Col. Christian Carde: My Equestrian Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This former chief rider at the Cadre Noir of Saumur, French national dressage coach and "I" judge reflects on how his life at the barn and in the saddle have changed during the pandemic.

This is a unique and challenging time for everyone around the world. For our equestrian community, COVID-19 has cancelled shows, postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and closed barns, which prevents many of us from riding or even seeing our beloved horses. Perhaps it’s that last bit that hits the hardest. To help all of us get through this scary and unprecedented time, we’ve asked our Dressage Today friends from around the globe to share with us how they’re coping so we can be reminded that we’re all in this together. We’ll hear from friends in Germany, Belgium, Portugal, the United Kingdom and beyond and hope this encourages you to share with the DT family your secrets to getting through this difficult time. We hope everyone is safe and healthy. Much love from all of us at Dressage Today. Click here to find all of the articles within the series so far. In this article, we hear from Col. Christian Carde of France:

Here in France we have been in a strict lockdown since March 17. Nobody is allowed to leave the house or apartment, except for vital things like shopping or going to work, if it cannot be done at home. Police are taking care that the people stick to the lockdown, otherwise a fine of 135 Euro (approximately 150 U.S. dollars) is given. 

Until a few days ago I could still drive to my Oldenburger mare Milady (Mimi) every morning like usual and work her. In the afternoon I returned to the stables to groom her and put her in the horse-walker.

(Photo by Silke Rottermann)

Milady is stabled in the old military stables in the middle of the town of Saumur.

There private horses of military members as well as horses owned by the French army are stabled in a rather big complex with outdoor boxes and quite some space. In normal times there are about 80 horses permanently stabled there.

(Photo by Silke Rottermann)

But at the beginning of the lockdown, the majority of the military-owned horses had already been turned out to fields not far away where they usually spend their summer holidays in August. Just before the lockdown, which was expected, I was still thinking about trailering my 16-year-old mare to a place 20 kilometers outside Saumur where Mimi usually spends her summer holidays all through August and September. But I decided against it. At her age it is better to keep the horse in training as long as possible instead of turning her out as early as possible, but I didn’t expect not being able to ride through the lockdown period. This is presently valid until April 15, 2020.

With the lockdown the French federation has determined that only stable owners are allowed to enter the stables and take care of the horses. Since that order, I cannot take care of Milady anymore and she is exercised by the chief of the facility. She is going in the small fields opposite the stables and being put on the horse-walker.

I do not know for how long this situation will continue, for the people in France in general and my horse, in particular. It is a very strange feeling to be at home just outside Saumur and still not to see Mimi, who is a big part of my daily routine and the joy of my senior years. Since my teenage days, I have ridden every single day, except for my summer vacations, and it feels strange to stay home instead.

We will see how things develop in the near future. It seems this is to become the first time since I have been 14 years of age (and that is a long, long time ago…) that I will not ride a horse for a longer time.

But even though I do miss my riding and my mare, and I hope she comes through this special situation well, I am also aware how important all these restrictions are and how lucky I am as I have a big beautiful property in the countryside with a big garden. It needs a lot of work during this time of the year. Usually the garden always comes a bit short because of Milady, but now I have many additional hours a day to take care of the trees, the flowers and everything else that needs care there. I also use the time to study dressage’s evolution caused by globalization, which is a topic I am very interested in. It also takes my mind off what is happening outside my little world at home.

(Photo by Silke Rottermann)

Click here to read more articles with Col. Christian Carde.

Click here to read more articles about equestrian life during COVID-19.

Col. Christian Carde was born into a horse-loving family in Bordeaux, France. He started competing as a teenager in jumping and three-day eventing before taking a close interest in dressage after joining the prestigious Cadre Noir formation in the 1960s. In the ’70s, Carde, who lives near Saumur, France, was a member of the French dressage team at international championships with his Budjonny gelding, Solitaire. He became the French national coach from 1985 to 1989. From 1991 to 1999 he was the chief rider at the Cadre Noir. Carde is also an FEI judge and conducts regular clinics in Europe and North America.






horse week
The Art of Freestyle Dancing with Horses
The Many Talents of Matt McLaughlin
Unlock Your Riding Potential with Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement®
Keeping Up with Steffen Peters


Carl Hester  Scott Hayes
Dressage Legend Carl Hester Gives U.S. Clinic
Are lumps or swellings under the jaw reason for concern?
Emily Smith and Dublin
An Inside Look at Carl Hester's Training System
An Overview of the Inferior Check Ligament in Horses