HomeHorseThe French Trotter: The Versatile Horse Breeds of France

The French Trotter: The Versatile Horse Breeds of France

French Trotter” refers to a specific breed of horse known for its exceptional trotting ability. The French Trotter is a standardbred horse breed that originated in France, primarily developed for harness racing.

The breed’s history can be traced back to the 19th Century when there was a desire to create a horse that could perform well in harness racing competitions. To achieve this, various horse breeds were crossed with the Norfolk Trotter, an English breed known for its trotting prowess. Over time, the French Trotter emerged as a distinct and successful breed for harness racing due to its speed, endurance, and elegant trotting gait.

Origin and History of French Trotter Horse

The French Trotter horse, also known as “Trotteur Français,” has a fascinating origin and history that dates back to the 19th Century. It was specifically bred for harness racing, and its development involved crossing several horse breeds to achieve the desired traits.

The history of the French Trotter can be divided into three main periods:

  • Early Development (19th Century): The development of the French Trotter began in the 19th Century when there was a growing interest in harness racing in France. Farmers and horse breeders sought to create a horse breed that could excel in trotting races, which required speed, endurance, and a smooth, efficient gait.

To achieve this, various breeds were crossed with the native horse stock of France, including Norfolk Trotters (English trotting horses), Norfolk Roadsters, and local mares. The Norfolk Trotter, in particular, played a crucial role in shaping the breed’s foundation due to its excellent trotting ability and speed.

  • Creation of the Stud Book (1864): In 1864, the first French Trotter stud book was established, marking the official recognition of the breed as a distinct and standardized entity. The studbook documented the pedigrees of French Trotters, which helped maintain and improve the breed’s quality through selective breeding.
  • Modernization and Racing Success: Over time, the breed continued to be refined through selective breeding. Breeders focused on improving the horses’ speed, stamina, and gait while maintaining a willing and trainable temperament.

The French Trotter gained significant popularity in harness racing and became known for its exceptional trotting gait. It became the preferred breed for trotting races, including sulky racing, which involves a driver riding in a two-wheeled cart (sulky) pulled by the horse.

The French Trotter’s success in racing competitions and its versatility for various equestrian disciplines further solidified its status as one of the leading trotting horse breeds in the world.

French Trotter Breed

Today, the French Trotter remains a prominent breed in France and has also gained recognition internationally. The breed continues to be prized for its athleticism, endurance, and elegance in harness racing and other equine activities. Efforts to maintain and improve the breed’s qualities through responsible breeding practices and performance testing continue contributing to its success and reputation.

Physical Features of French Trotter

The French Trotter, also known as “Trotteur Français,” is a distinctive horse breed with specific physical features that make it well-suited for harness racing and other equine disciplines. Here are the typical physical characteristics of the French Trotter:

  • Size and Build: French Trotters are generally medium to large-sized horses, with an average height ranging from 15 to 17 hands (60 to 68 inches or 152 to 173 cm) at the withers. They have a well-balanced and sturdy build, contributing to their ability to trot efficiently and with endurance. The body is muscular and well-proportioned, showcasing strength and power.
  • Head: The head of a French Trotter is usually refined and well-shaped, with a straight profile. The eyes are bright and alert, and the ears are medium-sized and pricked, indicating attentiveness.
  • Neck and Mane: The neck is of moderate length, gracefully arched, and well-muscled. The mane is usually medium to long and can be wavy or straight.
  • Legs and Hooves: The legs of a French Trotter are strong, with well-developed muscles, providing stability and power during the trot. The hooves are generally of good quality and well-proportioned, contributing to the horse’s soundness.
  • Gait: The most distinguishing feature of the French Trotter is its exceptional trotting gait. They are bred for their ability to perform a two-beat diagonal gait, where the front and hind legs on opposite sides move together. This smooth and efficient gait allows for high speeds over long distances, making them ideal for harness racing.
  • Temperament: French Trotters are known for their willing temperament and trainable nature. They are typically intelligent, responsive, and cooperative, making them easier to handle and work with.

Physical Features of French Trotters

Height, Weight, and Lifespan of French Trotter

A French Trotter’s height, weight, and lifespan can vary based on individual genetics, care, and other factors. However, I can provide you with general ranges that are typical for this breed:

Height: The average height of a French Trotter typically ranges from 15 to 17 hands at the withers. One hand equals four inches, which translates to approximately 60 to 68 inches or 152 to 173 cm.

Weight: The weight of a French Trotter can vary depending on its size and build, but they generally weigh between 900 to 1,200 pounds (410 to 545 kilograms).

Lifespan: On average, the lifespan of a well-cared-for French Trotter is around 20 to 25 years. Some individuals may live longer with proper nutrition, regular veterinary care, and a healthy lifestyle.

Colors and Markings of French Trotter

French Trotters come in various coat colors and markings, and their appearance can be diverse. The breed’s stud book allows for various colors and patterns, making them visually appealing and unique. Here are some of the standard coat colors and markings found in French Trotters:

Coat Colors:

  • Bay: Bay is a standard coat color that ranges from light reddish-brown to dark mahogany. The mane and tail are usually black.
  • Chestnut/Sorrel: Chestnut horses have a reddish-brown coat with a mane and tail that can be the same color or slightly lighter.
  • Black: Black French Trotters have a uniformly black coat with a black mane and tail.
  • Gray: Gray horses have a coat that becomes progressively lighter as they age. They may be born with darker colors and develop more white hairs over time.
  • Roan: Roan horses have white hairs interspersed with their base color, creating a mottled or speckled appearance.
  • Palomino: Palomino horses have a golden coat with a white or flaxen mane and tail.


