Moving to a new country can be complicated – if you have horses, it can be even more so. Lynette Eyb considers the perfect place in France for you and your equine friends
Miles of forest trails, beach rides, weekends spent exploring vineyards and canals on horseback. France’s vast open spaces and diverse terrain lend themselves to horse lovers.
The hacking is generally excellent, with a well-maintained network of off-road trails (randonnées) making it easy to find traffic-free routes to enjoy.
However there’s also the well-documented French bureaucracy to deal with, hotter weather, the language, rules and regulations and local customs. Here’s some advice to get you started.
Where in France?
It’s stating the obvious, but France is a big country and the climate and geography varies a great deal more than in the UK. You’ll need to take feeding and irrigation costs into consideration, more so if you’re looking to move to a hotter area that has less abundant vegetation. This may also impact on the size of properties you look at, as well as their facilities.
Helen Barnes-Short has lived in Dordogne for 11 years and has owned horses for eight of those years. She runs the English-language forum, A Matter of Horse.
Helen says it’s important to research areas thoroughly before buying property. “Unless you like riding on your own, move to an area where there are other riders, riding clubs and competitions,” she says. “There are a lot of horse people here in Dordogne and also a big horsey scene in Normandy near the Haras du Pin.
In general, though, clubs are thinner on the ground than in the UK due to the size of the country. Remember that everything is further away than in the UK, so be prepared to travel for shows and other events.”
Helen suggests budgeting for plenty of land. “You always need more than you think,” she says. “Property here tends to be less organised for horses – you don’t meet many owners who have had stables or arenas ready-built, so allow extra cash for that kind of thing.
“Don’t forget to ask the locals or the mairie about the availability of hay supplies and also about hacking as it’s far safer to ride off the road – but take extra care in hunting season.”
Another important consideration is to think about who will look after your horses when you are on holiday. Are your neighbours horse-friendly or is livery available locally?
Some like it hot
Claire Deedman, of Leggett Immobilier in La Rochebeaucourt, says that in her area of Provence there is a thriving horse sector, despite the hot conditions.
“Provence is one of the most expensive regions in France and is not really cut out for horses, but they adapt surprisingly well given the hot climate and the terrain,” she says. “Rolling green fields are rare, so look for flat land that is irrigated regularly, and with trees that offer shelter from flies, sun and wind.
“The hacking here is sublime, and one can wander for hours in the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon, or within the mountains of the Chaîne des Alpilles. Stretching between the Rhône and Durance rivers, the mountain range offers incredible views and shaded bridleways.”
Once you’ve found a property, you’ll then need to give some consideration to the logistics of your move.
Helen says she’s had all manner of enquiries via the forum. “Usual questions include which horse transport firm to use, where to buy feed and equipment, how to register your horse with Les Haras Nationaux, and what hoops you’d need to jump through to get out there and compete.”