Updated on 10 March 2023
Reading time: 3 minutes
Despite my friend and I knowing nothing about riding or racing, we’re thrilled to find ourselves on Deauville beach one sunny morning at low tide, about to try out some harness racing! Here is our exhilarating experience of high-speed horse-racing in a two-wheeled cart with Sulky Expérience.
As we arrive at Deauville beach early in the morning, we are greeted by Édouard, Jennifer and Lilas, all passionate about horses and harness racing, where ‘drivers’ steer their horses from a two-wheeled cart called a ‘sulky’. This equestrian sport is traditionally practised only by professionals who have completed an apprenticeship, but Édouard wanted to change that by starting his own business venture, Sulky Expérience, and offering the general public the chance to experience the sport on two-seater carts known as dual sulkies, pulled by French trotters, horses specialising in harness racing and bred mainly in Normandy.
Our horses for the day are called Abuelo du Belver and Desperado Jiel. These trotters have travelled all over France and ridden many of its its racecourses, with several victories to their name. They are just two of the ‘reformed’ horses that have retired from the racing world and now ride for Sulky Expérience.
“We have about ten trotters who pull our sulky tandems,” explains Édouard, whose Écurie du Petit Paris stables are situated in Pennedepie, near Honfleur. It is here on Normandy’s Flowered Coast that he made his dual sulkies, which have become the company’s trademark. “The driver sits in the seat at the back and has the controls. And the second seat at the front… well, that’s where you sit!” smiles Edouard.
All kitted out and fully briefed, we are reading and raring to go. Jennifer is riding behind Abuelo, and Lilac, Marie-Laure and Desperado are not far away. We all begin by headomg down to the seashore. “We’ll start off by warming up the horses, then ride up the beach for a few kilometres towards Villers-sur-Mer,” says Jennifer. “Then on the way back, we’ll be able to speed up along the wet sandbank.” Exciting!
The pace is gradually picking up, but our two trotters for the day, Abuelo and Desperado, have not yet given their all. After a walki in the sea (perfect for helping the horses recover), our drivers are getting ready to turn back. I think the time has come, and it looks like the horses are waiting for it too. Jennifer signals to Lilac with a smile: “Shall we go?” Then everything speeds up. The horses lengthen their stride and reach an insane speed -close to 50 km/h, it seems! The sound of the hooves hitting the ground, the speed, the impact, the power that comes from the horse – the experience exhilarating, intoxicating, and Marie-Laure and I love it. “It’s just crazy,” she says, also on a high. Of course, the Prix d’Amérique (the most prestigious competition for trotters) is still a long way off, but I will remember this harness racing experience for a long time to come. What a feeling!
Almost every morning of the year, Deauville beach becomes the playground of horses, trotters and gallopers alike. At low tide, both horses and riders take advantage of the town’s sweeping beach for their training, often following it with a refreshing dip in the sea.
Sulky Expérience – Écurie du Petit Paris
Chemin de la Forêt, 14600 Pennedepie
+33 (0)6 88 07 37 35
Helmet, k-way and rain trousers provided
Please bring your own trainers or boots
Lessons all year round, by reservation only
Timings are dictated by the tides
Meeting place: Horse park (opposite the Novotel), boulevard Eugène Cornuche, 14800 Deauville
Beginners’ classes start at €150 per person (on the beach or on the track at the Écurie du Petit Paris in Pennedepie)
All of the above information is subject to change.