Inaugurated in 1912, the Saumur Horse Museum, since its creation, has been located in the Château de Saumur, which already housed the municipal museum – to which the Horse Museum's collections were added in 1957.
Horse enthusiasts looking to create collections quickly gathered a large number of objects, requesting donations from both individuals and institutions. As it stood, the founders foresaw the menace overhanging the use of the horse at the start of the 20th century as it faced the mechanisation of modes of transport. One century after its creation, the collection now houses some 7,000 objects dating from prehistory to the 20th century and originating from different continents. Collections are regularly enriched by donations.
All aspects of the saddle horse are represented: bits, cavessons, dimples, ornaments, spurs, stirrups, horseshoes and blacksmith tools, saddles, outfits and accessories, grooming tools, anatomic moulds, skeletons, memories of riders... and also artwork and some one thousand books (from 1533 to the 20th century). The museum houses the largest collection of its kind in France and one of the most important in Europe.
Among its many remarkable objects, noteworthy are the hoof boots, the memories of riders from the Cadre Noir de Saumur and an impressive set of harnessing tools from the Americas.
These important collections are presented on a circulating basis due to the difficulty inherent to the conservation of such varied materials (leather, metal, wood, fabric, wax, etc.).
A portion of the collections is visible on the Joconde database.
The specialised works of the library are currently being digitised and may be consulted on fonds-ancien.equestre.info (a website which consolidates the prints of the Château-Museum, the Saumur military academies and the French Equitation and Horse Institute).
The stables of the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire are among the most lavish stables built in the second half of the 19th century. In addition to stalls for hitch horses, boxes for thoroughbreds, stables for ponies and guest horses, an indoor school and saddlery for galas, visitors can observe four carriages belonging to the Prince and Princess of Broglie, the grounds' former owners, and a covered, eight-spring gala coach made by Ehrler for Prince Nicholas Orlov, a Russian diplomat in Paris.
The former Rabotin collection acquired by the municipality of Bourg-sur-Gironde houses carriages built mostly in the towns of south-west France: Bordeaux, Libourne, Blaye, Toulouse, etc.
Located in the Manège stables - a place rich in history and with a strong military equestrian tradition - the Cavalry Museum retraces across a lively and colourful path the history of the French cavalry from the 15th century to the present day. It contributes to developing and enriching the Saumur heritage. It is also a teaching tool in the training of young officers in today's armoured cavalry. Their predecessors, who played a large part in founding and safeguarding this heritage, also find a part of themselves herein.
Upon completion of construction, the museum spreads out across three pavilions and three galleries, covering over 1,400m². The museum displays the uniforms of the cavalry of the First Napoleonic Empire as well as objects which belonged to such distinguished military officers such as one of Maréchal Lyautey's dolmans, an overcoat and boots belonging to General Patton, one of General Leclerc's helmets, a battledress of Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, a fanion from General de Gaulle's presidential car, and more.
A research and documentation centre provides researchers access to a library housing more than 18,000 works of great historical significance, particularly in the equestrian field.
The Fragonard museum inherited the extremely old cabinet du roi built at the Royal Veterinary School of Alfort in 1766, at a time when the horse was the centre of all attention. The lion's share of its extensive collections is devoted to the horse, the drive of human economy in the 18th and 19th centuries. The permanent exhibition particularly displays the anatomy of this species and its physiology, diseases and the means used for treatment (medicine, surgical tools, shoes, etc.). The space has retained its configuration from 1900, with ornate ceilings and walls painted in bright colours, which play on the hundreds of mouldings adorning the windows. Some pieces enjoy worldwide fame. The rider painted by Honoré Fragonard - a young man riding a galloping horse - is a rare example of the large anatomical preparations, which were created during the middle of the Age of Enlightenment. The anatomist looked to show that, in spite of their evolutionary differences, the horse and man are built on the same model - a moving account of a time when man slowly made his way into the animal kingdom.
Walking through this exhibition of more than 4,000 objects, visitors cover two and a half centuries of history in which the horse was main concern of veterinarians.
