Okay, French cowboys! Here they are!
After the train ride, we lucked out and were able to see a demonstration of the Camargue horse and courses camarguaises aka Provencal style bullfighting.
These horses have a long history and are very sturdy and hardy horses. Feeding off the wetlands and marshlands of the area probably have something to do with it. Their build makes them the perfect kind of horse to herd around cattle which is what they are primarily used for. They are always gray, meaning they look white to us non-horse people. You can read more about them at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camargue_horse.
Up first in the arena for the demonstration was this French gardian (word used in the Camargue region for cowboys) and his content looking horse. They went through the paces around the arena and even galloped for us so we could get an idea of how the horse moved.
We then witnessed the basics of a course camarguaise. It is similar to a bullfight because it involves people running around an arena with a bull. However, the huge difference is that the bull does not die. There is a rosette attached to the bull’s horns that the raseteurs (people running around the ring) try to snatch as they run around the bull who in turn chases them. I got some very bad pictures. Most of mine just make it look like a bunch of men standing around while a small cow watches them. I promise it was more exciting than that! The guys used a younger bull for their demonstration.
Therefore the Domaine de Paul Ricard raises cattle and then uses the bulls from the herd in the courses camarguaises. The bulls that do not end up in the courses do end up being sold to slaughter. That might sound cruel, but you have to remember that the domaine can only have so many bulls on the property. If they never sold any for meat, the place would be overrun with cows. However, the ones that do the courses often become local “celebrities” and live out the rest of their lives on the marshes.
My uncle got some better action shots from the course camarguaise demonstration:
We then got to see the cowboys perform some acrobatic stunts on the Camargue horses. Meghan, Lauren, and I were quite taken with the cowboy performing the acrobatic stunts. It might be hard to tell in these pictures but he was very, very cute. And again, hats off to Uncle Marc for his pictures!
I even uploaded a video of the action onto Youtube! I’m sorry about the fact that you can hear my voice in this video, I hate listening to it.
After the demonstration, we took a walk around the property. We got to see the flamingos a bit better thanks to the viewfinders set up on the path and my aunt’s binoculars. This is also the part where I realized the domaine was full of rice paddies, about 600 hectares of it. And here I was thinking rice paddies were only in Asia… I learned all sorts of things at La Camargue!
First four pictures: my uncle. Second four pictures: me.