Horse races

In France, the universe of racing is divided into two well-distinguished worlds: that of the gallop and that of the trot. An aristocratic fashion imported from England, gallop races arrived in France in the late 18th century. On 9 March 1775 the first race was held on the Plaine des Sablons, under the inquisitive eye of the royal family and court. The success of this entertainment grew throughout the 19th century. Accordingly, the elite saw the English Thoroughbred as the incarnation of high-society refinement. Having a portrait taken beside one’s horse became a common practice that marked a certain social status. Through these slender, sharp and quick steeds they adopted, aristocrats once again distanced themselves from the rest of the population.

In France, the universe of racing is divided into two well-distinguished worlds: that of the gallop and that of the trot.

This split was accentuated in 1836, when the first trot race was run in Cherbourg, under the Inspector General of Stud Farms Ephrem Houël. This time, the horses were trotters (old Anglo-Normans, a cross between a bidet and English Thoroughbred) - hardy country horses. The origin of trot races traces back to a peasant tradition consisting of running bidets and other indigenous horses during village festivals. This origin generated mockery among the aristocrats, the "horsemen" claiming to know how to ride a horse "in style". In caricature, therefore, the "trotters" would belong to "country bumpkins" and the gallopers to the "snobs" and "pedants".

The occupational structures of the two worlds were also well-distinguished. In gallopers, a strict hierarchy determined the role of each player: breeder, owner, trainer, jockey and stable-lad. Elites at the racecourse and in the city, the owners are few, but well-known internationally. Similarly, only a few large stables stood out in this microcosm. In contrast, the world of trotting is formed by small family structures where versatility is required. Thus, the breeder is often the horse’s owner, as well as the trainer or even driver.

Finally, the stars of the gallop are the jockeys, whereas those of the trot are the horses.

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