Camargue horse – The romantic icon of the waters “horse of the sea”
These white beauties attract anyone at first sight. A little bit of wild and looks does bring the best out in them. They might not be the strongest. But being so unique and having a bloodline that runs a long way back does justice for their popularity. The experience one could gain through riding a Camargue horse is a magical moment where the bond between nature, humans, and beast encounters.
So, let us dig a bit deep into the Camargue icons and see how exciting their lives are.
The origin of the Camargue horse runs back to the Paleolithic era.
These horses come from a wetland area located close to the River Rhone of Europe. They are a distinct breed. The exciting fact is that these horses are probably the oldest breed in the world where the facts are linking them to pre-historic horses known as solutre horses whose remains are in France.
They are decedents of the extinct Soutré horse, and they have found the bones of these horses at the southeastern sides of France. Paleolithic cave paintings can be seen in few caves as well.
Many people have settled in Camargue, Phoenicians, Romans, and more as well. These people brought horses with them, and this is what led to the breeding of this horse. It is one of the protected horse breeds.
The Camargue horse is also closely related to Spanish breeds from the northern part of the peninsula.
The Camargue regional park, established in 1928, was one of the steps in protecting this horse breed from human interference. The army’s influence of roman, Greek, and even Arabs was on Camargue Horses. Ancient tales say that some soldiers took these horses home as well.
Foreigners come and visit this heaven on earth on the Mediterranean coast of France. The wild white horses who are vividly beautiful, rule these lands. It is located at the Provence in the Alpes Côte d’Azur and the Languedoc between Arles and the mouth of the Rhône near Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
The natural beauty of the landscape attracts photographers from all around the world. This is also a vast UNESCO designated biosphere, and the spring and autumn are known to be the best times to visit the herds and the area. They live in semi-wild conditions.
The culture is not just based on people
These horses are a part of the Camargue culture. You visit a festival or a house or just the land; the horses are always there. The white beauties and their tie to the community are very strong.
The families have worked with these horses for generations. There are even exhibitions to showcase the horse’s bloodlines and the herd’s abilities to the world.
These horses work as one family unit. Even though they run wild, their families usually have a stallion, his mares, and offspring. The breeding of these horses is mostly natural and wild.
Biological Research Station in La Tour Du Valat gives minimal supervision to this breed. This agency provides chances for people to observe the horses, improving the bond between outsiders and the horse.
There are wildlife sanctuaries located around Camargue, which makes it the Camargue homeland with suitable environments. The breed is popular among the crowds through the festive activities of the area.
Also, the keepers and breeders tend to preserve the Camargue as they have a prehistoric value and inherited beauty. These horses inhabit marshes and swamps most of the time. For health checks, gelding, and branding, the authorities gather them annually.
More about Camargue horse culture…
This horse culture shows hard-hewn and passionate people with real abilities. This is more of a hybrid between French culture and their version of horsemanship. The area focuses upon agriculture and pastoral traditions which intervene with horses, and these Camargue whites have become a vital part of their lifestyle.
Technically speaking, it is the breeding of the bulls that have kept this bond strong as ever as a horse is an essential part of it.
But one major fallback is mechanized agriculture. Since machines are ‘far better and cheaper than horses’ according to many, this has replaced the horses with the machines.
For now, industries use both animal and machine labor. This has been a threat to the existence of the horse breed, which is a sort of betrayal to these loyal horses who spent their lives interacting with the Camargue people.
There is also a Camargue horse for sale. But the inhabitants tend to work with them rather than selling them for money, which establishes how staring their bond is.
The physical appearance is close to a pony. Yet,
From color, they are either black or dark brown initially. But in their fourth year, they turn white. Not pure white, but grayish-white color. They are smaller in sizes varying from 14-13 hands.
They are usually riding horses. Camargues are agile and lively. Their endurance is high, which qualifies them for traveling longer distances without much tiredness and can depend on less amount of food for more extended periods. They can adapt to extreme weather as well.
They got broad hooves, which is an evolutionary adoption to a wet environment. These horses love water. That is why people call them “the horse of the sea,” since they thrive on seawater.
These horses are famous for their beauty, stamina, and agility. These animals are very self-sufficient. They don’t depend on their keepers. They have heavy square heads that also showcases in primitive horses.
But you can see the thoroughbred, Arabian, and barb influence in them. Their body is short, and their shoulders are upright straight. A deep chest and strong legs are seen with clean joints. Forearms are long.
A full mane and a tail are also prominent, and good hooves are present in them. They weight about 660 to 880 pounds. Camargue horse eyes are distinctively large and expressive. Short and sort of broad ears are present. They live for about 23-25 years.
