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A winegrower horse school is set up in Saint-Savin

Magali Bogaert and Manon Gimbert welcome the first horses of the school to Saint-Savin

Draft horses arrived in early January on a 12-hectare property on which the National School of Winegrower Horses will be set up. Presentation of the project and the places with the managers

At the Terrier Gervais, to the very north of Saint-Savin, on the edge of Saint-Yzan-de-Soudiac, horses have just arrived in an enclosure. There are about fifteen of them, from nine French breeds: Percherons, Bretons, Ardennes… Eventually, there will be about twenty of them to join this operation managed by two organizations: the Association of New Aquitaine Horse Breeders (AECNA) and the French Working Equine Society (SFET). Their objective is simple: to offer training in tillage with horses for winegrowers, business leaders, agricultural employees, service providers or people in professional retraining.

The property of eight hectares of agricultural land (to which are added four hectares of vines) has therefore been home for a few days to the National School of Winegrower Horses, created in 2019 on the initiative of the aforementioned organizations and placed under the responsibility of Éric Seuve. , in charge of training. “Our goal is to offer training, but also to find outlets for breeders’ horses. We work with several breeds that come from all over France”, indicates Magali Bogaert, general delegate of the French Society of working equines, showing the young draft horses aged two to four years, weighing at least 800 kg and who go spend at least one year in Saint-Savin.

These young horses are being prepared. Some will be intended for leisure activities in town (such as school bus service), others will go to work the land. “All of this is decided according to the character of the horse”, specifies Magali Bogaert.

Training for everyone

Several training courses will be offered: a discovery course every month (28 hours over four days), two further training courses (from February to October for one week per month) and a final professionalization course (throughout the year). The strong point of teaching is practice. The school intervenes a lot on the horse, its functioning, its physiological needs. Interventions by experts in farriery, osteopathy, dentistry and agronomy allow trainees to acquire the knowledge and skills to be able to manage a horse and maintain it in good conditions.

The practice of the draft horse had been lost over time to make way for the machine, but today the two are complementary and the winegrower’s horse is making a strong comeback. Over the past ten years, demand has increased and the courses offered are all taken by storm. As in the first training site for young draft horses in Cartelègue, as in Château Soutard, Grand Cru Classé Saint-Émilion, the Saint-Savin estate will offer these training courses as well as services for wine-growing or agricultural estates in the work soil, stripping, ploughing, etc. The aim is for students to encounter and work on all types of soil.

Manage the horse and the equipment

Draft horses and their trainees will be trained in plowing work in Saint-Savin

In addition to learning how to manage the horse, the trainees will also have to learn how to handle the tools. For example, they will have to use the hoe which is used to scrape the ground to prevent grass from growing between the rows of vines. “Depending on the properties, we work on young or old vines, often in a single plot and rarely in an entire estate, but in all the appellations of the region. There is a real technical interest in using draft horses in certain plots of vines”, adds Manon Gimbert, project manager at AECNA. In Soutard, the draft horse is well suited for young plants, much better than high-clearance tractors. Today, those who return to workhorses praise the more modern tools and the more adapted postures in the execution of the tasks.

Most of the time, at the end of the training, the trainees buy a horse and the equipment that goes with it to be able to reintegrate animal traction in the work of the soil in the vineyards. Draft animals could also be used in market gardening and for skidding wood in the forest sector or maintaining the edges of watercourses.

For the two organizations assisted by the Regional Council of New Aquitaine, the objectives are multiple because in addition to the training of trainees and the strengthening of links between professionals, the horses used are educated and then sold, often to the trainees with whom they have worked. for several weeks. It will also be possible to rent or buy innovative equine traction equipment.

An equine tradition in Saint-Savin

“This school is a real opportunity for our municipality, by making it known in a positive way, by consolidating its balance between agricultural and rural activities and its objectives of contributing to reducing the environmental impact of production activities”, indicates Alain Renard, the mayor of Saint-Savin.

If the horses are already there, distributed in the enclosures according to their character and the affinities already observable, the training will only begin in a few weeks. It will thus be possible to observe the beautiful work of yesteryear carried out in the agricultural land by these twenty horses. After Jappeloup, the thoroughbred show jumping champion, born in 1975 on Henry Delage’s horse farm a few hundred meters away, Saint-Savin continues to write its equine history in the present.

How did they get to Saint-Savin?
“We had been looking for a site for several years. We had discussions with the town hall of Braud-et-Saint-Louis (to occupy the Paillerie estate), but their proposal was ultimately not economically interesting for us, ”says Magali Bogaert, general delegate of the French Society. working equids (SFET).
Their trainer visited several sites before finding this one, about a year ago. It is located near the RN10 and in one piece (12 hectares).
Work has already started. The grounds were fenced, a large hedge was uprooted and the ditches cleared. Inside the enclosure of the domain, the house will be fitted out. The four bedrooms will be kept and the conviviality room renovated and transformed into a meeting room for the theoretical part.
A new building will be built at the end of the plot to store fodder. It will be covered with photovoltaic panels. The building permit was filed in December and it is hoped that the building will be built by September.

Christophe Meynard

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