I recently had the pleasure of visiting The National Stud in Tarbes. Or Haras de Tarbes as it is known in French and it is beautiful! Tucked away in the city centre of Tarbes, which is in South West France on the edge of the Pyrenees mountains. You would never expect to find such a large beautiful equestrian centre as you navigate through the busy streets of this busy french city. But when you do find it you are in for such a treat!

So, a bit about the stud. The National Stud is actually classified as a historical monument. The stud was restored in 1806 by Napoleon to house stallions to produce mounts for the cavalry. It was successful as the stud actually provided 35% of the horses that were used in the light cavalry at that time. Today however the facilities are used to develop the horse industry here in France.

Now that is interesting, but on the tour what they are very interested in telling you that Haras de Tarbes is the birthplace of the Anglo Arab (Thoroughbred x Arab). This breed is common all over the world but the French have made it popular. These horses have excellent qualities as they have the characteristics of an English Thoroughbred who are fast and agile and an Arab who have immense stamina.  So with all that combined they really do make brilliant sports horses. Anglo Arabs were first bred in France in 1836 under the control of the National Stud Service. They are the 3rd oldest breed in the world and the have the 3rd oldest official stud book in France.

When we arrived at the stud I expected to see lots of mares and their foals but I was wrong. Today the stud is used for developing the horse industry by working on such things as the selection and preservation of breeds, research and experimentation, encouragement of the sector, technical support for the implementation of horse projects and horse trades training.

In 2006 the 1st regiment Paratroopers set up a military equestrian club at the stud with 30 horses and military personnel. This includes a programme that supports injured soldiers. There is a therapeutic programme that offers equine meditation for soldiers that suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is also an adapted sport programme that are riding lessons for military personnel that are in the process of physical or mental recovery and there is also an ambitious sport programme for soldiers that would like to train with support of the Federation Français d’équitation (the national federation for equestrianism) to get to the para olympics.

The equestrian centre is very beautiful even just seeing the old buildings and stables set amongst the trees is very special. It still feels very grand and when you are there you do not think you are in the middle of a busy city! We arrived without booking on a Saturday afternoon. Me, my husband James and our Jack Russell Ziggy were all welcomed and shown to the little museum where they were playing videos of their big summer show as we waited for everyone to arrive for the guided tour. The tour guide was very nice and spoke English and French. The tour we took was in French but he spoke English to me and said that if there was anything I didn’t understand he would happily translate for me. Tours can be done in English if you pre- book.

As it was Saturday we benefitted from a farrier demonstration on our tour. We were shown how he makes horseshoes, shown different types and how they are fitted. My non- horsey husband James particularly enjoyed this part.

After the farrier demonstration we were shown around the stables. Each stable block had different types of horses in them. When we visited we saw the military equestrian club, another stable block with former police horses in and a few Anglo Arabs. The stable blocks were beautiful. On the guided tour you are shown around the whole site and can see all the original old buildings still being used. We also got to meet some of the old and very young horses who were out in the paddocks.

The stables and yards were so clean. They showed us how they had made a specialised system to help them muck out. Each stall had a trap door at the back where you would place all the muck you want removed through the trap door. From there a conveyer belt would sweep all the muck along to one big pile a the end of the yard – genius huh? I needed that when I worked at a riding school!

If you are ever in Tarbes, I would throughly recommend a tour of the stud. It really is special. The tour is informative and full of history but it equally as interesting seeing the stud and what they are doing there today. Most of the people on the tour weren’t horsey and my non horsey hubby enjoyed it so it is suitable for everyone including children.

I have read since my visit that the council have bought the stud and plan to invest more money into it creating a public garden and a gourmet restaurant so it sounds like it is getting to get even better!

For more information visit http://www.tarbes-tourisme.fr

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