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Equestrian property in France

A guide offering advice about equestrian property in France

France - a nation of horsemen

France has long been a nation of horsemen. Historically, French horses have made their mark as warriors in battle, as part of the workforce on the farms, in the forests and on the roads, transporting commodities, in modern day competition, and, notably, in one of the most highly regarded schools of the equestrian art, the Cadre Noir. There are many native breeds, such as the strong, heavy Percheron, the fast moving and elegant French trotters, and the tough little Merens, of which the French are justifiably very proud. Make no mistake, horses are important to France, and if you are planning to buy an equestrian property in France you should find plenty of choice.

How are the conditions for horses in France?

It depends very much on where you live in France. The climate in the north is similar to that of the UK, as is the quality of grass and size of paddocks. The south, being much hotter, tends to be more of a challenge for ex-pat British horses, as the available grazing is often less with the grass often drying up and burning to gold in the summer months, meaning that you may have to feed hay in the summer as well as in the winter (Weather in France). Flies, mosquitoes and ticks can be real headache in the hotter regions too, and British horses seem to find these much harder to deal with than their French cousins. Generally speaking, horses are respected and cared for in France, unlike in some countries, although as with the UK there are sad cases of neglect or abuse occasionally.

Horse meat

It is an unfortunate fact for horse lovers that horses are considered as edible in France. You will still see horse meat in the boucheries and supermarkets, although the younger generations of French are beginning to eschew this type of meat. The good news is that France has tightened up its laws with regard to slaughter, and pregnant mares are no longer sent for slaughter within the country.

Products for horses

The majority of horses in France are kept for pleasure or competition these days, and the horsey products market is booming, with specialist shops, mail order companies and products for the equestrian sold in special sectors of the large sports outlets. There seems to be less variety of horse feeds available in France, however, although you will recognise some brands that are also on sale in England. To avoid a sudden change of diet it would be a good idea to bring a stock of your usual feed so that you can make the changes gradually if it is not available to buy near your new home.

Buying equestrian property in France - set your criteria

So, you have decided to move to France and are beginning the search for the ideal equestrian property. Obviously, there are many different types of equestrian property on the market, and not all will be suitable for your needs. It is important to make a clear list of your criteria at the very start, so you avoid the time wasting and soul destroying trail around properties that are no use to you. Do you want to breed horses? Are you planning on running a competition yard or a riding school? Or perhaps you just want to keep a couple of horses and a donkey as pets or for your own occasional use? All of these activities call for different types of property, and if you are using an agent to find the property for you be very clear about your requirements.

Location location - all important when looking at equestrian properties for sale in France

The next thing to bear in mind is location. France is a vast and diverse country, and if you have ever travelled the length and breadth of it you will be aware of just how different the various regions and departments can be. There are horses and equestrian properties all over the country, but some parts of France are more suited to horses than others, so if you have no set idea of where you need to be located it makes sense to choose a place that offers the best conditions for horses and the greatest number of possible properties.

Equestrian property in the north of France

Normandy (Upper-Normandy Property Guide, Lower-Normandy Property Guide), Brittany (Brittany Property Guide), Nord Pas de Calais (Nord-Pas-de-Calais Property Guide) and Picardy (Picardy Property Guide) are all regions in the north of France, and are quite possibly among the best areas to look for equestrian property. The climate here suits horses, being similar (if a little warmer in the summer) than the south of England, and the rainfall is sufficient to ensure good grazing. As you drive around these regions you will see fields and fields of horses, notice many signs advertising riding centres, stud farms, pony trekking and posters detailing equestrian competitions to be held in the locality.

Normandy and the Kingdom of the Horse

Normandy in particular offers classical horse country, with an abundance of suitable properties. It is green and lush, and not highly populated. Central Lower Normandy, for example, is known as the Kingdom of the Horse, so this could be an excellent place to begin the search for your perfect horsey property if Normandy or a northern destination appeals. Other advantages of the northern regions are that the travelling time from the UK is shorter, causing less disturbance to the horses you are bringing over, transport costs will be lower and the grazing and climate are similar to those found in Britain so the horses will adapt more easily to their new French lifestyle. (Travelling to France with Pets.)

Equestrian property in the centre of France

The central regions of France, which include the Centre Val de Loire (Central Loire Valley Property Guide), eastern parts of the Pays de la Loire (Pays de la Loire Property Guide) and the Limousin (Limousin Property Guide) could also be an excellent destination for the equestrian. These regions are blessed with a slightly warmer climate than the northern parts, but still have sufficient rainfall to encourage grass to grow well. Limousin in particular could be of interest to anyone looking for an equestrian property, as the region is sparsely populated, has vast areas of farmland and pasture and offers country and landed property at very reasonable prices. The Auvergne (Auvergne Property Guide) is another centrally located region, although it can be mountainous and thus not so ideal for horses.

Why not consider adapting a small farm?

