Saddle up at L'étrier de l'Uzège, in Vallabrix
Located near Vallabrix since 2014, the riding school L'étrier de l'Uzège is managed by Margot Atlan, its owner. Offering riding lessons, rides, L'étrier de l'Uzège hosts numerous competitions too.
FR - A vast equestrian club, close to the forest added to a confidential team... the ideal setting! Can you tell us the story of your club?
I love horses since I was a little girl, and I started riding at 4. When I graduated in 2013, at 19, with the French diploma BPJEPS in horse riding, I already knew I wanted to set up my own club. My dream finally came true in 2014.
I was looking for some places in the Gard and Hérault regions when I came across this unique and magnificent site. You had to imagine everything, as the land was covered in vines, woodland and nothing else. But it didn't matter! Today, we have around sixty horses on 10 hectares of land. As an owners' stable, pony club and competition organiser, we wear many hats.
We have 3 arenas, a covered riding arena, a stable with 8 boxes and a tack room. In addition, we have around 60 paddocks, with or without shelter, all shaded, grooming and showering areas, a number of rides, a storage greenhouse, not to mention a food + vehicle storage area, a club house... Our offer is complete.
Can you present us your horses (Raymo, Bandolero, Taquine, Dusty...) and ponies?
We have around 30 horses in boarding stables (either in paddocks or in boxes), ranging from leisure horses to competition horses (mainly show jumping or dressage).
We also have around 30 teaching horses and ponies, which enable us to give lessons to children and adults... whether for leisure or competition.
You run the club with Lola, one of your riding instructors. Do you have any other staff? How do you divide up the work to do?
Lola is the club's 2nd instructor. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, she mainly teaches children and teenagers from gallop 0 to gallop 3 or 4. The rest of the week is reserved for adults at all levels.
Lola also helps me feed the horses and takes part in their daily work. L'étrier also wlecomes Aurane, a groom, and Ambre, an apprentice on the CGEH vocational baccalaureate. Internships throughout the year ensure that the team can continue to grow: at the moment, Nathan, Melissa, Clément and Manon are working with us...
You offer lessons for everyone (starting with baby horse from age 3), as well as courses and galops... How long does it take to prepare your riders for the various galops?
We give lessons every day except Sunday, in group or individual classes. For children, lessons start at the age of 3. This is what we call baby pony: discovering the animal, getting to know it, motor skills... For rides, it's from the age of 2!
During the school holidays, we organise courses that allow those who want to discover the pony or the horse to do so, and those who are more used to taking their gallops: 2 weeks of holidays, over half days, days or a week, depending on availability, budget and wishes.
We also offer the chance to celebrate a birthday at L'étrier, and organise themed days for Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc., as well as in-house or official competitions, both on and off site.
And then there are the rides on request, lasting from 30 minutes to 1 or 2 hours. These are aimed at adults and children, at all levels, individually or in groups. They have their own fans!
L'étrier de l'Uzège is the setting for many club, professional and amateur competitions (show jumping, dressage, etc.), in which Margaux Caffarel takes part as a neighbour from the Ecuries du Roc in Aubussargues... How many of your riders, whose horses are boarded, take part in these competitions?
We organise a national amateur and pro show jumping competition over 4 days, five club show jumping competitions over 1 day each, and two club and amateur dressage competitions over 1 day each. Almost 80% of our owners take part in at least one competition per quarter, whether dressage or show jumping. Otherwise, we have a club show jumping competition team (from September to June) and an amateur show jumping team (from March to October) who go out and compete once or twice a month.
You also talk about cross-country... Can you tell us more about this very spectacular activity? Do you take part in the Haras d'Uzès cross-country derby?
We don't compete in CCE (concours complet d'équitation), which includes jumping, dressage and cross-country. But two or three times a year, for 'fun', we like to do a little cross-country training. The horses love it too!
We should be taking part in the derby (a course of fixed or mobile obstacles in a sand arena) on 21 January 24 at Uzès.
What about their endurance competition?
We don't do endurance either. It's a completely different discipline, quite a long way from the 'classic' riding that we teach our students, and requires very specific breeds of horse.
Finally, do you break in new horses? How many weeks/months does it take for this horse to be present at a test?
It's absolutely not our main activity, but we can devote ourselves to it. I have to break in about one horse a year. Depending on the situation, he may join the riding school courses or be sold. It depends on what it was bought for.
Many thanks to Margot Atlan for her collaboration on this article.
The right address: @L'étrier de l'Uzège, Chemin de la Carrière, Route d'Uzès, Vallabrix. Contact: Margot Altan, Tel: 06 71 10 37 37.