The French Trotter is a trotting horse breed developed for racing in Normandy, France. These horses are also known as Norman Trotters and Anglo-Norman Trotters.

While closely related to Standardbreds, French Trotters do not pace. They are bred specifically for a fast trot. Most French Trotters race in harness, but the breed sometimes competes in under-saddle trotting races.

French Trotters can also excel in careers beyond the race track. Although rare in North America, the breed is a popular recreational mount in France. While these horses can stay healthy over long careers with quality care, they have a high incidence of developmental diseases.

This breed profile will discuss the history, characteristics, health problems, and nutritional needs of the French Trotter breed. Keep reading to learn more about feeding and caring for French Trotter horses.

French Trotter History

The French Trotter rose in popularity alongside the growth of harness racing in 19th century Europe. Several breeds influenced the French Trotter’s development. But today, only French-bred horses are eligible for registration, with limited exceptions.

Origin

Selective breeding for purpose-bred trotting racehorses began over half a century after the first organized trotting races were held in France in 1806. Early races in Normandy primarily featured local breeds, including Norman Cobs. [1]

Breeders crossed local breeds with imported Hackneys, Norfolk Trotters, Cleveland Bays, Thoroughbreds, and Yorkshire Coach Horses to improve racing performance. These crosses produced athletic horses with greater stamina and trotting ability. [2]

American Standardbreds significantly influenced the later development of the modern French Trotter. Most French Trotters descend from trotting Standardbreds and don’t display the lateral pace gait found in their American relatives.

Historic Use

Horses competed under saddle in the first trotting races at Champ de Mars. Today, most French Trotters compete in harness races while pulling sulkies. But regardless of their division, all French Trotters only race at the trot. [2]

French citizens in the early 19th  century often used the same horses for racing that they relied on for daily transportation. Many of the ancestors of French Trotters worked as carriage horses and needed excellent endurance to participate in recreational races.

When these races gained popularity, breeding shifted to prioritize speed and racing ability. Trotting speed was the primary breeding objective for early French Trotter breeders. Horses had to beat performance standards to meet registration eligibility requirements. [1]

Breed Registry

The first French Trotter studbook began in 1906 in France, and French Trotters became an officially recognized breed in 1922. Registration closed to horses bred outside of France in 1937, but the registry occasionally accepts horses with Standardbred blood.

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Breed Characteristics

French Trotters don’t have an official breed standard. While these horses are bred exclusively for trotting ability, most French Trotters share similar characteristics.

These characteristics allow French Trotters to move on to successful second careers after they retire from racing.

Conformation

Most French Trotters stand between 15.1 and 16.2 hands. These horses are generally medium-sized with light types and compact conformations. However, they should still have good bone and strong muscles.

Their conformation resembles the American Standardbred. They have sloped shoulders, long limbs, and powerful hindquarters for long, fast trotting strides. Other conformation traits include a deep chest, strong neck, and straight facial profile.