The Fragonard Museum is open to the public.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Château d’Espeyran was a place dedicated to the joys of hunting and outdoor sports where the horse held a place of privilege. From stables to tack room through carriage house, everything at Espeyran reflects the enthusiastic passion of owners for this beautiful animal and anything relating to its use, such as a choice, luxurious horse-drawn carriages built by prestigious Parisian manufacturers (Thomas Baptiste, Ehrler, and Rothschild). A mail-phaeton, a hunting break and a body break – both used for hunting – along with a brougham and a travelling coach comprise a unique set in Languedoc. These were classified as historic monuments in 2010. Now owned by the state, the Château d’Espeyran houses the National Microfilm and digitalization Centre of the Archives of France.
Collections of cartwright tools, carts and rural carriages and for local artisans are displayed at the Museum of Rouergue and the Friends of the Salmiech Museum.
The new Horse Museum, housed in the Grand Stables of the Princes of Condé in Chantilly, was inaugurated in June 2013. Through two hundred objects, this museum evokes the importance of the relationship between horse and man since the beginning of civilization.
Both art museum and ethnology museum, it touches on numerous topics relating to horses and the equestrian art (evolution of the horse and horse breeds in the world, technical progress of equestrian equipment, role of the horse in relation to power, war, hunting, sport, races, etc.) and spans a vast geographical and chronological diversity. The horse in art is represented in works by artists such as Dürer, Mantegna, Rubens, Poussin, Oudry, Géricault, Dufy, etc. Overall, nearly two hundred objects plus pieces from the Condé Museum's reserves and loans from significant collectors are offered to visitors. Among the most outstanding pieces are a set of wooden carrousel horses, the barouche of the empresses and the Duke of Bourbon's coach.
The two carriages date back to the first quarter of the 19th century. Used for hunting and walking, the gorgeous and very rare barouche – built in Paris by the coachbuilder Prelot – belonged to the empresses Joséphine and Marie-Louise. With a richly sculpted back end and a canoe-shaped body featuring slatted shafts, it is the only remaining model of this type from this period, excluding the small barouche made for the King of Rome kept at Schönbrunn Palace. A gilded gala state coach was made in Paris by the coachbuilder Courtois for the Duke of Bourbon, who used it in 1825 for the coronation of Charles X.
The former castle kitchens located in the east wing housed relegated last "royal" carriages built in France: three coaches, a barouche and a dress chariot, all eight-springed and made in Binder Frères' workshop for the never-materialised coronation of the Count of Chambord as Henry V in 1873. These carriages represent the last set and best representation of the perfection attained by the leading Parisian manufacturers since the Second Napoleonic Empire.
The stables of Château National de la Malmaison are home to a historical "relic", the landau carriage of Napoleon I's campaign. Built in 1812 by Getting for the Russian campaign, it was abandoned by the emperor in the hands of the Prussians at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Awarded to Baron Blücher upon distribution of the spoils, it was returned to France in 1975 by his descendants. In addition to its historical interest, this landau carriage is a masterpiece of bodywork from the First Napoleonic Empire. La Malmaison also houses a dormeuse travelling chariot with an imperial back end made by manufacturer Devaux and the plate mounted on a four-wheeled chassis, of complete austerity, which served as a hearse and carried the body of the deceased emperor to Sainte-Hélène in 1821.
This museum, which belongs to the AMTUIR (Association of the Museum of Urban, Interurban and Rural Transport), is devoted to public transportation. It has several horse-drawn vehicles. After opening in 1964 and various location changes (Malakoff, Saint-Mande, Colombes), it has been housed in a temporary building in Chelles since 2007 and should be permanently installed in the city in 2015.
The first and oldest museum of carriages in Europe is located in Versailles and was created by King Louis-Philippe in 1831. First located in the Small Stable [Petite Écurie], it was then transferred to a pavilion specially built by the architect Questel in 1851 between the two Trianons. It housed eight carriages and several sleighs displayed in the centre of a unique hall where harnesses garnished the large display cases resting along the walls.
