Can you imagine a more picturesque setting for a daily schooling ride than an expansive French beach? U.S. show jumper Alice Debany Clero has been based in France for more than a decade, and has an extraordinarily beautiful location for schooling on the beach.
Alice Debany Clero trots Alanis through the surf.
Clero, who is best known in the United States as one of the riders of famous jumper The Natural; she campaigned him in the early 90s and won the Queen’s Cup at Spruce Meadows (Alberta) as well as the grand prix at the National Horse Show (N.Y.). She’s now the trainer of the Dubai show jumping team, and spent time training HRH Princess Haya of Jordan, including for the Princess’ successful Olympic team bid in 2000.
“My husband [businessman Remy Clero], three children, and I are based in Paris,” Clero said. “My husband is not into horses and for the most part neither are my children. We use my farm, which is near La Baule, for six months of the year since my husband’s office and my children’s school is in Paris. I base my horses there from the beginning of May until the end of September.
“We purchased the farm, Le Creno, in 2007. It has been called that since the mid 1600s. It is 37 hectors or 91 acres large. It has 1 km of coast and the property is part of a natural preserve, so it has no hotels on the beach, just one nice, small restaurant.
“Because there are no hotels, the beach there is very quiet especially at low tide. During high tide on windy days it is a very popular attraction for kite surfers. On a good day there could be hundreds of kite surfers in the ocean, there which is very beautiful.
“It is at low tide where we take advantage of our beach the most. The tide there is massive and every day hundreds of acres of rideable land is exposed. The ground is absolutely perfect for horses. It has just the right amount of give… it is never deep and it has no rocks or holes,” Clero said.
Alice Debany Clero flatting Alanis on the beach.
“The nearest corner to my farm is the first part to empty out and the last part to fill up every day. I use this corner, which would be about 10 acres large, for our jumping area.
“We bring our tractor down and our jumps are on a very low cart behind a tractor. We have nice, light jumps that are easy to move yet don’t blow down very easily in a windy day,” continued Clero.
“Between my groom, and my husband and I, we can set a nice course in about 20 minutes. The rideable time in this part of the beach is lasts for about six hours, the first three hours of which is a bit splashy a little bit like a rainy day on perfect sand footing. I try to time my jumping to the last three hours of the low tide. The ground is spectacular; top show quality. You can jump any height or gallop full on on this ground with total confidence.”
Alice Debany Clero schooling Alanis on the beach at low tide.
“On the days that we want to ride in the water, I just look at a little booklet that lets me know when the tide will be high and when it will be low and I set my times accordingly,” Clero explained.
Clero is riding Alanis W in the videos, a 10-year-old mare by Belinand out of an Undoctro mare that Clero has had for six years. In July, Alanis W won a 1.40-meter class at the Chantilly CSI** (France). “She is actually my second horse. My other mare, Amareusa S, also 10 years old by Balubet du Rouet . I bought them on the same day when they were both 4-year-olds,” Clero said.
“The videos you have here were taken all on the same day. I wanted to show how I could ride in the morning in the water and come out six hours later and set a course and jump.”
Alice Debany Clero’s dog, Jack, joins her and Alanis in a frolic in the surf.
“I have hosted my Dubai team there for many summers in a row and it is always a great experience for the horses and riders to be able to be in the water and ride in such a vast area and jump. We also have acres and acres of grass fields, so it is really ideal for the horses,” Clero said.
“I am beginning my 11th season now working in Dubai. I was hired by HRH Princess Haya to take care of five local riders and now most of them ride grand prix. I spend two weeks a month every month between October and May in Dubai. This is been a great experience for my family and for me to understand the culture there. The show circuit there also has grown and become a very attractive spot for many Europeans as well as a few Americans.”