Driving 20-in-Hand

Driving 20-in-hand

When competitive driver, Jérôme Voutaz, had his competition season canceled, he decided to create his own challenge — driving a 20-in-hand team of Franches-Montagnes horses, not just over a few meters, but on a 20 km journey. You have to sit back and marvel at the accomplishment. The video below traces his journey through the absolutely gorgeous countryside.

“Actually, driving that 20-horse team wasn’t that difficult. The important thing for me was to really get to know my two wheelers and my two lead horses well. I placed horses in those positions that I really trusted. The first 6-8 leader horses were actually really safe horses! Of those twenty horses, twelve are part of our team at La Ferme des Moulins. For the rest, I called friends, and everyone quickly showed up… but with some horses I didn’t really know. Some of the horses had only ever been hitched to one other horse before and they joined the twenty-horse team without any worries. For example, I had a horse which was born on at La Ferme des Moulins but which we sold at the age of three and which must be seven or eight now, as well as a five-year-old horse that I bought at 3 years old but gave to a friend so that he could work it… so I didn’t know them really at all. These horses, and others that had only been hitched in pairs, were placed at the belly of the team. It’s an expression that a journalist once used, and I think it’s a really good fit.

What was really important with the team that we had was to not cut the corners with my lead horses or it would have been a disaster, and then you had to counter the curve… but that’s when you see how well the carriage horse knows his job! That is also where I tell myself that even though I don’t really know other breeds of horses… I wouldn’t want to harness up any other breed in the world other than the Franches-Montagnes. They’re truly such a willing breed with an incredible mind. For this challenge, we gathered together twenty horses, and lined them all up. For a minute we heard a few neighs, and then it was over! It was as if everyone was concentrating on their work. We started to harness them up and there wasn’t any need to stay at each horses’ head to keep them calm. As soon as we added a pair to the carriage, we moved on to the next without necessarily having to stay at the head of the other horses! They are really incredible,” explains Jérôme Voutaz with passion, even though he doesn’t want to take any of the glory for the craze around the Franches-Montagnes breed which has spread far beyond Swiss borders, largely thanks to his exploits. “I don’t know if I can really consider myself an ambassador for the Franches-Montagnes. I want to defend and promote Swiss values and it’s clear to me that the Franches-Montagnes is one. And of course it’s obviously a source of pride to promote Swiss horses.”

A twenty-horse Franches-Montagnes carriage team for Jérôme Voutaz

My driving experience is limited to hitching up a pony to a cart at camp and ground driving a few horses. This is quite inspirational.

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