In 1980, carriages and harnesses were installed in one of the galleries of the Main Stable. Except for the six sleighs and two small children's carriages, one town coach and one barouche which belonged to the son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, it does not house any vehicles from France's pre-1789 royal court, since these all disappeared after the Revolution.
The collection includes a dozen carriages. Seven gala coaches from the First Napoleonic Empire constitute the oldest complete set remaining in France: same commissioner, Napoleon I, same builders, the Devaux and Getting & Prelot manufacturers, same type, same use, and same time period. The museum's masterpiece is the monumental State coach built for the coronation of Charles X in 1825 according to designs by the architect Percier, the builder Daldringen, the sculptor Roguier, the painter Delorme and the bronze-workers Denière & Matelin. It is the only State coach remaining in France.
Built in the eighteenth century, the château includes common areas below the terrace – location of the stables, which were splendidly outfitted between the two world wars. The facilities display the high level of comfort that can be achieved without sacrificing the aesthetic principles. They are organized in perfect symmetry. Six boxes spread out under a high ceiling with exposed joists, with three at each end enclosing two rows of stalls facing the wall, four on each side. The boxes are fully enclosed by slatted woodwork made of bars twisted into elegant spindles. The pillars of stalls and beams separating the boxes are adorned with large solid oak acorns. All the fittings are made from the same solid, waxed oak with a beautiful brown patina, except for the feeders, which are made with white enamelled cast iron.
The commons also house two tack rooms and a carriages vehicle museum.
The museum's collection includes fourteen carriages bearing the signatures of prestigious Parisian manufacturers - Bail, Binder, and Kellner - under the same black and yellow livery of the last owners of the château, which was bequeathed to the French State in 1967. These carriages demonstrate the importance of a series of stables in a large house in the early 20th century, when wealthy people were enthusiasts of horses and carriages. All are luxurious, most notably a large chariot made by Henry Binder, a road coach, a large hunting break, a beautiful tandem-cart made by Kellner, and a large, wickered hunting wagonnette. Two game carriages also stand out, one of which is a rare model outfitted with three hundred and fifteen hooks for hang game.
A national monument owned by the state, the château is managed by the French Centre for National Monuments.
Housed in the château, the Museum has seven carries and saddlery from a nearby castle once belonging to Charles Eugene Cadier, Baron of Veauce. Most noteworthy is a beautiful park-drag by the Parisian builder Mühlbacher and a charming hunting and driving break made by Unalserres & Bernin in Tours. The museum also houses a phaeton once belonging to the poet Théodore de Banville.
The national stud farms have the largest collection of carriages in France: three hundred twenty vehicles distributed across various stud farms.
With a lack of a museum of French bodywork apart from high-class bodywork, as displayed in Compiègne and Versailles, the carriages of the national stud farms are currently the only reference for French line production in the second half of the 19th century and the beginning 20th and they offer a comprehensive range of examples. Many different examples are exhibited, mainly sports-related (large and small breaks, skeletons, wagonnette, phaetons, dog carts, spiders, tandem-carts, pill-boxes, mail coaches, tilburies, rally cars), but also city-related (broughams, mylords, barouches, landau carriages, curricles, sociables and omnibuses). They originate from both Paris and the provinces. One hundred eighty-six cars bear the mark of thirty Parisian manufacturers, including the most famous, such as Belvalette, Binder, Mühhlbacher and Rothschild. Except for the five carriages from abroad, the others are from workshops spread throughout France; ninety-five were identified and located in seventy towns or villages.
From the numerous carriages whose interest lies in the presence of families and of production lines bearing witness to repetition, recurring forms and enduring techniques, some stand out for their beauty or rarity: in Le Pin, an English road-coach by Holland & Holland, an exceptional travelling chariot by the Parisian builders Berlioz et Gouillon, and an extremely rare enclosed mylord built in Paris by Jacques Rothschild; in Tarbes, there is a large eight-spring barouche made by Clochez in Paris; in Saint-Lô, a curricle preserved with its harness for two horses is the only car of this type currently hitched in France. These five carriages are classified as historic memorials. There are also two beautiful breaks produced by Parisian workshops, one in Cluny built by Bail and the other in Tarbes by Jadras.
