big Paris restaurants, regional French cuisine has a provincial sophistication that sets it apart from other national cuisines. The French are justly proud of their cooking, combining as it does a tradition of fine ingredients, well-honed recipes and old fashioned hospitality.

Vineyard Trails

France is home to some of the most famous vineyards in the world. Fine wine is an integral part of French culture with each region having its own distinctive style. What better way to see the wine producing regions than at a leisurely pace on horseback? We certainly can’t think of one!


In contrast to horse riding in England and other European countries, you will be surprised how accessible much of France is to horse riders. In many areas it is possible to ride for hours undisturbed across farmland, past homesteads and hamlets on gently meandering paths, without ever having to navigate through a busy town or main road.

We adore horse riding in France and would love it if you could come and join us to experience it for yourself. Browse our website to find out more about our riding holidays and luxury accommodation options, and send us an email today for more information.

Château de Laumière’s horse-riding holiday checklist

6(1)It’s important to know what you need to pack to get the most a horse-riding holiday at Château de Laumière – especially if you haven’t been riding for a while, or if you’re planning your first equestrian break.

Here’s our checklist of what you’ll need to pack to get the most out of a riding holiday here.


Hat: A riding hat that conforms to current British Safety Standards is vital – that’s why we ask you to bring your own. We insist that hats are worn all the time you’re on a horse, so you need to be totally comfortable and safe with the one you’re wearing. It’s best to bring one you know fits properly.

Boots: You should bring your own pair of long or short riding boots. Many riders who come here on holiday wear them on the plane – which seems very sensible, and saves vital space (not to mention, weight) in their case.

Trainers are not allowed. They are flat-soled and can slip through the stirrups.

Trousers: There’s a reason jodhpurs are the most comfortable trousers to wear on horseback, but any trousers that you find comfortable to ride in are fine.

Some people like to ride in jeans, but those side seams can rub – and you’ll soon know about it after a morning’s hack.

Shorts are, unfortunately, unsuitable for riding.

Shirts: Sensible tops are a must. Summers can – and do – get hot in Lot, so a shirt that covers and protects your shoulders is a good idea – short-sleeved cotton tops or polo shirts are ideal. They also provide a little extra protection from any low-hanging branches on the trails.

Creams: Speaking of the sun, we also recommend you bring some high-protection sun cream – and some insect repellent, too.

In case it rains: You will need a shower-proof jacket. Even in southern France, it does sometimes rain. Sorry. There’s nothing we can do about it.

Gloves / body protectors: If you usually wear riding gloves and / or a body protector, please do bring them along.

Non-riding style: When you’re not riding, you’ll soon discover that our beautiful corner of France is a pretty relaxed place.

6We make no demands on what you wear at breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Château – and, unless you’re planning a particularly expensive night out, there’s no need to bring that fancy little black number. Jeans, casual trousers, T-shirts, comfortable summer dresses are welcome almost everywhere.

Do I need anything else?

You can pretty much leave the rest to us.

You’re guaranteed the warmest of welcomes and the finest food at the beautiful Château de Laumière. We supply English tack, and our horses are all well schooled and highly adaptable.

Meanwhile, we’ve left it to the Lot department to provide a gorgeous backdrop. We think it’s done a remarkable job.

banacThe charming, rolling surroundings are perfect for just about every level of rider to explore. The only thing we ask is that you’re confident on a horse at all three paces – walking, trotting and cantering.

Hackers’ delight

The Lot department is picture-book France.

Riders can enjoy unspoiled, wooded countryside that boasts an abundance of wildlife – such as deer, wild boar, red squirrels, hares, buzzards and kites – dotted with enchanting villages.

As you round a gentle bend on one of the tree-lined chemins rurales that criss-cross the area, you may discover a splendid château or grand manor house, a centuries-old Priory or picturesque farmland that just goes on and on until it meets the sky.

Beginners’ luck

What if you’re a horse-riding novice, or need to regain a little confidence after a year or 10 out of the saddle?

No problem. We keep afternoons free, and you can easily arrange a riding lesson or two. They will offer non-riders a hint of what all the fuss is about, and help old riders remember all those skills they thought they had forgotten.

Hat… boots… shirt… trousers… you

That’s just about everything you need to enjoy a perfect equestrian holiday at Château de Laumière.

We’ll send you a little reminder of what you need to bring with confirmation of your booking, but this will get you started.

Equestrian Holidays in France – What You Need to Know

Riding TrailFor horse lovers there are many locations in France that are great for an equestrian getaway. France is a large and diverse country so in order to plan an enjoyable holiday you will need to consider a number of things in advance. Thoroughly looking into these considerations will give you the confidence that all your needs are met so you can just enjoy the ride when you arrive at your holiday destination.

Riding Facilities

First, look at the availability of riding stables and hire facilities in the area you plan to go. There are a lot of good quality riding establishments in France but they are not evenly spread across the country and all offer varying levels of service. Do your research and find out what a place offers before you book. How much are their hire charges? What breeds do they keep in their stables and what is their availability? Is instruction offered? If you do not speak French you should also enquire whether English speaking instructors are available. These are all questions you should ask – and do take a look at customer reviews if possible so you can compare experiences from other holidaymakers.

Horse Riding Trails

You will also have to look at how well set up your destination is for riding horses. For instance, is there an established network of well-maintained riding trails or bridle paths, or will you need to spend a lot of your time riding on the edge of roads? This is an important consideration as it can be intimidating riding on unfamiliar roads, especially if you are taking your own horse and they are not used to local traffic conditions.

The Terrain

It is also worthwhile considering the terrain of the area you’d like to visit. France has a very varied range of riding environments and this is one of the things that makes it such an appealing destination; but there is a world of difference between the gentle fields of Normandy and the foothills of the Pyrenees. The season you plan to travel also makes a huge difference. Some areas of southern France experience only gentle variation between the seasons, whereas other areas have big differences between summer and winter conditions, for instance in mountainous areas or on the Atlantic coast. In some areas horse riding facilities may only be open at certain times of the year.

Your Riding Ability

Were you born in the saddle or is this your first time on a horse? Do you enjoy a gruelling challenge through isolated terrain or a gentle amble along well-trod paths? France offers both a challenge to experienced riders and plentiful opportunities to people just starting out horse riding, as well as families of mixed abilities. When planning your holiday it is important to be candid about your level of ability and to plan a holiday that is fair to you and to your horse.

For an unforgettable horse riding experience in Southern France or to find out more about equestrian holidays, get in touch with us today. Take a look through our website to see details of our horses and our wonderful Château.