Unlike most countries, where the majority of the horses used for jump racing are thoroughbreds, many of the horses in French jump racing are AQPS (Autre Que Pur-Sang) a breed of horse now known as “French Chasers” developed in France by crossing thoroughbreds with other breeds. These horses have competed and won the Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Pardubice.
AQPS (“Autre Que Pur-Sang”), translating as “Other than Thoroughbred”, is a general term used in France to refer to horses not listed as Thoroughbreds but destined to race.
AQPS horses are often a mix of various breeds and can have diverse ancestries depending on the individual horse such as:
1. Selle Français: The Selle Français breed, known for its athleticism and versatility, is often crossed with Thoroughbreds to create Autre Que Pur-Sang horses with enhanced jumping ability.
2. Anglo-Arabian: Crosses between Thoroughbreds and Arabian horses result in Anglo-Arabians, which are occasionally used in Autre Que Pur-Sang lines to introduce endurance, agility, and refinement.
3. Warmbloods: Autre Que Pur-Sang horses may have crosses with various Warmblood breeds, such as Dutch Warmblood, Hanoverian, or Belgian Warmblood, to combine the athleticism, strength, and jumping ability of these breeds with Thoroughbred blood.
4. Irish Draught: In some cases, Irish Draught horses, known for their strength, soundness, and jumping talent, can be part of the lineage of Autre Que Pur-Sang horses.
In France, horses race over jumps in 2 types of races: Steeplechases and “courses de haies” (hurdle races).
In French steeplechase races, horses navigate a course that includes a series of formidable obstacles and jumps. These obstacles can include traditional fences, hedges, ditches, banks, gallops through water, stone walls, or a combination of these elements, and large fences called bullfinches, large hedges up to 8 ft (2.4 m) tall that horses have to jump through rather than over. Races vary in length, typically ranging from 3,000 meters (approx. 1.86 miles) to 6,000 meters (approx. 3.73 miles). The tracks often include both flat stretches and undulating terrain, adding to the challenge for the horses. Races are designed to test bravery, agility, stamina and jumping technique.
“Courses de haies” run over a series of hurdles placed along the track. Hurdles tend to be lower and less solid than fences used in steeplechase races, and made of lightweight materials such as brush, plastic, or synthetic materials. Hurdle races range in distance from 2,000 meters (approx. 1.24 miles) to 4,000 meters (approx. 2.49 miles). These races test speed, stamina, agility, and jumping ability.
Both types of races feature highly skilled jockeys who navigate their horses around the course, strategically timing their jumps, while calculating how get the best out of their horse and finish in the lead.
No matter what country you’re in, Massage is an important part of any racehorse’s (and jockey’s) muscle care routine. The micro tears and trigger points caused by exercise and building muscles heal faster, stronger and with a healthier range of motion when a horse receives regular massage sessions.