"Temporarily" inaugurated at the Château de Compiègne in 1927, the National Carriage and Tourism Museum met the wishes of enthusiasts and particularly professionals in carriage bodywork who sought to save exemplary horse-drawn vehicles from all time periods, backgrounds, styles, carriage types, along with a few survivors of the early days of the automobile, in order to depict the bodywork profession and retrace the history of locomotion through the ages, from the beginning of carriage driving to the appearance of the automobile.
The museum houses three large sets of vehicles: horse-drawn carriages, the first automobiles and cycles. With some one hundred horse-drawn vehicles, including some twenty sleighs, the National Carriage and Tourism Museum positions itself at the top of French collections and museums due to the number of carriage and also, above all, to their quality.
The collection is mainly made up of gala and town carriages, along with several travelling and sport carriages.
The oldest carriages date back to the 18th century and form a group of a dozen outstanding pieces: a large, travelling coach with highly pronounced contours, which bears rare testimony to Spanish bodywork during the mid-18th century and served King Ferdinand VII in 1808 during his exile from Madrid in Bayonne and then in Valençay; a beautiful French coach decorated with mythological figures painted on an aventurine background (circa 1760); two magnificent, neo-classical gala coaches built in Bologna and decorated with paintings by the master Mauro Gandolfi (it is noteworthy that artist placed his signature and the date 1789 on the left door of statesman Caprara's town coach; a large, highly elegant gala brougham decorated with paintings in grey tones on a midnight blue, thus representing the Muses draped in classical dress.
A second smaller group depicts the most innovative aspects of bodywork in the First Napoleonic Empire, with its search and transcription of aerodynamics in volumes and perfectly geometrical curves and profiles. This modernist flourish is characterised by cars with such round bodywork that they are called "ball carriages". Typical of the ball aesthetic, three coupés and a town coach bear witness to manufacturers' extraordinary technical prowess, exhibiting creativity while leading at the forefront of modernity.
The last and most numerous group is made up of coaches, broughams, landau, barouches and town and ceremony carriages, which all reflect the growing luxury and comfort of carriages under the Restoration, the Second Napoleonic Empire and the Third Republic. All are the products of prestigious Parisian workshops: Mühlbacher, Binder, Ehrler, Kellner, Rothschild, Bail, and Million-Guiet.
The basement of the Château de Maisons in the former common rooms exhibits the permanent collections devoted to the horse. There is a good reason for this: the stables of the Château de Maisons, which have now unfortunately disappeared, were reputed to be the most beautiful in France.
The Count of Artois, the brother of Louis XVI and future Charles X and owner of the château on the eve of the Revolution, ran his English horses on the banks of the Seine and thus started the fashion of racing. The interest in horses on the grounds and in the city was confirmed in the 19th century with the Laffitte: Jacques, the owner of the château at that time, and his nephew Charles, one of the founders of the Society for the Encouragement of French Horse Breeding (SECF – Société d'Encouragement du Cheval Français). The first Maisons-Laffitte racecourse was built in 1850 and the city was henceforth recognized as the "city of the horse".
The collections presented at the château house works by Alfred de Dreux, Georges Malissard, Georges Busson, René Paris, Karl Reille, Franck Elim, Sturgess, Charles Detaille, Le Nail, Jean Clargett and unique objects, such as 19th-century jockey weights and a veterinarian's operating table for horses dating back to the 1930s.
Five carriages from the Château de Randan, owned by Adélaide d’Orléans, the sister of King Louis Philippe, and then the Duke of Montpensier, are located under the grotesque-painted roof of the former stables. The carriages bear the heraldry of the Orléans family. A landau carriage and mylord bear the mark of the famous manufacturer Binder in Paris. A George IV phaeton and town brougham built by Mann, a manufacturer in Twickenham, speak of the exile of Henri d'Orléans, Duke of Aumale, in this English city from 1850 onwards.