I’m Just Here for the Liberty Horses: “The Show” at Le Saut Hermés

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Photo © Erin Gilmore

BY ERIN GILMORE

As much as Le Saut Hermés aims for understated elegance in its production of an annual CSI5* in the center of Paris, France, they instead land somewhere between the incredible and over the top, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog from the Grand Palais.

Photo © Erin Gilmore

Amid all the show jumping on the schedule (three classes on Friday and four on Saturday), there’s also an event simply named “The Show.” After all the bridled control required of the jumpers in this small indoor arena, the fences are cleared away and a man rides Roman style into the arena with a herd of horses at the end of long driving reins.

Photo © Erin Gilmore

Every year Saut Hermés presents an equestrian act between classes, but this is the one that has made the biggest impression on me. No longer will I think my horse at home is a genius for simply standing still at the mounting block.

Photo © Erin Gilmore

This rider took 12 Lusitano horses arranged by color and successively jumped 12 them simultaneously over a three foot jump, letting two at a time free at liberty until he was performing with no bridles or driving reins at all. Just a dozen horses moving together in choreographed patterns.

Photo © Erin Gilmore

The man behind the show, known simply as Lorenzo, is a horseman from the Camargue region of Southern France, an area famous for its herd of white horses. You can go here to find out more about him and his show.

Photo © Erin Gilmore

In any case, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. There is a special kind of joy in watching Lusitanos play at liberty in the main arena of an uber-elite equestrian event such as this, but in that, Hermés’ message is clear: true horsemanship has no boundaries.

Photo © Erin Gilmore
Photo © Erin Gilmore
Photo © Erin Gilmore
Photo © Erin Gilmore

As for the fear that the ongoing yellow vest protests might interrupt Le Saut Hermés (I know, the irony is thick here), temporary barricades across the Champs D’Elysses and bridges crossing the River Seine turned out to be the most dramatic overture to Saturday’s show at the Grand Palais. It was a little surreal walking up to the barricades, which were manned by a not insignificant number of gendarmerie police outfitted in their protective riot gear, and finding a small female representative of Saut Hermés there at the fence with a clipboard, admitting anyone with a show pass past the trucks and tanks. Luckily, the protestors chose to gather elsewhere in the city on Saturday, making the area around Le Saut Hermes relatively quiet, and very safe. True to form, no self-respecting French spectator let the fear of potentially violent protests dissuade them from attending a horse show – the stands were full and the VIP areas bustling all day long.

Rolling on now to Sunday’s events and the €400,000 Grand Prix Hermés CSI5*. With fences set to a massive 1.60m maximum height and a totally packed crowd enthusiastically gathered to cheer on their home riders, this is a class that lives up to all the top level, and over the top, hype. Be sure to watch live here at 3:30pm local time. You can find the start list and all results here.

Erin Gilmore is a freelance journalist and international equestrian photographer who lives in Leesburg, Virginia.

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