Stables that produce equestrian shows are a living space in their own right, where a passion for horses is combined with equestrian arts. Each year, the troupe of the Great Stables takes part in over 150 shows enchanting thousands of spectators. Discover our troupe's philosophy and take a look behind the scenes with the residents of the Chantilly stables.
Stables that produce equestrian shows are a living space in their own right, where a passion for horses is combined with equestrian arts. Each year, the troupe of the Great Stables takes part in over 150 shows enchanting thousands of spectators.
Discover our troupe’s philosophy and take a look behind the scenes with the residents of the Chantilly stables.
In over 30 years of existence, the Great Stables in Chantilly have become a prestigious equestrian centre just like Saumur, Versailles and the Haras du Pin.
A veritable institution recognised for the rigour and quality of its horsemanship, what differentiates the Great Stables is the teams’ passion, conveyed by their pride in their uniform, their search for excellence, their attention to detail and the originality of their creations…
The team in the stables is highly organised. They have to be to provide daily care and education to all the horses, watching over their progress, their health care, preparation of shows and rehearsals and daily demonstrations. Grooms, riders, coaches and quartermistress all work together closely to ensure optimum comfort of their equids and to provide a warm welcome to visitors.
Written and directed by Sophie Bienaimé and her sister Virginie, the shows in the Great Stables combine several arts: haute école horse training, acrobatics, music, theatre, circus…
All staged with delicacy and dressed by talented costume designer Monica Mucha, who gives the final touch to this mix of charm and technicality.
The result is a grand production every two years. In recent years spectators were transported along the Silk Road, across the Russian steppes of the Tsars and to the heart of the Corsican heritage traditions.
Each year families can also enjoy the magic of Christmas: the “Reine des Songes”, the 2014 Christmas show, attracted over 26,000 spectators to 40 shows.
In November 2011, Equitation in the French Tradition was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Between the two naves, the dome culminates at 28 metres. On the outside, it was re-adorned with its statue of Fame in 1989 by Yves Bienaimé, creator of the first museum of the horse, two centuries after it had been destroyed during the Revolution.
On the inside, the space was subtly designed to create a venue for equestrian shows with a capacity of 600 seats and a sand-covered circular stage with a 13 metre diameter, similar to a circus ring. This is where the daily demonstrations and shows take place.
The majority of horses in the Great Stables are from two Iberian breeds, the Andalusian and the Purebred Lusitano.
These horses are said to be “baroque” as they look like those used by the royal academies from the 18th century onwards.
These horses have an unwavering strength of character and a flexibility and handling quality that enable them to comfortably perform in small spaces such as a bullring… or the 13 metre ring beneath the dome of the Great Stables.
The residents also include draft horses: mainly Percheron horses, but also some Boulonnais horses and Norman cobs. Less well known in France, the Schwarzwälder Federkiel is a spectacular horse with a dark chestnut coat and a cream-coloured, almost white mane. It is a small stocky horse, and in Germany it was used to transport logs in the Black Forest.
Children will be delighted to discover the Shetland ponies and mini-Shetlands, who never measure more than 76 cm at the withers, as well as the Welsh ponies and 3 donkeys. All these horses, donkeys and “ponies” are “worked out” on a daily basis to take part in the various shows.
The grooms are riders recruited with a certain level of qualification (BEES1 or BP JEPS) and an aptitude for training. They are regularly coached by a top level dressage trainer (Vincent Guilloteau) and a groom from the Cadre Noir in Saumur (Olivier Puls).
But being a good rider is not sufficient to appear on stage, which is why the grooms are given drama training, especially when preparing shows for which the director, Virginie Bienaimé, calls on their stage skills.
Each rider is responsible for 3 horses and 1 pony. They take charge of these and must form a “couple” with each one of them. This close bond between the rider and her horse or pony is what gives strength to their presence on stage.
Sophie Bienaimé’s role is to direct the team of grooms and riders, to purchase show horses and to watch over their progress with the team and the coaches. With her sister Virginie, she writes and directs all the shows that are produced in the Great Stables.
She is the daughter of Yves Bienaimé, who created the Museum of the Living Horse and started the first shows in the Great Stables. Sophie was surrounded from a very early age by the world of horses and shows.
Do horses like performing?
Each horse has its own temperament. Respecting the horse’s character makes it possible for the riders to work intelligently.
Each show requires a year’s work before the opening night. This is the length of time necessary for the horses and riders to make their own of the show. However, as the horse is an impressionable animal, the stress factor involved in performing in front of a live audience has to be taken into consideration. The rider must understand his horse and experience each show with it.
Certain horses chomp at the bit behind the curtain when they hear the music start. They’re true artists.
How long does it take to train a show horse?
It takes 3 years to train a horse to perform in shows. This is the average time required to train horses to perform in the haute école style (extremely technical equestrian figures of expression). We have to make them used to the audience, the lighting and the music for them to become equestrian show professionals.
This is done through daily dressage and training. It requires time and a lot of patience for horses to get used to their new surroundings and to performing in public.
When is a good time to come see an equestrian show?
We produce 2 new major shows every year beneath the majestic dome of the Great Stables. The first runs from April to October and the second is the Christmas show which runs in December and January.
Throughout the year, visitors can come to dressage demonstrations every day (except during rehearsal periods).
What is the specific feature of the shows in the Great Stables?
The ring, located beneath the dome in The Great Stables, is 13 metres in diameter. This presents quite a difficulty for the horses and the riders because this traditional circus ring provides very limited space for the horses to perform in.
Who looks after the horses?
The thirty or so horses in the Great Stables are trained, educated and directed by a multidisciplinary team (riders, educators, trainers, grooms…).
Every day, they are groomed, taken out, worked out and they rehearse for the show or the daily demonstration. The 7 riders in the Great Stables are constantly taking care of their horses.