Steamed Hay is a Constant Through an Otherwise Topsy-Turvy Time for Equestrian Artist Alizée Froment
A lot has changed for the French rider Alizée Froment in recent years. The classic dressage rider and renowned equestrian artist had her daughter Louise, who is now 3 years old. She moved from the south of France to the Flanders region of Belgium, and she increased her herd of spectacular horses from three to eight.
By Kim Miller | Equestrian Writer
Much has changed for French horsewoman Alizée Froment in the last few years. The classical dressage advocate and renowned equestrian artist had her now 3-year-old daughter, Louise. She moved from the South of France to the Flanders region of Belgium and she increased her herd of spectacular horses from three to eight.
And most of that was before the pandemic that topsy-turvied everybody's life. For Alizée, COVID caused the cancellation of nearly 18 months of exhibitions.
"There were many big adaptations last year," she explains. "New things to take into consideration and, really, a change to my whole life."
Amid all that upheaval, one thing remained rock-solid: "The main thing for me is the happiness and comfort of my horses. That is what we are focusing on improving every day. I am fortunate to have a good team by my side and every day we wake up and try to make things better for the horses."
Classical dressage that emphasizes clear communication, physical suppleness and engagement of heart, body and soul is the foundation of Alizée exhibition work. It's hard, meticulous, patience-requiring work. The result of that work projects as lightness, joy and connection between horse and rider performing as one.
That's not possible if the horses aren't happy and healthy. Along with letting her horses live outdoors as much as possible, Alizée counts Haygain Steamed Hay as important to keeping them in that state of mental and physical well-being.From Unfamiliar to Loyal Fan
She had not heard of Haygain when she was first approached by the U.K.-based company five years ago. Living in the South of France with plentiful supplies of the high-quality alfalfa for which the region is known, Alizée didn't initially see much need for hay steaming. However, her approach to horsemanship involves keeping an open mind to new ideas and technologies.
She remembers that her then-three horses didn't take to steamed hay immediately. On the company's advice, she presented it a second time and that's all it took to get them hooked. Today, "If it's not Haygain hay, they won't take it. They just leave it."
Even hay of good nutritional quality, like that found in French alfalfa, can be loaded with dust, mold, bacteria and other allergens. Alfalfa is nutrient rich because of its deep roots, but the downside is more exposure to microscopic particles that are fine in soil but not for the equine respiratory tract and digestive system. Haygain reduces up to 99% of those particles from forage, which should comprise the majority of most horses' diets.
Alizée's horses have access to hay all day. That's true even for those who spend all or much of their day outside, some of them on grass pastures. "We want them to have hay all the time because, with Haygain, we can control the quality of the hay. I have discussed this so many times with the vets because we are convinced about steamed hay's benefits. It brings all the vitamins and nutrients, while removing some of the sugars and eliminating the dust and all the other things that are in hay."
The horses may not understand steamed hay's benefits, but they understand it tastes good., Alizée's horses often go for the Haygain steamed hay even when lush grass is readily available.Back To Very Busy
Throughout the COVID shutdown, Alizée kept plenty busy training horses and riders. She works with horses of all breeds and riders with a wide range of skills and ambitions. They are all trained as individuals, yet with the common foundation of classical dressage principles. "Even if they want to learn to ride on the rope, 35 minutes of their 45-minute lesson is all classical dressage," Alizée explains.
"Riding on the rope" is one way to describe Alizée's riding style in her exhibitions. Instead of a bridle and bit, she performs with a leather strap around the horse's neck--no bit or bridle. The advanced movements of highest-level international dressage Alizée performed with her CDI5* competition partner, Mistral, are regular elements of her exhibitions, all on the rope, and with several horses.
She is excited about upcoming performances at Euro Cheval in Germany in August, the Horse Event in Holland and the Flanders Expo in late October. "When you are an artist, you create all the time. When you stop creating, the process gets slower and slower. You feel like you are getting empty." Along with the upcoming shows, the improving COVID situation has enabled resumption of work on a movie and other projects. "It feels really good to be starting something again."
Alizée's international dressage partner, Mistral, is the star of the movie. The unique equestrian world Alizée inhabits is the setting. "It is about the link between horse and human. And also about the horse world: the sacrifices, ups and downs, the evolutions," she explains. "We have a lot of movies about horses in a western, ranching or racing context, but not a lot about horses in sport. We hope to show a bit more about this horse world."
Mistral, the now 21-year-old Lusitano stallion, no longer competes but he stays very active. "He retired from shows in 2018 but I keep him fit because not doing so is not an option for him. If I don't train him, he gets really mad at everybody!" His routine is light work-outs that Alizée describes as "yoga," along with hiking and lunging. "I am very happy and proud that he feels so fit and fresh. In his mind, he is still willing to do the shows."
His legacy lives on in his offspring. Sultan is the handsome 15-year-old son who stars in Alizée's liberty performances. Another, the 6-year-old Jericault, is following nicely in his sire's hoof prints and will showcase those attributes for a new owner based in Florida.
As the "new normal" of Alizée's life take shape, she and her horses are grateful for Haygain's ongoing ability to ensure healthy, clean, appetizing hay.