They attain sexual maturity for females, around 18 months, and for males at approximately 1-2 years. The mating season occurs at a late stage. The gestation period is usually from 11 to 13 months. They produce only one offspring at a time. Their call can vary from a soft whinny to a shrill piercing cry.
How useful can they be?
The area of Camargue is famous for more than horses. There are Camargue bulls who are also a part of their culture. So, where do horses come in contact with bulls? They can round up Camargue bulls.
These horse kinds are not much stabled. But their surviving ability in humid summer heats and old winters is astonishing. Camargue horse riders are what we call ‘the guardians.’
They are close to living a cowboy’s life with their traditional Camargue horse riding looks. These riders tend to protect their tradition as well. A guardian’s traditional tools are a trident and a black hat.
The guardians do not guard the horses always. They are free to roam. But they also have the ability to collect the herd back with just one click of the tongue. These Camargue horses have remarkable temperament and endurance.
These horses participate in dressage, equestrian games, and trailing. They are also excellent mounts. There are plenty of riding stables in Camargue, which allows visitors to enjoy horse riding and salt marshes. The diverse landscape is also a focal point of the visitors and photographers. The rides are hours long, or the most experienced take the rides on for three hours.
Camargue horse photography
The Camargue horse photography tours are a different kind of ride. It occurs between April 10 and 16 every year. International photojournalist Jodie Willard takes groups of people to photograph these horses. They give personalized instructions to them under two instructors.
There are ten total sessions at various locations of the Les Saintes Maries de la Mer wetland. There are two-hour sessions twice every day. Participants capture morning and evening photography.
They are able to see horses galloping across the seas, marches, both mares, and foals. Their photography covers a vast area, including other animals as well.
The region where these horses belong is what people call “the wild west of France.” This is also the largest river delta in Western Europe. This is basically a paradise, including marshes, swamps, paddy fields, and villages.
These areas attract a large number of visitors from all around the world. One of the main attractions is the Camargue horse that lives this land for thousands of years.
The opulent beauty of these horses is a fantastic image to capture. Their distinct white color and seeing them galloping across a marsh towards you would definitely be a worthy experience.
Their survival is independent
These horses are herbivores. They eat grass and herbs. Camargue horses feed on the plant Samphire in the springs. In winter, they can survive on goosefoot and dried grass.
These animals’ behavior depends on their diet and the food they live on. They can graze up to 22 hours a day. When they have plenty of lands to graze, they limit the grazing for dusk and dawn.
They are not really known to suffer from ant breed-related problems. But guardians take them for regular checkups to maintain the proper lifestyle.
Their herd has one stallion, and they tend to run wild often. Fillies are usually caught and branded, and in colt’s case, if they seem to be unsuitable for breeding, they will be gelded at a very young age.
The water of Rhone is sweet, not salty, and very well nourished. Marshes are full of different types of grasses and herbs. At the stables, these horses eat hay. And at night, they move out and graze.
It is harder to find a skinny horse on these grounds. And when they reach the age of retirement, the horse goes out for pasture with foals and mares till he goes away forever.
Breeding and registration
The French government set standards for the Camargue horses because they were significant. In 1976, the first Camargue breed registered to preserve the purity of the horses. There are few categories for registrations of Camargue horses.
In 1978, the French government set regulations for the breed. The foal had to be born out in the open, and the mare has to feed it to prove that it is the mother. There are generally two types of registrations.
One is the foals born inside the Camargue official lines. Sous berceau is what they call it. And the foals born outside the formal Camargue lines are horse berceau. There is another category.
The Cavallo del Delta. The indigenous breed introduced under the name “Cavallo del Delta.” Breeders of the Camargue belong to the Breeders Association for the Race of the Camargue Horse
These horses are born between April and July. Around the age of three, guardians take them for training. The neck reining is one technique that helps the rider to keep just one hand on reins. Most Camargue born farms, the mares are there for reproduction, and males are the ones who are broken.
The horse breed is wild, and it is hard for the breeders to control their birth rate. And with the advancement of technology, the newer generations tend to move out rather than follow the passion of their earlier generations.
Therefore, the number of Camargue horses exceeds the number of guardians or keepers. So, sometimes people slaughter these horses for meat.
The organizations are responsible for preserving and preventing this tragedy from taking place. The open festivals and events tend to share the awareness and importance of this horse breed to the world.
The horses are humble, but they are quick in action and spirited in their work. Their evolution over time had made them more alluring than earlier times.
For the people who love the outdoors, the Camargue horse is the better companion. A little time with this animal will make sure that magical moments exist even on the ground itself.