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breed mule breeds, a “passion” which “one cannot live”

It was in 2009 that Catherine Vezzosi bought her first mare…

It was in 2009 that Catherine Vezzosi bought her first mare and launched her breeding, whose headquarters are in Pranzac. A rider for many years, she had a “flash” when she saw the poster for a mule breed competition (Poitevin traits, Poitou donkeys and Poitevine mules, editor’s note) sent to her veterinary practice in Champniers. She decides to go there and immediately falls in love with these old draft horses, used to produce Poitevin mules. “I was interested because it’s a low-numbered breed. I am Charentaise and I had never heard of it! Breeding seemed useful to me, she says. And they are not unpleasant to ride because their backs are not very wide. »

Losing activity

However, “it has to be a complementary activity”, because “let’s stay lucid, it’s not something you can live on”. Already because mule breeds sell for much less than racehorses. A Poitevin trait foal costs “between 1,500 and 2,500 euros”, while two thirds of saddle horses are purchased between 3,000 and 15,000 euros, according to the Economic and Social Observatory of Horses. Especially since the births of Poitevin traits are very rare, around 50 or 60 per year.

“I was interested because it’s a low-numbered breed. I am Charentaise and I had never heard of it! »

Moreover, this breed is only used for niche activities, such as hauling sites, carrying wood, market gardening, horse-drawn carriage rides, cosmetics made from mare’s milk… which cannot be cultivated by crops”, wetlands for example, adds Jean Arnaudinaud, itinerant veterinary assistant. “The Poitevin lines are powerful, they pull 400 kg without any problem! »

So why continue this activity that the couple recognizes as “deficit”? “The passion, the love of the horse”, exclaim the spouses. A passion that requires a lot of time. “We get up at 6:45 a.m. and at the moment we stay outside until 9:30 p.m., explains Catherine Vezzosi. When there are foalings (when the mares give birth, editor’s note), we wake up every two hours to monitor the camera. During the Pentecost weekend, a first foal was born on Saturday at 7 a.m., a second at 11 p.m., a third on Sunday at 5 p.m.! »

“We should find crazy people”

And the couple no longer count the kilometers traveled to carry out this secondary activity. “One of us goes to our meadows at least once a day, inspect everyone, check that there are no sores”, specifies the veterinarian. Knowing that they are located in the east of the Charente, for the winter period, and in the Dordogne. “We were unable to buy near Angoulême because of competition from cereal growers…”

“Poitevin traits can enhance surfaces that cannot be enhanced by crops”

Three to four times a year, the couple also takes their animals on the road to take part in competitions. “To show our animals, but also to see where we are in our work”, specifies Catherine Vezzosi. She and her husband sometimes left with prizes, especially in use, thanks to their mares Aube and Dune. From August 27 to 29, they will go to Dampierre-sur-Boutonne in Charente-Maritime, to take part in the national mule race competition.

At 60 and 58, Catherine Vezzosi and Jean Arnaudinaud still see retirement with a distant eye. The ideal would be “for someone to take over the business, but it doesn’t happen like that”, thinks the breeder. “We would have to find reckless people, crazy people,” jokes her husband.

The Poitevin traits in figures

According to the National Association of Poitou Mulassier Races, 31 stallions were active in 2018 and 214 mares were bred (about 35% were mated to donkey to produce mules). The breeders accompanied 60 births of Poitevin traits and 17 in Poitevin mules. Since the numbers of mule breeds are small, farmers can benefit from the Protection of breeds threatened with extinction system. This aid is a maximum of 200 euros per livestock unit and per year.

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