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Lot-et-Garonne: the Haras de Thouars, the factory of the best horses in the world

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The Haras de Thouars, located in the town of Le Castella, near Villeneuve-sur-Lot, has become the world leader in breeding centers for Purebred Arabian horses. Customers from all over the world, and more particularly from the Gulf, use their services.

Nestled in the heart of the hills of Grand Villeneuvois, the place covers 160 hectares. Buildings, rides, boxes but above all vast meadows. Yes, space is needed for the prestigious tenants of the Haras de Thouars. Created in 2000 by Emmanuel Cessac, the Castella site has become one of the most important breeding and breeding centers for Purebred Arabian horses in the world. Nothing less.

“When he started, he was on his own,” recalls Anthony Cessac, son of Emmanuel and today one of the associates of Haras de Thouars with Mathieu Postis. But through hard work and innovation, the company has made a name for itself on the international scene: for their specialty, Purebred Arabian horses, 80% of the clientele is foreign. The majority come from the Gulf countries (United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Sultanate of Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.), from the Maghreb but also from European countries. From the fields of Villeneuvois country to the most prestigious stables in the world, there is only one step.

90 births per year

The breeding season runs from January 15 to August 15. Months during which the managers of the Haras de Thouars do not really have time to settle down. Anthony Cessac’s apartments are located right next to the foaling boxes, where the mares give birth. “There are cameras to monitor, and when the birth approaches, we receive an alert on our phone thanks to a box placed on the mare’s tail,” he explains. 11 months ago – the gestation period of a foal – the mare was right next door, in the insemination room. “A bit like in a hospital, they are weighed, photographed, etc.” An ultrasound machine also sits in the room. 530 mares are inseminated each year in the “maternity” for mares of Villeneuvois, with a majority of fresh semen and another part… frozen.

Anthony Cessac in the Haras de Thouars laboratory, where he prepares the inseminations.

In large basins, Anthony Cessac stores a multitude of “glitters”, corresponding to a stallion. “Here is the most important Thoroughbred sperm bank” welcomes the boss of the Haras. These sequins are marketed and shipped worldwide. Approximately 1200 matings sold each year. Insemination is something very framed, no question of doing anything. Especially since the “shooting window” for ovulation varies between 6 and 8 hours. “As a result, we also inseminate at night”. The Haras de Thouars also practices embryo transfer, a sort of “surrogate mare” process. A high-flying technique implemented in 2015. Thus, 90 foals are born each year in the two foaling units at Le Castella.

Agents of the Qataris as intermediary

After their birth, they will spend the first part of their life here, in Villeneuvoise land. 190 horses live year-round at the Haras de Thouars: mares, stallions and young horses from 0 to 2 years old. And during the breeding season, 18 people work on the Haras site. Staff that managers have a hard time recruiting… Between maintenance, care, administration and meetings with customer agents – whether Qataris or Emiratis – there is no shortage of work. We also have to take care of the stallions, of which there are currently 17. Owned by wealthy businessmen, these horses are internationally recognized for their exceptional pedigrees and for their performance in flat racing. But it is at the Castella that they spend happy days.

The Haras de Thouars, despite their 160 hectares for letting stallions and mares roam, finds itself cramped. But it is not easy to find land near the Castella site, the team cannot afford the luxury of “dispatching” the horses to the four corners of Villeneuvois, nor of cramming them into the boxes. Because that is also the hallmark of the Haras de Thouars: offering a haven of peace to the best horses in the world.

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