Tuesday, September 06, 2011

SAUMUR and the Cadre Noir

 Saumur and the Cadre Noir

Sue was pretty excited with the prospect of seeing a performance of The Cadre Noir at Saumur. She made me leave hours before the starting time so we had some time to see a little of Saumur, not enough, but some.
Saumur was just a little upstream from Chinon. We took the road that ran by the Vienne to where it joined the Loire river. Along the way we were amazed by several Troglodyte homes carves from the soft white limestone cliffs and ridges. We drove by the village of Montsoreau with its fine Chateau overlooking the confluence of the two rivers. It would have been a nice stop but Sue was on a mission - there would be no stopping until we reached Saumur.

We passed by Souzay-Champigny with its fine examples of further Troglodyte buildings and still no stopping but there in the distance, the Chateau of Saumur looked down upon us as we drove into the city. Guess what - we were early and so there was a little time to kill before driving out to the Ecole Nationale Equitation and the Cadre Noir. I needed some extra cash so we wandered the streets to find an ATM, then Sue finally relaxed and we sat in the sunshine with a cup of coffee with the Chateau rising above us. The buildings below in the old centre made the setting perfect. Yet just around the corner from where we sat was a much more modern Saumur that gave the impression that you could be in any regional business district anywhere in the world.

We sat with a coffee, taking in the local ambiance of Saumur in the warmth of the spring mid-morning.

With a little time to spare, we were able to discover some of the laneways in old Saumur.

On this visit we came across Cardinal Richelieu - we were to become more familiar with him later, but that's for another post.
A poster for an event this month - any readers going?

An early painting of the Cadre Noir

The sign the greets you in the lawns of the Cadre Noir

As we wandered about the grounds we could see the riders preparing the horses for the performance we were about to see.

In fact there was an audience - its just that Sue needed to be the first seated.
Alright, I was excited OK?
I'm not sure where or when I first heard about Cadre Noir, same as my excitement about seeing the Bayeux Tapestry. Having said that I probably learned about the tapestry in the early 60's in Primary School. In those days Australia still believed it's history was that of England, and that was taught. But, I digress.

Before I go any further I would like to apologise for any lapses of fact. I'm sure you'll forgive me if I'm wrong and go for the big picture!
Cadre Noir has military origins and continued that way until the 1970's when the French cavalry ceased to exist. They had a long, noble and well respected lifetime as a military force to be reckoned with.
The French Government then decided they would become an academic riding school and train future Olympians and world champions in equestrian skills...which they have!
Cadre Noir means of course (in Australian) "mates in black" The members wear the famous black uniform, while their students wear blue.
My French sadly lacking, I had been dreading the phone call to book our seats for the performance. The phone is the harshest way to demonstrate inadequacy in language! Our gracious hostess, Helene from Chinon did that for us, so after that all was plain sailing.
The equestrian centre is about 6km from Chinon in a forest.....I can't begin to tell you how my nerves were tingling. As we got closer there were many very handsome horses in the fields beside the road.
Arriving there I was thrilled to see there was an outside ring where they warmed up the horses, practised, whatever, and where you could stand close as you liked! Oh joy! 
Don't worry, Leon didn't get it either.
I probably should explain, that a large part of my wasted youth was spent on horseback, and I didn't stop until I was pregnant with our elder son and not allowed to ride! It was a way I decided if the guys I went out with were good enough to keep for a while! Leon passed....although he never stopped shaking and saying that he just wanted to walk on the "thing"!
So, in we finally went. What a huge indoor auditorium. Apparently seats 1500 people. Was almost full too.
The performance probably lasted for an hour and a half, but for me it seems to flash past in minutes.
They showed the abilities of the horses both on a long rein (with the handler on the ground beside them) and as ridden horses. They also at times had the horses performing together as a troupe.
Highlights for me:
 The long rein activities were performed to the strains of classical music in the background. As much ballet as horsemanship.
They maintained and emphasised their military  background, by bringing tables and chairs to the middle of the arena, setting them up and then the horses jumping them in various combinations. NOT something to see in normal dressage or jumping competitions, but a reminder that these horses were to be trained to overcome all obstacles.
Airs above the ground. OMG
Lawrence I hope you're reading this, cos I have no doubt I'm boring the crap out of everyone else!
Well.....I guess you could say I had a good time. I would very much like to go back again next year, but it's all a matter of timing. They have a limited number of shows per year and we were very fortunate to be there at the right time.
Seeing Cadre Noir was a huge highlight of my trip in 2008.

Leon back again.....

Since returning from our 2008 trip we discovered a Saumur bubbly - its very nice but its the pleasure linked  to our memories of experiencing Saumur. Who knows, but we enjoy our Friday night start to the weekend with a glass of Saumur Brut.


  1. This is when I really hate that I cannot play YouTube. Love horses and I would love to see this show. Maybe next year, this year is out of the question. In S.Africa there is a whole stable of Lipizzaners and the shows are incredible. Thanks for all the info and photos. Diane

  2. Sorry Diane, I remember that about You Tube for you.

  3. Yes I am reading ;-) with a big smile on my face!! What an awesome experience! Thanks for blogging about it. And the footage, although jerky thanks to my connection, was great to watch!

  4. Keep smiling Lawrence - its good for you.

  5. What magnificent horses - they make me feel quite humble as an ordinary human being somehow. What a great day out - we haven't been to Saumur for ages - Nick usually remembers to take me there on a Monday when most of the shops are closed !!

  6. Jean,
    I remember saying what a nice bloke I thought Nick was but I've changed my opinion. Fancy taking you to Saumur when the shops are closed!!!!

  7. Those horses are indeed quite remarkable and I can see why Sue was "all giddy". The architecture in Saumur looks wonderful.

  8. Craig,
    Hope to visit Saumur next May.


Love to get feedback so no reason to be shy - have your say.