Upon arriving in Chantilly, one of the first things to surely catch your eye will be the isabelline coats of the small horses grazing in front of the Pavillon de Manse, by the river Nonette. Those are Hensons, the newest French breed that was created in the 1980s from Norwegian Fjord horses.
They are deeply rooted in the region of the Bay of Somme, where they were first bred to roam freely across the beaches of Marquenterre. They are so good at what they do that the Henson has now made its home in France’s horseracing capital!
There is an entire philosophy surrounding the Henson, which respects the animal as a living creature. You won’t ever see them lined up in a parade ready to be mounted. “We take the halters and saddles and meet them out in the field”, explains Pauline, the riding instructor. “This is a good way to initiate the first contact and is reassuring for anyone who has never ridden before. They can even hug the horses, who are well accustomed to such intimacy.”
Varese, Lazur, Apple, Bahia and the others are all as cool as a cucumber. “These horses are never shut away,” adds Pauline. “They always live outside, I trained them five years ago when they were in the bay of Somme, and they adapted perfectly to Chantilly.” Once saddled, she puts on the Henson hack, a bit-free bridle that was especially designed for the breed to neither hurt nor restrict them.