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The French Trotter breed is capable of taking on and beating the best harness racers in the world!
Normandy breeders imported Thoroughbreds and half bred stallions as well as Norfolk Roadsters, to produce lighter progeny from their native stock of Norman Horses, and trotters, and five important bloodlines to which most modern French Trotter trace, were established. One of if not the most prepotent trotting line is that of Fuchsia, and English half-bred foaled in 1883. He sired some 400 trotters and over 100 of his sons were he sires of winners.
In due course, infusions of American Standardbred blood were also included, to give the French Trotter more speed, but it has not had effect upon the unique character of the tough French breed which is capable of taking on and beating the best harness racers in the world.
Ten percent of all French races are for trotters under saddle and the French Trotter has no equal. Ridden races encourage the bigger, more powerful horses, which are invaluable at stud for a variety of purposes. Apart from its contribution to harness races, the French Trotter has been instrumental in the development of the Selle Francais breed and is noted as a sire of jumpers.
French Trotter mares can earn selection and conformation premiums at regional shows or the national show which promote selection of breeding stock. Stallions are only allowed for pure breeding if they obtain minimum references, all based on performance. To take part in a trotting race, all must pass qualification test of time, which eliminate almost half of the horses from racing and therefore improve the breed.
As a fixed breed, the French Trotter has a unique, characteristic appearance. The head of the modern Trotter inclines more to the Thoroughbred than to the old Anglo-Norman type of horse from which it descends. Though it is less refined than that of the Thoroughbred, it gives the impression of intelligence and spirit. Another feature to the head is that there is no thickness to the jowl.
The quarters are short but immensely powerful; the croup is long and wide. In early days, the shoulder was a bit straight, but is now more sloped to allow greater movement of the forearm, needed for racing speed. Predominant coat colors are chestnut, bay and brown. There are some roans but it is rare to find grays. Height is 16.2 hands.
The French Trotter is numerically the most important breeding stock in France and is producing, as well as race horses, a riding horse with good useabilty and temperament.
OTHER RACING TIDBITS
In the late 1890’s the original large wheels of racing sulkies were replaced by smaller, bicycle type ball bearing wheels, fitted with pneumatic tires. They contributed to a notable increase in speed for all harness racers. The modern, modified rig, racing sulky, came into use in the 1970’s and immediately produced record breaking performances all over the world.
France’s leading harness race is the Priz’s Amerique. The all age championship of Europe, it is run at Vincennes over 1 miles 5 furlongs (w,650m) which consists of both downhill and a punishing uphill stretch, guaranteed to determine quality. The premier ridden race is the Prix de Cornulier over the same distance.