Haras De Gelos

by Maj. John A. Gorman Biarritz American University (Western Horseman Jan/Feb ’46)

Beldebel, 18-year-old Arab stallion at Pau, France.

The stud of Gelos is located in the southwest of France not far from the Pyreneese mountains. This stud was established in 1811 by Napoleon, the object being to breed superior light horses for cavalry and similar purposes.

At Pau, there are many stallions. A few are pure Arabians, a few Thoroughbreds but the greatest percentage are Anglo-Arabs. The Anglo-Arab is a cross between the Arab and English Thoroughbred. This cross has been developed and bred by the French government for a long period. The percentage of each breed cannot be maintained at an exact percentage, but evidence indicates a tendency to run towards the Arabian.

The stallions are kept at the government stud from July to February. Then they are placed with the farmers to use for breeding to their mares and to those of the neighbors. For this a small fee is collected. After the breeding season, the stallions are returned to the government stables and maintained until the following season.

Besides the Anglo-Arabs a group of Breton stallions are kept for the production of work horses and mares for mule production. The Bretons are medium draft horses weighing about 1300-1500 pounds. They come from the Brittany peninsula of France. Almost all of the Breton stallions at Pau are black, because mule breeders like black mules. This is fortunate as the black color is not liked by the breeders of Breton horses in Brittany and the government can obtain good black stallions. The Breton is a heavy muscled, large boned horse with well shaped feet of good texture. They are just as muscular and drafty as the larger draft breeds without their extreme size. The influence of the Breton stallion is seen in the mules as they are almost all black, heavy, muscled mules with large feet and bone.

The southwestern part of France breeds good light horses of the Anglo-Arab type. The region around Pau is a famous region for hunting and in the past English people often went there during the hunting season.

Before the war a fair was held in Paris where the best of horses were shown. This year a show was held at Pau on October 9 and 10 for the light horses of Arab and Anglo-Arab type. Being in the region of greatest production the number was greater than it would have been if the show had been held in Paris. It was the writer’s privilege to attend the show the day the mares were shown and to have visited the stud on previous occasions. There were classes for Arab mares and foals, mares without foals, and the same for Anglo-Arabs. The Arab class was few in number but there were many Anglo-Arab mares with their foals and a lesser number of mares without foals. It is considered best not to write the number but they are recorded in notes taken at the show.

The writer was greatly impressed with the excellence of the mares and the smooth, quiet operation of judging and showing. There were no stalls, the owners led their mares from private places in town and held them during the show. The judging is by scoring and comparison with most emphasis being on scoring. The mares were scored by a group of judges (three, I believe). Then in the afternoon, they were lined up or placed in a circle and the judges made comparisons, but very few changes were made from the placings arrived at by the score card method.

The winning mares were a superior lot. For the most part they were large, deep, well muscled, smooth mares with excellent feet and legs. A great deal of Thoroughbred type and size was in evidence.

The judging was interesting. The horses were numbered. They were led into an open end of a lane about twenty feet wide, and trotted up to where the judges stood. They were held without posing in a showring stretch until the judges looked them over. Then they were walked away and back and then trotted away and returned for a final inspection. They left the judging lane by a side gate to the left and another mare trotted up the lane to the judges’ stand.

The mares were shown with a single bit bridle, usually some type of a snaffle bit. The foals followed but usually wore a halter so they could be caught with ease.

There was nothing fancy in the way of show equipment. The feet were trimmed in a normal manner. The mane fell to either side or was roached. The tails were natural. But there had been many strokes of brushes for the mares were well groomed and the writer marvelled at the bright shiny sheen shown by most of the contestants. The three-year-old stallions and fillies were to be shown the following days.

On previous occasions the writer had seen some of the sires of the mares that were shown. The mares sired by the Arabian stallion Beldebel could be picked with great accuracy. Beldebel is an 18-year-old Arab stallion that is youthful in appearance and action. I was told that he was considered the best in the world. He did look like a perfect horse except that some may like a little different type head. he was close coupled, strong backed with excellent feet and legs. A daughter of his placed fourth in mare and foal class.

The sire of Beldebel was “Denouste,” a 24-year-old stallion. He is a larger horse than his son and a trifle longer. He is a copper colored chestnut with a brilliant sheen. He had many daughters in the Anglo-Arab class and a greater percentage in the class of Arab mares. He or his son occurred in most of the pedigrees of the Arab mares and stallions.

Two famous Thoroughbred stallions in the Pau stud are Pinceau and Dodji. Pinceau is a dappled brown medium stallion 21 years old. He had a bad hock but otherwise a perfect set of legs. It is understood that he is well known to Thoroughbred breeders as he is a famous sire. Dodji is a more upstanding stallion that has won many good races, but so far his get has not equalled that of Pinceau.