The Ariegeois Horse
The Ariegeois horse is a likely descendant of those horses which were ridden by the Gallic tribesmen according to the documents written by Caesar on the Gallic Wars. If you, like I, have ever indulged in reading the humorous, comic adventures of the heroic Gallic warriors, Asterix and Obelix, you will note that the illustrators have actually taken the care to make the Gallic horses in the comic strips resemble the Ariegeois, although their drawn mounts come in a variety of colours.
Today the Ariegeois horses make their home in the snowy, picturesque Pyrenean Mountains in the south-west of France. If you want to be very specific about it, they originate from the valley of the Ariege River; as with so many European breeds of horse, the Ariegeois takes its name from the river of its homeland.
Incredibly, the Ariegeois does not appear to feel the effects of its freezing cold environment; it is also amazingly sure-footed and hard-hooved, a doubtless necessity when you consider how slippery the icy rocks and mud found in its mountainous home must be. It is easy to see, then, why they have been used as packhorses for so many centuries, as well as for agricultural work upon the steepest slopes where farming machinery cannot function.
This hardy little breed only comes in a single colour: black, with the occasional white markings on its hindquarters; however, do not be fooled into thinking that it is boring because of the lack of variety! In the winter, its fine, soft coat gains a unique reddish shade; I suppose that it is a little like when our hair gets bleached by the seashore sun of summer. As the Ariegeois horse has an extremely thick mane and tail, it is not suited to the warmer summer months and prefers to graze at night during this time.
Due to its hospitable natural habitat, the Ariegeois does not grow very large; full-grown males will only ever reach 14.3hh maximum. They are strongly built, with a rather long back. Overall, they are considered to be a healthy and defect-free breed, although they have a tendency to cow hocks.
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