Use and characteristics of the French Trotter
The majority of French Trotters are 15.1 hands (61 inches/155cm) to 16.2 hands (66 inches/168 cm) high. Their coat can be any solid colour. Because there is no breed standard and breeding is mostly a local and regional activity, there is a degree of variation whenever breeders sell a French Trotter. However, strict standards apply for entry into the studbook, based on performance in national or international races. The breed is a true trotter and does not exhibit a lateral pace like the American Standardbred, and so they are a better option for riding. This is because trotting races in France take place under saddle as well as in harness. When equestrians buy a French Trotter, they know the horses have always been bred to be larger and stronger than other trotting breeds in order to carry a rider. French Trotters have good temperaments and are hardy and long-lived.
Origin and history of breeding French Trotters
The French Trotter breed was developed in France in the nineteenth century at a time when trotting races were a very popular sport. As Normandy had been famous for centuries for the quality of its horses, it is not surprising that some of the foundation stock was from this region. This was the famous Carossier Normand, a fast utility horse for coach and carriage work that was an ancestor of the Norman Cob. Trial trotting races were established as early as 1806 on the Champs de Mars. Crossbreeding with imported stallions to improve the speed of the French Trotters also began early in the nineteenth century, with the arrival of a Norfolk Roadster stallion called The Norfolk Phenomenon, followed by Young Rattler, foaled in 1811. However, selective breeding only began later in the century, with the arrival of Thoroughbred and Hackney stallions and the creation of racetracks at various locations such as Cherbourg, Caen, Saint Lô and Le Pin. As the American Standardbred began to achieve fame, members of this breed were imported too, giving the French Trotters additional speed. The studbook was established in 1906 and closed to non-French breeds in 1937. By the 1960s, French Trotters were competing successfully alongside other international harness-racers. Registration of breeding stock has always been based on performance. The breed also contributed to the creation of the Selle Français riding horse. Crossed with other breeds, the French Trotter produces sport and riding horses of very good quality, retaining the stamina and strength of their Norman ancestors.
French Trotters in equestrianism
In 1901, the French Trotter Képi produced a record-breaking trot of one mile (1.6 km) in 1 minute 27 seconds. There are two major championships, the Prix de Cornulier, which is for ridden trotters, and the Prix d'Amérique for harness horses driven to sulkies, which are light harness-racing vehicles.