Springtime in Paris

By March 18, 2012
Horse jumping, spectacularly framed against the ornate metal-and-glass roof of Paris' Grand Palais.

Show jumping at the Grand Palais.

The Saut Hermès is a horse show of palatial proportions. Taking place in the heart of Paris March 16-18, the third edition of the event brings together 58 riders from 15 European nations, competing in nine classes up to CSI5* under the beautiful glass-domed roof of the Grand Palais.

The legendary Hermès fashion house was founded in 1837 as a manufacturer of carriage horse harnesses that later expanded to trunks, saddles and riding accoutrement. With its rich history, so tightly intertwined with both the City of Lights and the equestrian lifestyle, it’s appropriate that Hermès specifically targeted the historic beaux arts Palais, marking the return in 2010 of horse sport to the elegant structure, erected for the 1900 World Fair.

“These spectacular horses, in partnership with the world’s finest riders, take over this arena, fly over its obstacles and leave their imprints in the sand, the cousins of Pegasus, who is immortalized in the sculpture that greets every visitor,” Hermès chairman Patrick Thomas said, alluding to the two bronze “quadriga” by artist Georges Récipon that gaze down on visitors from the roof of the structure.

From the Latin “quadric-,” meaning “four,” and jungere, “to yoke,” a quadriga is a chariot drawn by four horses abreast. Used to race in the ancient Olympic Games, they are emblems of victory.

Bronze sculpture of a four-horse chariot

Bronze from the roof of the Grand Palais.

Patrick said the venue was a natural for Hermès, since it was created (by architects Henri Deglane, Albert Louvet, Albert Thomas and Charles Grault) with a central sand arena and no pillars, specifically to accommodate equestrian.  From 1901 to 1957 riding, carriage driving, racing and carousel events took place there.

Victors at the 2012 event included Sweden’s Malin Baryard who rode H&M Tornesch to the blue in the opening class of the show, the Prix Pierre Jonquères d’Oriola.

Baryard also teamed with Ludger Beerbaum to win the two-stage Saut Hermès 1.60m CSI5* couples competition on March 17. Riders were combined by drawing lots, and this duo was the only one to clock four clear rounds in the  $263,000 class. Greece’s Athina Onassis De Miranda and Ireland’s Denis  Lynch came in second.

Another dramatic triumph came courtesy of France’s own Michel Robert, who won the Prix GL 1.45m class on his piebald mare, Catapulte, that same day. Robert not only triumphed over second-placed Janika Sprunger and JL’s Komparse, but had the satisfaction of beating the winner’s of the prior day’s big class, the Prix du Grand Palais.

Italy’s Roberto Prevatali won the Les Talents Hermès class, for riders under 25, aboard the KWPN gelding Sander, while Ireland’s Alex Duffy won on Saturday on Angello Z.

Each competition day ended with an original equestrian performance set to music, the centerpiece of which was the “The Gift of Time,” choreographed by Bartabas to Ravel’s “Boler” for the Equestrian Arts Academy of Versailles.

Haunches of a row of white Andalusian horses.

"The Gift of Time," was specially choreographed for the show, to the music of Ravel's Bolero.

Screenwriter Jerome Garcin wrote the program’s evocative description of the show:  “Blue-eyed cream-coloured Lusitanos and gray Argentine Criollos ridden by cosmopolitan young women dance to a Frenchman’s music with Arab-Andalusian influences, under the auspices of a dazzling centaur who has something of Don Quixote about him.” Garcin sums up: “They will be cantering across space and time,” adding, “The hardest thing afterwards will be returning to real life and a city of pedestrians.”

Those Parisian streets have changed quite a bit in the two centuries since Hermès made its first harness and the 2010 debut of the Talaris saddle. “For six generations, the horse has guided and driven the company forward at the rhythm of its steps,” Patrick said. French rider Simon Delestre and Spain’s Pilar Cordon are among those currently using Hermès tack.

For complete results, click here.

For general information, visit www.sauthaute.org

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