France: Deauville

Four legs good? Yes, if you can afford them. Clearly, this is no one-horse town

Leafing through the auction catalogue at the Deauville thoroughbred sales, it's clear that choosing and buying a horse with the potential to become a champion is just as much a gamble as picking winners by the trackside.

Leafing through the auction catalogue at the Deauville thoroughbred sales, it's clear that choosing and buying a horse with the potential to become a champion is just as much a gamble as picking winners by the trackside.

Each page delivers in minute detail everything you could wish to know about a horse's lineage, including the names and past victories of its ancestors, all the way back to its great-grandparents. For the pregnant mares, the track record of the stallion providing the service is of vital importance. Just like gamblers, the buyers here were banking on their own systems of working out "the form". But this sort of intimate detail comes as second nature to visitors to Deauville, who are attracted to this stylish town in Normandy's Calvados region for its equine links.

Calvados, as well as finding fame for its apples, is also horse country. Not only is Deauville home to one of the world's three most important thoroughbred sales – along with Newmarket and Lexington – but the area also has eight racecourses as well as countless stud farms. If that wasn't enough, a street map of Deauville looks suspiciously like the head of a racehorse, the town's port representing a pricked-up ear and the La Touques district its snout.

The Deauville sales take place several times a year – with the biggest in August – and are open to the public. There are sales for both thoroughbreds and trotters.

Attending a sale is truly fascinating, and not just for horse lovers. Excitable girls looking for their first horse sit alongside English lords and wealthy Japanese buyers. The merely curious just sit and watch, barely moving for fear of being mistaken as a buyer by the blue-blazered bid spotters who hover around the pit and holler if they see so much as a raised eyebrow. If all this talk makes you think about snapping up a bargain, think again: trainer Eric Danel says it costs £800 a month to look after and train a thoroughbred.

Walk out to La Touques racecourse any morning and you can see Danel putting the horses he trains through their paces. Other trainers prefer to use Deauville's long, sandy beach to give their horses a run between 7am and 10am most mornings.

Racing in Deauville begins in earnest on 30 June and races alternate between the pretty course at Clairefontaine and the larger track at La Touques. But the horse's influence isn't limited to Deauville. In October, Calvados holds its annual Equi'Days equestrian festival, with races taking place at all the courses around the area.

If you're an experienced rider, there are plenty of riding holidays on offer in Calvados. Simon North runs La Source from a pretty farmhouse in the village of St Julien Le Faucon, offering weeks during summer, in groups of six or fewer, from £530 per person. Start with an energising English breakfast before a day's ride through the forests and then relax in the evening with some local cider. Inntravel runs three-night breaks for riders of all levels based at the Auberge de l'Abbaye in the village of Le Bec Hellouin, from £270, including ferry crossings and five hours' tuition.

It seems horses have always been a symbol of wealth, even in Norman times. For horses are a highlight of another attraction that draws the British in particular to these parts: the Bayeux Tapestry. Brilliantly displayed in the museum in the nearby city of Bayeux, the tapestry dazzlingly depicts William the Conqueror's invasion of Britain, including the Battle of Hastings. The significance of the horse in this historical document is that the Normans were richer and could afford to be mounted, unlike their English opponents. Their victory at Hastings looks very one-sided as a result.

But a fool and his money are soon parted. If you are well-heeled enough to contemplate buying a nag of your own, remember the old English rhyme: "One white foot, buy him; two white feet, try him; three white feet, look well about him; four white feet, go on without him." It probably makes as much sense as my auction catalogue.

The Facts

Getting there

There are three daily sailings between Portsmouth and Le Havre with P&O Portsmouth (0870 2424 999; www.poportsmouth.com). A five-day return costs from £164 for a car and two passengers in June.

Being there

For information about riding holidays, contact La Source ( www.ridingholidays france.com), or Inntravel (01653 629000; www.inntravel.co.uk).

Further information

Thoroughbred sales 17-21 August, 21-23 October and 6-9 December. Trotter sales 16 May, 23 July, 11-13 September, 24 October and 27 November. International showjumping, 5-7 July. Equi'Days 2002 12-27 October.

Deauville tourist office (00 33 2 31 14 40 00; www.deauville.org).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones