Monday, August 20, 2012

The sport of Queens and Princes......

I'm almost 60. I remember that my parents seemed to almost visibly slow down in their 60s, but I keep finding new experiences that have passed me by in the past. Today was another!
During the time that we have visited the nearby town of Cluny we knew that there was a national stud  - one of several in France. There are the most beautiful, graceful and attractive horses grazing in the fields around the Cluny area and today Joe and I were introduced to another aspect of the local passion with horses when our dear friends invited us to the races in Cluny. This was a first for us - and a fascinating afternoon although it was very warm sitting in the concrete grandstand overlooking the course -but the view was amazing!

I don't think there are many race tracks with such a lovely backdrop!

We sat in the grandstand and began to study the programme of races!
It wasn't that busy so it was possible to relax(as much as one can sitting on warm concrete) and work out what was going on!
There was a mix of races this afternoon, a flat race, trotting races and steeplechase. We were so near the track that we felt very connected with each race.
The first race was a flat race and the horses started to our left, each horse and rider being put into the starting stalls.

And they're off!
They really galloped past us at full tilt!

It was all quite exciting and as the horses had ridden past us en route to the start we were able to see them and comment on them.

Next I was very surprised to realise that there was a trotting race. The driver sat on a small two wheeled carriage which looked very light-weight but when at full trot they really moved! It was easy to identify the drivers and horses not only by the numbers on the horses but by the colours of the drivers. This was the same with the flat racing.
I really enjoyed the trotting - it requires such control for horse and rider because if the horse begins to gallop then it is disqualified. That happened to some today.

After the trotting race we had a steeplechase to watch. There were only 3 riders and horses in this race and it was very interesting to watch the race officials putting one of the jumps in place.
Then the 3 horses appeared.

It did not take them long to get to the other side of the course! And it was there that the horse in third place did not make it over the jump and the first aid officials rushed across to see if the rider was injured whilst the horse continued to gallop along. I must admit that my regard for the riders went up - it can be a dangerous sport... But I am pleased to report that about 10 minutes after the end of the race the rider walked back from the First Aid post back in front of the grandstand looking unhurt! A stable hand had the task of catching the horse and bringing him back.

What an interesting experience this afternoon has been - thanks to Chris and Mary!

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