A Horse Show In A Palace: Scenes From The Saut Hermès

Mar 26, 2019 - 1:27 PM

Paris—March 23

I’m sure many of our readers can remember growing up playing with toy horsesI mean, what horse-crazy adult didn’t at one point line up all their plastic ponies for an epic race down the hallway or across the kitchen?

When I was a kid I had this little toy castle that came with a horse you could put on a plastic turntable in the center of the floor and spin around and around. It was the best: The castle came with all these shiny stickers I put on the turntable, and you just let your little kid imagination run wild with stories about your toy pony and its adventures in the palace. Because that’s about the only place you would think you’d ever see horses in a palace, right? Three inches high and spinning around your living room?

Fast forward 20 years, and I found myself staring up at the ceiling in Paris’ Grand Palais as some of the best show jumpers in the world competed in the Saut Hermès show. There are really not enough words to describe how amazing this show is, so allow me to use pictures:

Crowd of people in front of Grand Palais, Paris, France
The Grand Palais. iStock Photo

First let’s set the stage: This is the 10th year Hermès has put on a horse show in the Grand Palais. Built in 1900 for the world’s fair, the palace is this enormous building combining towering stone pillars with intricately melded steel and glass.

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A very normal entryway to a very normal horse show. Ann Glavan Photo

In the photo above you can see the door you walk through to enter the show, and that incredibly ornate castle across the street is the Petit Palais. Because I suppose everything is relative, and relative to its enormous cousin across the street, you could call it “petite.”

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Steve Guerdat warms up Alamo in the Grand Palais. Ann Glavan Photo

The inside of the Palais really feels more like an outdoor show. The sun keeps everything bright and cheery and throws some great shadows for taking photos. It’s hard to take a bad picture when your subjects are some phenomenal show jumping horses, and your background is a palace.

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Waiting to enter the ring. Ann Glavan Photo

The show is also a great reminder of how amazingly tolerant top show jumping horses are. The main classes were all sold out, standing room only, and even the warm-up ring was packed with people on the rail.

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Hope you don’t mind a crowd while you warm up! Ann Glavan Photo

Horses are stabled just outside the Palais next to a little park. It’s the part of the city that’s always bustling with tourists on their way to see the nearby monuments and museums, and many looked quite pleasantly surprised to come upon horses going back and forth across the street.

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Off to the show we go. Ann Glavan Photo
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Just your average ring-to-stable walk. Ann Glavan Photo
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Peering through the pillars of the Palais waiting to show. Ann Glavan Photo
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Heading into the ring. Ann Glavan Photo

Between classes there were all kinds of things to doand I truly mean all kinds. For example, kids could go for goat cart rides. Not go cart, goat cart.

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This goat cart gave rides to kids and was maybe the last thing I expected to see wandering the back halls of the show. Ann Glavan Photo

After you’re done cracking up at the cute absurdity of the goat cart, take a stroll down to the saddle-making demonstration and watch master saddlers hard at work on their craft.

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Saddle makers hard at work. Ann Glavan Photo
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An interesting look at a tree for an Hermès saddle. Ann Glavan Photo

If you want to swing back over to cute barnyard animal land, you could come hang out with some llamas! Admittedly, I don’t speak French, and there was a bit of a language barrier here, but at one point we walked by to find this llama trainer in the middle of the warm-up ring teaching several people how to lead llamas around. So as far as we could tell, you could take a free llama walking lesson between classes.

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Just a llama trainer hanging out with his llama. Ann Glavan PHoto

And speaking of wandering around behind the scenes, we ran into this guy just casually walking around with his double bass, and that has to be peak Paris.

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Just walking around with my double bass. Ann Glavan Photo

But you may not even want to leave your seat between classes because you might miss the most impressive liberty horse routine you could possibly imagine. This is Lorenzo and his team of Lusitano horses. Lorenzo does not go by a last name, and he doesn’t need it, because Lorenzo is the Beyonce of horse entertainment.

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Lorenzo and his Lusitanos. Ann Glavan Photo

It was the most insanely jaw-dropping liberty routine I’ve ever seen. These horses are so in tune to this man it’s unbelievable. The most incredible part was you could tell how hot the horses were; they were biting at each other and crow-hopping and bouncing up and down. You could tell they had all this energy and wanted to go forward, but they were so keyed in to Lorenzo he at one point got all the horses to go in a line abreast, jump into a three-stride line he had set up, halt, back up, and then jump out over the second fence. He got 12 horses to do that in tandem. And I’m over here paying hundreds of dollars in lessons to learn how to jump my one horse. With his bridle. And saddle.

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Totally insane. Ann Glavan Photo

This was one of those acts where you kept saying to yourself, “OK, that had to be the most impressive thing, right? What else could this man possibly do?” And then he did this.

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You will never be as cool as Lorenzo Roman riding with no bridle while leaping over a rail. Ann Glavan Photo

He got 10 of the horses to wait in the middle of the ring on a step while he went galloping around with no bridle and leapt over this thing. The man is one of a kind, and his connection with those horses is entirely breathtaking.

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Some very appropriate Hermès scarf flags for Lorenzo’s performance. Ann Glavan Photo
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I like how it looks like he’s touching the horse statue in the background. Because what’s one more horse to manage when you’re running around with 12? Ann Glavan Photo

One of the cutest parts of all of this was this little girl watching Lorenzo warm up the horses. You can just tell from the look on her face that her parents are in for itsomeone needs to get this kid a pony.

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I think they’ve created a future horse girl! Ann Glavan Photo

This has got to be the most dressed up I’ve ever seen people for a horse show, which makes senseit is Paris, and it is put on by a fashion label.

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Ann Glavan Photo
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Orange was a popular color choice in keeping with the Hermès theme. Ann Glavan Photo
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If you don’t wear a beret, are you even in France? Ann Glavan Photo
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Course walk or catwalk? Ann Glavan Photo
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A very regal looking Frenchman stopping to watch the class. Ann Glavan Photo

Twelve liberty horses, goat cart rides, stringed instruments and impromptu fashion shows, and we haven’t even gotten to the actual competition yet! It was really amazing how into the classes the crowd got. Almost every class was standing room only, and they gasped when a horse made a particularly impressive effort. They groaned when the third rail of the triple fell, and they roared with appreciation when their home team French riders put in clear rounds.

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Alexandra Paillot over the Hermès oxer aboard Tonio La Goutelle. Ann Glavan Photo
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Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Cue Channa 42 gallop past the Hermès wall. Ann Glavan Photo
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World No. 1 Steve Guerdat and Alamo find the light after a great round. Ann Glavan Photo
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Chalou had the crowd gasping at his incredible jumping efforts with Emanuele Gaudiano. Ann Glavan Photo
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Admara 2 finding the light with Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo. Ann Glavan Photo

It was the most surreal experience, a show inside a palace, and everything 5-year-old Ann could have possibly imagined. I felt exactly like this horse did leaping all over the place during his award ceremony. Until we meet again, Saut Hermès!

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Megane Moissonnier and Balou Star leaping around in the prize-giving. Ann Glavan Photo
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