Selle Français

The Selle Français is a breed of sport horse that was developed in France. In the nineteenth century, it was popular to develop half-breed horses, especially crosses between Thoroughbreds and native mares that were used for driving or military purposes. Many of these crosses, including the Anglo-Norman,were named after the region that they were developed in. All of the half-breeds were merged in 1958 under the name of Selle Français or French Saddle Horse, in order to develop a sport horse that could also be used for recreational riding. Some of the breeds included in the merger include the Anglo-Norman, the Angevin, and the the Vendeen.

The first members of the Selle Français breed did not meet a certain standard due to the diversity created between the cross breeds, which included those made between native horses, Thoroughbreds, and French Trotters. However, there was a large amount of Anglo-Norman blood within the breed at this point due to its popularity throughout France. The first official registration for the breed, known as the Association nationale du selle français or National Association of French Saddle Horses, was established in 2003 and since then has played an important role in the preservation and improvement of the breed.

Although the studbook allows for the crossbreeding of Selle Français horses with Arabians, Anglo-Arabians, French Trotters, and Thoroughbreds, strict guidelines have been placed on horses that are entered for registration. The parents of a registering horse must both be registered Selle Français horses or a cross between a registered Selle Français and one of the four a permitted outside breeds, known as facteur de selle français horses. The studbook was separated into two categories in 2003 in order to distinguish between purebred Selle Français horses and those bred from facteur de selle français parents, but the two categories were merged into one studbook in 2009.

The Selle Français has no set breed standard due to the variety of horses that are used in its development, but it does share some common physical characteristics including a broad forehead, straight profile, strong neck, and powerful hindquarters. It reaches a height between 15.1 and 17.3 hands and is typically bay or chestnut in color, although it can be gray in color. White markings are permitted and common on the lower legs. Although the temperament of the Selle Français can vary drastically, most individuals have a good temperament with calm and patient tendencies. This breed is known for its skill in show jumping and eventing, sports for which it is bred. It is also used for training purposes in haute ecole dressage, combined driving, trail riding, and in the production of race horses.

Image Caption: Laura Renwick riding Limelight De Breve. Credit: don carey/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)