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Araules: Alain Gibert, the man who whispers in the ears of Comtois

He is one of those who whisper in the ears of animals. Horses in particular. His devouring passion has become a profession, which he exercises on his farm, up there in the Meygal, not far from the Pic du Lizieux.
Just leave the D 15 in the direction of Belistard, almost at the height of Lac Bleu, to find our man busy hitching up one of his horses.

Mainly Comtois, with chestnut dress and washed horsehair

For more than 40 years, Alain Gibert has been a breeder of horses, mainly Comtois horses: “My father had a driving mare, for work. She helped us get the manure out of the cows, bring in the bales of hay. We did a lot of things with her and, in addition, she is a foaling mare. We had our first tractor, I remember, when I was 16…”, says the breeder.
Attracted from an early age by the equestrian thing, Alain Gibert bought his first horse in 1980. Since then, he has had hundreds. Comtois mainly, with chestnut dress and washed horsehair most often.
Among all these animals, the breeder remembers in particular Quai, bought in 1987 for 30,000 francs, when market prices were rather between 10,000 and 15,000 francs. “We were with a stallion in Franche-Comté. I was 24 years old. He was at least 30 more than me. When I told him I wanted this horse, Quai, he replied that it was not for my budget. Me, I was sure that this animal could have a price at the national championship of the race, in Maiche. When I came back in the evening after visiting other farms, the breeder remained firm on his price, simply offering to deliver the horse. I bought it anyway and I have not had to regret it”.
Quai, a 4-year-old stallion, will pass on his genetic heritage to a colt named Duc des Argots, who will be bought by the national stud farms during the Maiche competition, for a price of 40,000 francs (plus a premium of 4,000 francs). In the end, three foals from Quai will be bought by the national stud farms.

Demand is high for leisure

Today, demand is on the rise again and owners breed their animals from the age of 2, so that they foal at the age of 3, instead of 4 years previously.
“There is a certain excitement, because the foals have value” confirms Alain Gibert.
Demand is strong on the butcher’s side, but also for leisure, a sector in which Alain Gibert mainly officiates. A horse intended for driving can sell for several thousand euros.
“It’s a somewhat new demand, but it exists and it tends to progress. These are people or establishments that buy horses to become service providers. There is also the case of certain winegrowers, for whom the horse is a valuable work tool in their production, or for certain hauling professionals. We also see the development of leisure activities, where the horse is hitched to a car to take tourists for a ride”.
With the advent of individual-to-individual sales sites such as Leboncoin, transactions are facilitated and breeders reach an audience well beyond departmental borders. “I sold a mare last year for someone who lives in Lot-et-Garonne and who just wanted to walk his granddaughter”.
But before selling a horse intended to be harnessed, several steps are essential. First of all, you have to put the animal on the long reins. This training instrument makes it possible to give indications to the animal, without being on its back or in a hitch. The exercise, to be acquired, can take fifteen days, three weeks, a month or more depending on the case.
The second step is to have an object (without a wheel) pulled by the animal. Alain Gibert uses a tractor tire for this, more or less large in relation to the capacity of the horse. “You shouldn’t put on anything too heavy, otherwise the horse will turn upside down,” advises the breeder.
Finally, the animal can be put on stretchers, that is to say hitched to a dump truck or a car.
What are the essential qualities for raising horses? Unquestionably, there is perseverance. But above all, it is passion, viscerally, that prevails in any success in the field. “If you’re not passionate, it won’t work, as in all professions for that matter”.
If there are still a few horse enthusiasts in Haute-Loire, the next generation is not necessarily assured. Indeed, agricultural youth today is more often passionate about horsepower, tractors in particular, to the detriment of horse breeding. And the specifications imposed on breeders, which are more and more restrictive, do not facilitate vocations…

Cedric Dedieu

This local horse that almost disappeared, reintroduced in Haute-Loire

In terms of animal heritage dedicated to breeding, the Haute-Loire has not always been able to work effectively. But in recent years, various initiatives have made it possible to permanently anchor certain breeds in the department.The Auvergne horse reappears. Photo DR

Just look at Franche-Comté, which has a very common breed of cow (Montbéliarde) and an equally famous breed of horse (Comtois). In Savoie, there is abundance and tarine (or tarentaise). In the Cantal everyone knows the salers and in the Aveyron it is the aubrac which has been developed.
Haute-Loire had more difficulty keeping what it had on site and most often had to import breeds.
A program carried out with the ANCRA (National Association of the Auvergne horse breed) has nevertheless made it possible to reestablish locally this singular breed that is the Auvergne horse.
Thanks to the availability of stallions in 2016, a few dozen horses have been born. Like other breeders on the plateau, Alain Gibert played the game and two animals were born in Belistard (Araules).

The Black Velay

The Auvergne draft horse is a small equine, weighing between 500 kg and 600 kg. It has a bay dress and necessarily black horsehair. It is mainly used hitched.
In another area, we can also mention the work carried out by the association Fin Gras du Mézenc, for the creation and development of an AOP, from Charolais in particular.
Finally, we must not forget to mention the black Velay, this rustic ewe whose numbers are constantly increasing. The ewes, whose breed is well adapted to the region, easily make two lambs, which allows breeders to be present all year round on the stalls, especially for Easter when the lamb sells very well.

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