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The Selle Francais has been bred in France as a competition horse since the mid 1900’s. Excellent show jumpers, cross-country and eventing, good hunter types with a spirited but kindly nature and also used for racing, this warmblood has been successful as a sport horse in local and world competition as well as simply a good personal saddle horse.
The heavy Norman Draught Horse (known for a thousand years or so) was crossed in the 1600’s with German, Arab and Barb blood. Later the Norfolk trotter and Throughbred blood was used in the 1700 and 1800’s to produce the Anglo Norman. The Selle Francais, primarily bred in the areas of France such as Angevin, Charolais and Vendee, was a continuation of the Anglo Norman stud book.
At first the Normandy breeders imported Thoroughbred stallions and half bred stallions with strong Norfolk Roadster blood to cross with their Norman Draught Horse. Two cross-breds were at first produced, the fast harness horse which would become the French Trotter and the Anglo Norman horse. The Anglo Norman was of two types also, a riding horse and a draft cob. The riding horse was the beginning of today’s le cheval de Selle Francais.
As with most warmbloods, the needed draught and farm working animals became reduced and the need for lighter horses dominated, so long established horse types in various localities of the world were bred to meet this newer needs for riding and cavalry use. Then after World War II, riding horses were desired that had speed and stamina and horses were bred for these abilities.
THE WARMBLOOD OF FRANCE
The Selle Francais, the saddle horse of France, has a colorful beginning. Roughly, most are sired by Thoroughbreds, then fewer percent by Anglo Arabs, a small percent by French Trotters and perhaps half by those stallions already designated by the name of Selle Francais, many of whom came with strong trotting connections. The new registry allowed registration of Thoroughbreds crossed with French Trotters, Arabs or Anglo Arabs crossed with French Trotters, and Thoroughbreds crossed with Ango Arabs providing there was less than one fourth Arabian blood.
Needless to say the new warmblood type came in varied sizes and with varying weight carrying capacity. Weight classifications were made based on the horse’s ability to carry a medium or heavyweight rider. The medium were the most numerous and the more highly bred.
Primarily bred as a show jumper, the Selle Francais was also bred to race. The AQPSA (other than Thoroughbred association) provides regulation of such racing.
Despite increased quality and refinement, the head remains reminiscent of the French Trotter, but it is a fine head, with wide set eyes and long ears. A long, elegant neck, more graceful that the French trotter is typical. Bone is excellent, and the trotting blood had given limbs of great strength and especially powerful forearms.
The movement of the Selle Francais is long with agility, and the jumping prowess is exceptional. The quarters, so similar to the trotter, are broad and well suited to jumping. The general build is similar to the Thoroughbred, with obvious overtones of the Trotter.
All colors are accepted but chestnut is far more frequent. This is horse is also a horse of greater spirit than many other warmbloods.
Cross country racing, and eventing are great disciplines for these horses and they are used in all sport horse disciplines as well as hunters.