Haras du Pin
The Haras du Pin is the oldest, most aristocratic, most striking national stud in France. Founded by Louis XIV, its bears the nickname of ‘the equestrian Versailles’ well. In its idyllic setting in southern Normandy, in a region renowned for its centuries-old horse-breeding traditions, the stud stages equine events.
This splendid equestrian estate came into existence at the very end of Louis XIV’s reign. In 1714, the Sun King asked his principal equerry, François Gédéon de Garsault, to find a spot more suitable for producing fine horses than the inadequate existing royal stud near Saint-Germain-en-Laye on the outskirts of Paris. This gorgeous stretch of the southern Normandy countryside was chosen for its many qualities.
The architect who drew up the plans for the new royal stud was Robert de Cotte. He had already designed stables for the king’s domain at Versailles, which helps explain the startling grandeur of the Haras du Pin. The works were overseen by Pierre Le Mousseux. The central château is flanked by two curving wings reserved for the horses. It should be remembered that horses, up until the 20th century, were bred not just for transport and agriculture, but also for war.
The Haras du Pin proves a wonderful equestrian estate to visit, both for horse enthusiasts and for those with no specialist knowledge. Look out for the special events staged here, plus the special extras available on peak Mondays and Thursdays.
- The Discovery Trail: enjoy an introduction to the history and work of this exceptional national stud in this new exhibition trail which uses contemporary technology to tell visitors about the history of the place and the importance of horse breeding.
- Les courses du Pin (horse races at the Haras du Pin): in a convivial, rural atmosphere, the Haras du Pin welcomes leading flat-racing and steeple-chase specialists on one of the oldest race courses in France.
- Les jeudis du Pin (special Thursday events): the stud has built its reputation around nurturing exceptional breeds, notably the Percheron, the Normandy Cobb, the Trotteur Français, the Selle Français and the English Thoroughbred. Together with the collection of horse-drawn vehicles, they are at the centre of displays that take place every Thursday afternoon from June to September.
- Men of all Trades: on Monday afternoons in the peak summer holiday period, see specialist craftsmen at work, for example working on saddles and harnesses, and learn about the skills of the trades involved in looking after horses.