You might wish to consider buying a small farm rather than a fully developed equestrian property. Often these types of places have good barns and sometimes stables already in place, and you may find there is little to do to adapt it for keeping horses. Of course, if you are planning a stud farm or competition yard you will need to budget for the extra work needed to create foaling boxes, stallion enclosures and schooling arenas, but it can still be cheaper to adapt a farm than to purchase a developed business property.

Equestrian property in the east of France

The eastern regions of France vary massively in terms of terrain and climate, with the best horsey areas including Champagne-Ardennes (Champagne-Ardenne Property Guide), Franche-Comté (Franche-Comte Property Guide) and Burgundy (Burgundy Property Guide). These regions have rich grasslands, high rainfall and pleasantly warm summers, offering good conditions for horses. Property in Burgundy can be more expensive though, so keep a close eye on the budget if you are hoping to buy in this area. Of course, if money is no obstacle Burgundy offers some of the most beautiful equestrian properties to be found in the country, with elegant manor houses, well kept pastures and state of the art facilities.

Equestrian properties in mountainous regions

There are, of course, horses and equestrian properties in the more mountainous eastern regions, including in the Alps (Alps property), but they tend to be more suited to those wishing to establish pony trekking establishments or who deal in specialised mountain breeds. Winters can be harsh in the mountains, although summers are delightful, so if you are planning on buying here try to be sure you have considered all seasons before choosing your property.

Equestrian property in the west of France

Western France tends to be more about the coast than the countryside, but don't let this put you off because the Atlantic beaches can provide some of the most exhilarating riding experiences ever, and there is the added benefit of seawater treatments for your horses legs... and all for free! Inland, in regions such as Poitou-Charentes (Poitou-Charentes Property Guide), you will find excellent equestrian property at temptingly low prices, as this is a region of farmland, of wide open spaces and villages where almost every house has a paddock and a barn. This type of property can be ideal for the private owner who keeps one or two horses for pleasure.

Equestrian property in the south of France

The southern regions of France stretch from the Atlantic Ocean and Pyrénéan Mountains in the west across the hills and plains of the Languedoc (Languedoc-Roussillon Property Guide, Languedoc-Roussillon Property - an insider's guide), through the marshy Camargue, the lovely countryside of inland Provence and to the Riviera beaches of the Côte d'Azur (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Property Guide, French Riviera Property - an insider's guide). In addition, there are the southern Alps (Alpes de Haute Provence Property Guide) and the gorges of the Ardèche (Ardèche Property Guide).

Equestrian property for sale in inland Provence

Inland Provence offers some good country properties which can be suitable for keeping horses, but you need to bear in mind that the climate is very Mediterranean here and grass tends to be at a premium. Property prices here are also high, as the area is very high profile and popular. Often, viewing equestrian properties here can come as something of a shock to British buyers, as horses are frequently kept in small enclosures with little access to grass, or indeed, live most of their non-working hours in stables. And the problem with finding suitable equestrian property in the hilly or mountainous areas is that land tends to be tiered or terraced, as flat grazing can be difficult to find.

Flat land for horses and the Camargue

If flat land is what you are after, consider the Camargue. The region is known for its horses, and certainly you will see many of these tough, beautiful "white" horses roaming the land or being used to round up that other famous resident of the Camargue, the black bull. Horses are highly prized in the Camargue, and there is an abundance of flat, open land, but there is a downside. The marshy land of the Camargue is a rich breeding ground for mosquitoes and other biting flies, all, of which can serve to make the unwary British horse very uncomfortable.

Property with land or equestrian facilities in the Languedoc

The Languedoc can be a strong contender if you want the sunshine of the south but wish to purchase an equestrian or landed property. Inland, or to the north and west of the region there are a lot of possibilities, with farms, houses with land attached and equestrian properties common. Summers can be hot though, and unless you have a lot of land at your disposal, expect to feed hay in the summer when the grass has been burned off by the sun. Prices in the Languedoc can still be reasonable, as long as you stay away from the coast. (The prettiest villages in the Languedoc, Languedoc Property - Top 10.)

Cost of equestrian property in France

How long is a piece of string? Prices range from just over 23,000 Euros, which will buy you a barn (needing total renovation) with grazing land in the Creuse department of Limousin, to several million Euros for a top notch, fully developed equestrian property complete with an historical chateau. The middle ground is probably where most people will be looking, however, and in most regions it is certainly possible to find a property with land, stables, barns and possibly even an arena, for prices from 300,000-700,000 Euros.

France... a good place for horses?

On balance, France is an excellent choice if you are seeking to buy an equestrian property. In most parts of the country, properties with land are cheaper than equivalent properties in the UK, not least because there is more land available that has not been built up into housing estates. The climate is mainly temperate, which suits horses, and because France is a nation to whom horses are important, you will find that you also have access to excellent specialist horse veterinary surgeons as well as to the day to day equipment and goods that you will require. Whether you are looking for a cottage with a paddock, a farm to convert or a specially developed equestrian property, you should find something to suit in France.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Horses in France
Registering competition horses in France
Pets and Animals in France
Land for Sale in France

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

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