Leave it to my fab friend J. to be covering the chicest of chic Parisian (and other European) events. The girl's got game, my darlings. She is so in the fashion know we can only bow down with one of the best lines in movie history, which happens to come from nutty-romp-through-Mike-Meyers'-mind Wayne's World. No, I'm not talking about "monkeys might fly out of my butt." It's the genuflecting "We're not worthy!!"
J. was kind enough to invite me to tag along while with her to the Saut Hermès au Grand Palais, an international level show-jumping competition and a series of events based around the horse held April 2 - 4, 2010, and organized by purveyor of leather luxury Hermès. From Hermès:
Open to the general public, le Saut Hermès au Grand Palais is an event that celebrates the many facets of the horse riding world, with its "Fantaisie équestre" that mix sport, culture and know-how. Over the two days, under the glass roof of the Grand Palais, there will be a succession of events, from the five-star international show-jumping competition, recognized by the International Equestrian Federation and the French Equestrian Federation, to a never-before-seen horse-riding show, exhibitions...
Hermès started out as a maker of harnesses, then saddles and all the equipment needed by riders and horses before they exploded in the entire opulent lifestyle market. So the company has gone back to its roots, though in grand style. What else would one expect?
Hermès saddle (Photo by Beth Arnold)
You may be surprised to find out that the Grand Palais is no stranger to horse shows.
Grand Palais (Photo by Beth Arnold)
From the Saut Hermès website:
From 1901 to 1957 the Grand Palais celebrated equestrian events and held riding and carriage driving competitions, speed classes and carousels. Every spring people thronged through the galleries to admire heavy horses, thoroughbreds and Anglo-Normans.
The Grand Palais certainly felt like "Horse Country" when we arrived with some people sporting plaid country horsey ensembles (picture the matronly Camilla Parker-Bowles), while others were in jeans or dressed to the nines with spike heels. Hermès saddles were displayed, and saddle makers were actually working in a kiosk to show us. Riders warmed up their horses in corrals on each end of the center show course.
It had been a very long time since I'd been to a horse show of any variety. These animals and their riders were the essence of grace.
One of the most handsome horses (Photo by Beth Arnold)
I was entranced with the magnificence of the thoroughbreds as they nimbly leapt over the ever-so-tall fences. Their hooves thundered, and the riders' coat tails flapped in the wind, but they looked light as a feather as they flew through the course.
How do they do it? (Photo by Beth Arnold)
The answer of course is hours and hours of training for horse and rider to master their skills. Charlotte Casirighi attended though I didn't see her.
Awards presentation (Photo by Beth Arnold)
The Saut Hermès went to French couple Pènèlope Leprèvost and Kevin Staut.
Bartabas has chosen to present "An equestrian bonanza" at the Grand Palais with the Académie du spectacle équestre de Versailles (The Versailles Academy of Equestrian Shows), an equestrian ballet troupe that is unique in the world, combining tradition and contemporary creation.
This choreographer and his riders took our collective breath away with a series of dances with riders and horses. First, a man and a woman rode out in an equestrian pas de deux, and next was a white bride with her long white veil cascading behind her. My second to favorite were the 10 medieval maidens who rode their white chargers (see podcast below).
Japanese kite riders (Photo by Beth Arnold)
Ancient Japanese horsemen were next with what I'll call beautiful silk kites flowing behind them. Afterward, lady fencers on gray mounts crossed swords up and down the arena. The final ballet was my favorite, and this was two splendid "wild" herds of riderless horses, manes flowing free, being led by two of the Japanese riders.
Wild Horses (Photo by Beth Arnold)
Their exquisiteness was the soul of the wild horse. The training in this case was to resemble their ancestors who were savage and free.
Wild and free...this is the greatest beauty of all.
A glimpse of le Saut Hermès au Grand Palais by podcast:
A salute to Hermès and the horse!
Beth Arnold lives and writes in Paris. To see more of her work, go to www.betharnold.com.