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Selle Francais Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Belgian Warmblood Breeding Association BWP/NAD

Native Country

Other Names
Cheval de Selle Francais

Adult Height
15.2 - 17h

Adult Weight

General Description

Due to its diversified origins conformation can vary. The Selle Fran ais generally has a neat, attractive head, set on to a long neck. The shoulders are usually sloping, the chest is deep and the body is long and muscular. They stand between. Chestnut is most common, but can be any color.

The Selle Fran ais today continues to be an amagalmation of breeds, with 33 percent from Thoroughbred sires, 20 percent by Anglo-Arab, two percent by French Trotters and 45 percent by Selle Fran ais stallions.


The French have had a long and admired history of horse breeding. Through one of their intensive breeding program has emerged one of the finest sport horses today, the Selle Fran ais or French Saddle Horse. Like all warmbloods the Selle Fran ais is a mix of breeds yet what sets it apart is the influence of crosses with trotting breeds.

The breed was developed in the area around the government stud farms of Saint L and Le Pin in the French department of Normandy. During the nineteenth century, Norman breeders imported English Thoroughbreds and Norfolk Trotters to cross with their native stock. These crosses resulted in two types of horse: the French Trotter, a fast harness horse and the Anglo-Norman, with both a saddle and draft type. The saddle type of the Anglo-Norman would be the prototype for the modern Selle Fran ais.

The Anglo-Norman horse is the most recognized foundation stock for the Selle Fran ais. However, many of the local French breeds which were bred as saddle horses like the Vendeen, Charollais, Limousin, Corlais, Angevin, Angonin and Charentais played an important role in the breeds development.

Following World War II, the French began to emphasize the production of a riding horse possessing speed, stamina, and ability. As the Anglo-Norman began to be crossed with the regional breeds the resulting stock began to resemble each other more and more. Because of this growing similarity among the regional breeds they were merged together under one name, "le cheval de Selle Fran ais," meaning the French Saddle horse in 1958.


Since then the Selle Francais has become the epitome of what a sport horse should be, athletic, strong with good conformation and an intelligent and tractable disposition.


The Selle Français is a French sport horse, now recognized internationally as a top breed for show jumping and three-day eventing. Selection criteria for breeding stock focuses on their jumping abilities. Show jumping is a technical sport, calling for lively and responsive yet powerful horses. Horses with more Thoroughbred blood in them have also been very competitive in three-day eventing, where speed and stamina are needed to be successful in all three portions (dressage, three-day eventing and show jumping) of the event. Thanks to these qualities, the Selle Français is seen on international show jumping and three-day eventing teams, both in France and elsewhere. In dressage, the Selle Français has gradually improved, but has faced stiff competition from northern European breeds, which often have more active gaits. In addition, many French breeders guide their horses to the more popular and profitable sport of show jumping, which sometimes deprives the dressage system of good horses. The World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) ranks warmblood stud books based on their success in eventing, show jumping and dressage. In 2013, the ANSF was ranked as the 3rd best show jumping stud book in the world, topped only by the Dutch Warmblood and Belgian Warmblood breeds, and a Selle Français horse was ranked first in the world. The stud book was ranked at 6th in the world in eventing, with the top horse placed at 25th. The ANSF was ranked 19th in dressage, beaten by many of the more popular dressage breeds, including Dutch Warmbloods, Hanoverians and Westphalians.

The Institut français du cheval et de l'équitation (French Institute of Horse Riding), the École nationale d'équitation (National Riding School) and the Cadre Noir all use mainly Selle Français. Young horses are selected according to their skills and are trained by students within the schools. Horses representing the Cadre Noir are selected at the age of three and are trained according to their abilities, with some reaching the highest levels of haute ecole dressage. Selle Français are also used for combined driving, equestrian vaulting and competitive trail riding, and have competed at the international level in all three sports.

Selle Français are also used for the production of race horses in France. By crossbreeding them with Thoroughbred and Anglo-Arabians, horses are produced which are competitive in steeplechase (racing over obstacles). These horses are generally registered as AQPS (meaning "other than Thoroughbred") in France. The AQPS studbook in France was created in 2005; before this, some successful French racehorses, especially those raced in steeplechase races, were registered as Selle Français.


Due to the nature of different breeds involved there is no specific health information available.

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