France is internationally recognised as having a strong horse industry in equestrian sports and horse racing.
The Normandy, Paris and Pays de la Loire regions have significant horse related culture and continue to actively promote the horse industry throughout the world. Normandy is particularly famous for combining passion for equestrian sports and horse racing and its significant breeding studs. The Paris region is home to Chantilly and its major horse racing yards as well as several major competition grounds (Haras de Jardy, Fontainebleau, Compiègne…).
New regions such as the Rhône Alpes, around the Lyon area, are also currently developing new equestrian activities.
Unlike other countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom, there is a strong distinction between equestrian sports and horse racing which make up two separate sub-industries, with distinct types of horses, commercialisation circuits and participants.
In 2021, while 61 % of the 1 204 000 horses on the French territory were leisure and sports horses and generated revenues of 1 052 million euros, only 15% were racehorses (flat, jumping and trotting combined) generating revenues of 9 767 million euros.
Studies show that horse related transactions have increased from 2020 to 2021 with imports and exports remaining within the European Union.
Show jumping is and remains the main equestrian sports activity representing a total of 84% of equestrian competitors, dressage and eventing represent only 5% and 3%.
While these figures relate in part to 2020 and therefore a year in which France suffered from lock down and cancellation of many setbacks; they do show that the horse industry in France is strong and diversified.
Major investments are currently being made in the French equine veterinary industry, namely by the latest creation of a veterinary campus at Goustrainville in Normandy, dedicated exclusively to equine veterinary science and care. This new campus shall be built next to the famous CIRALE, one of the main European clinics dedicated to veterinary imagery and shall include four different poles: a business centre, student lodgings, a new veterinary clinic, and a high-tech conference room. It should be finalised by September 2023.
France and its horse industry are currently gearing up for the Paris Olympic games in 2024. The equestrian competition will take place from July 27 to August 6, 2024, in the famous Château de Versailles and many competition grounds are preparing training grounds.
This environment creates multiple opportunities to develop professional equestrian activities in France.
Author: Holly Jessopp, partner of Schelstraete Equine Law Paris