Let me start by saying I have had a rocky road over the last few years with horses… for whatever reason I have ended up with unsuitable animals, mainly I think because as a vet nurse I’m naturally a rescuer and like to give animals a chance! But over the years this has resulted in me having unsuitable horses and a real confidence crisis. The girl who used to gallop off and jump 10 ditches in a row on Exmoor physically shaking at the thought of even getting on!, but all was not in vain, and the winding road eventually got me to where I needed to be…..
Through one of these rescue horses I discovered Normandy Cobs, and because of one of these rescue horses I found myself last year sitting at the kitchen table belonging to Georges Jouvin and his family. For that, I will be forever grateful.
I wasn’t looking for a horse to buy last year. I was way too broken. But these strangers extended me so much love and support that this year, after saving up every single penny I could, I returned to find my new steed, or as it has turned out, as destiny always does, for her to find me!
The Cob Normand, or Normandy Cob is a beautiful beast indeed, and can turn his or her hoof to almost anything. A rare and precious breed, sadly in decline they are a classy animal, incredibly versatile, and if anyone on this planet knows Normandies its Georges!
A breeder and enthusiast of over 50 years its quite clear to anyone who meets him that Georges lives and breathes these horses. His son Franck is also an incredibly talented and accomplished horseman, and works alongside his father and his own sons Charley and Mathis on the farm. And with Sally on translation duties ( among many other things!) and Georges wife Marie Rose making sure everyone is looked after they really do have a winning team!
In the UK buying horses is a complete minefield. Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous characters, keeping horses here is very expensive and so selling horses becomes a bit of a game. You might go to view a horse you like the look of, see it for maybe half an hour and then be expected to make a decision really fast. When do we ever spend real time with the horse, really find out what its like, or ask for a “confidence giving horse who we can have fun on”, rather than , “for example a 15hh to 16hh gelding, black with no vices”
So much emphasis seems placed on how the horse is bred, what colour it is, what sex it is, whether it comes with tack or not and how old it is! Not whether it is actually the right horse with the right skill set, personality and temperament for you!
By writing this blog I’m hoping to help you understand what to expect if you visit the stud looking for a horse. Some of the experience is obviously best left to discover yourselves , the process itself if one to be cherished without too many spoilers! But there are certain things I am willing to share, mainly because I wholeheartedly believe in what they do, in how they sell horses, and I feel so blessed to have stumbled upon this little gem in the depths of rural France, and this time round.. I can speak a bit more French!
The Jouvins’ Normandies can turn their hooves to anything, from sporty hunters to RDA types and everything in between, but not every horse will suit every person, and so, essentially, Georges likes to meet you! The horses are too rare and precious for it to go wrong. It has to go right, for the horse! And the horse takes priority. Always.
A couple of days spent on the stud with him and trust me, Georges and his team will have you figured out, It actually blew me away how figured out they had me even after I first met them, so much so that when the horse they had chosen for me was presented by Franck in his own unique way, it put tears in my eyes. Someone had finally listened, and understood. And got it right! They seemed to understand me, and my needs better than i understood myself! And not only that.. he had worked me out on my first visit, almost a year ago, and not shown this horse to anyone since. Because he knew she was for me!
I went with no preconceptions. All I knew is that I wanted one of the Jouvins’ Normandies, and i wanted it mainly for TREC GB and a little foreign breeds showing too.
Sitting down and deciding what you want in a horse is really important, and actually very difficult when you really, properly think about it. Going through this process forced me to be honest and decisive about what was really important.
I wanted a horse who had no bad experiences, who was confident in his or her own skin, who was a people person. A horse who had been started sympathetically but with good boundaries, one who hadn’t been over faced, but had a very solid basic foundation. I wanted a horse who was good on the ground, who was safe to have around the yard. I wanted a horse capable of stepping it up when I asked for it, but with a calm temperament to give confidence to me in sticky situations. And I wanted a horse that I could take away for a weekend with confidence to do TREC GB. This is a very challenging sport where the horse really has to be an all round good egg! I didn’t care how old that horse was, what colour it was, how big it was or what sex it was, just that it was the right horse for me.
All of the Jouvins’ Normandy cobs are blessed with a solid foundation. They are trained from foals with kindness and from decades of experience .They are bred in the first place for temperament ! When I asked Georges last year what is most important to him for breeding, he pointed at his own head and said ” tete!”, so this was already a given. These beautiful horses are exposed to everything they need to be for life. They are the lucky ones.. a horse produced like this will have a home for life.
With all this in mind, and with a list of ” ideals” in order of importance ( nice person being very top of the list) It was Franck who knew 100% which of the horses was mine…. and he who made the final decision..
And when I met her, I knew almost instantly why…..
Almond is not only a great example of a Normandy cob, but a great example of a JOUVIN Normandy Cob. She is a 16hh bay mare. And she is incredible.
Franck presented this horse to me in a way I have never ever been presented a horse before. Because I want her for TREC.. Franck took us off to the woods to do TREC!
She was up and down very steep inclines, through water, up on podiums, over logs, low branches. He showed me how bombproof she is, Ever the French gent, Franck even picked us some cherries from a tree! But most importantly, when I sat on her I felt like the world was my oyster.
Watching Franck take her up a hill into the woods and navigate all the undergrowth it dawned on me, that not only was this a TREC horse, but a national level potential TREC horse. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. I think the Jouvins must think I’m in a constant state of crying! But these were happy tears.
My best friend Lisa came to France with me, i wanted to share this experience with her. She said she hasn’t seen me looking so confident on a horse for years, and if anyone knows me, it’s Lisa!
Almond has only been with me for a week now, and I can’t believe how much we have already done together. Her manners are impeccable, she and I have been hacking out alone through the village numerous times, she is a sweet sweet person and I feel like the luckiest girl on the planet.
This horse instils complete confidence. Of course i have had to put the brave pants on to try these things out, riding in the lashing rain, riding when harvest is taking place and there are tractors everywhere, riding past flapping plastic and dogs and in new places…. but the trust I have in the process is such that, even this, for me, was easier than it ever has been and she really hasn’t let me down.
She’s no automaton, and certainly not a plod either.. she is forward going and she looks at things of course, all this is very new for her ! But I know that when she asks me a question, and I answer with “go on girl, you’re ok” , she accepts my decision and we carry on, with no tantrums, fireworks or dangerous behaviour!
And not only that.. she’s absolutely stunning. A real classy mare that I am proud to call my own. A beautiful Normandy Cob from the Jouvin stud representing their decades of hard work here in the UK….
The communication throughout has been really good, with thanks to Sally for that! Without her it would be very difficult indeed! The photos of vettings and updates on training and transport are of the utmost importance when you’re in another country, and the Jouvin stud is a transparent, honest and professional place. They really do want to provide a good service alongside the good horse!!!
Well I’m the luckiest girl that ever lived…. I cannot thank my new found French family enough, and I feel that I not only have found a beautiful horse, but some beautiful friends too….
Watch out TREC GB.. we are coming for ya!!!
If you go, and I recommend you do… look out for Jojo De Jy….
One of this years foals who incredibly generously has been named after me… and yes… there were even more tears when this great honour was given to me… as her “Normandy cobmother” I will be following her progress with great interest ❤❤❤
More details about the Elevage Jouvin can be found at http://www.normandycobs.com
Come join my Cob Normand facebook group here to share your experience or learn more about this incredible rare and precious breed of horses…