  • Star: A star is a small white mark on the horse’s forehead, often in the shape of a star.
  • Stripe: A stripe is a vertical white mark running down the horse’s face, typically between the eyes and the nose.
  • Snip: A snip is a small white mark on the horse’s muzzle.
  • Sock: A sock is a white marking that covers part of the horse’s lower leg, typically from the fetlock to the pastern.
  • Stocking: A stocking is a white marking that covers the entire lower leg, from the hoof to the knee or hock.
  • Blaze: A blaze is a broad white mark on the horse’s face, often extending from the forehead to the muzzle.

Behavior and Temperament of French Trotter Horse

The behavior and temperament of a French Trotter horse are generally known to be positive and well-suited for their intended purpose, which is harness racing. Over the years, breeders have selectively bred French Trotters to possess specific characteristics that make them excellent racehorses. Here are some essential aspects of their behavior and temperament:

  • Willingness and Trainability: French Trotters are known for their willingness to work. They are intelligent horses that tend to pick up on training quickly. This cooperative nature makes them relatively easy to handle and work with, especially when harnessing racing and other equestrian disciplines.
  • Energetic and Spirited: French Trotters are energetic horses with a spirited nature. They have a natural drive to trot, and this enthusiasm for their gait is essential for success in harness racing. This energy also requires proper exercise and training to stimulate them mentally and physically.
  • Endurance and Stamina: French Trotters are bred for trotting long distances at high speeds and possess excellent endurance and stamina. They can maintain their trotting gait over extended periods, making them well-suited for harnessing racing events requiring sustained performance.
  • Even Temperament: French Trotters generally have a calm and even temperament, which is beneficial in high-pressure racing environments and when working closely with trainers and handlers.
  • Social and Bonding: French Trotters can be social animals and often develop strong bonds with their human handlers and other horses. Establishing positive relationships with their caretakers can enhance their overall well-being and performance.
  • Sensitivity: Like many intelligent and high-energy horses, French Trotters can be sensitive to their environment and the cues given by their riders or drivers. When well-managed, this sensitivity can be an asset, as they respond well to subtle cues from experienced riders or drivers.
  • Competitive Spirit: French Trotters often display a competitive spirit, especially during races. They naturally desire to excel and can be driven to perform at their best in a competitive setting.

Food and Nutrition of French Trotter Horse

Like any other horse, the food and nutrition of a French Trotter horse are essential factors in maintaining their health, performance, and overall well-being. Providing a balanced and appropriate feed is crucial to meet their nutritional requirements. Here are some critical considerations for the food and nutrition of French Trotter horses:

  • Forage: Forage, such as good-quality hay or pasture, should form the foundation of a French Trotter’s diet. Horses are natural grazers, and forage provides essential fiber and nutrients for their digestive health.
  • Concentrates: In addition to forage, French Trotters may need concentrates, such as grains and commercial horse feeds, to meet their energy requirements, especially if they have high activity levels due to training and racing. Concentrates should be chosen based on the horse’s age, activity level, and overall health. A balanced feed that provides essential vitamins and minerals is ideal.
  • ProteinProtein is vital for muscle development and repair, making it essential for a horse engaged in high-intensity activities like harness racing. Good protein sources include legumes (alfalfa), soybeans, and commercial feeds formulated for performance horses.
  • Fats and Oils: Fats and oils are excellent sources of concentrated energy and can benefit horses in intense training or racing. Including vegetable oils or stabilized rice bran can help provide additional calories without increasing the feed volume.
  • Electrolytes: Horses in heavy training or competition may lose essential electrolytes through sweat. Providing electrolyte supplements or salt blocks can help replenish these minerals.
  • Fresh Water: Access to clean and fresh water is crucial at all times. Horses can drink significant amounts of water, especially during training or hot weather.
  • Feeding Schedule: Establishing a consistent feeding schedule for French Trotters is essential. Smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day can benefit their digestive health.
  • Avoid OverfeedingOverfeeding can lead to weight gain and related health issues. Monitoring the horse’s body condition and adjusting the feed accordingly is essential to maintain a healthy weight.

Care and Management of French Trotters

Proper care and management are essential to ensure the health, well-being, and performance of French Trotters. Whether they are used for harness racing or other equestrian disciplines, the following guidelines can help provide optimal care for these horses:

  • Stable and Shelter:
    • Provide a well-ventilated and clean stable or shelter to protect the French Trotter from extreme weather conditions.
    • Ensure adequate space for the horse to move comfortably and lie down.
  • Forage and Nutrition:
    • Offer high-quality forage, such as hay or pasture, as the primary source of nutrition.
    • Consult an equine nutritionist or veterinarian to develop a balanced diet that meets the horse’s needs, including appropriate concentrates and supplements.
  • Water:
    • Always provide access to clean and fresh water, ensuring the horse stays hydrated.
  • Exercise and Training:
    • Regular exercise and training are crucial for maintaining the horse’s fitness, health, and performance.
    • Develop a structured training program with warm-up and cool-down routines to prevent injuries.
  • Healthcare:
    • Schedule regular veterinary checkups to monitor the horse’s health and address any medical concerns promptly.
    • Keep up with vaccinations, deworming, dental care, and other preventive health measures.
    • Attend to any injuries or lameness issues promptly.
  • Hoof Care: Regularly trim the hooves and, if necessary, provide shoeing by a qualified farrier to maintain proper hoof health and balance.
  • Grooming: Regular grooming helps clean the horse’s coat and is free of dirt, debris, and tangles. Grooming also allows checking for skin issues, wounds, or other abnormalities.
  • Social Interaction: Horses are social animals, and providing opportunities for social interaction with other horses can contribute to their well-being.
  • Turnout and Exercise: Allow horses ample turnout time in a safe, secure pasture or paddock to move, graze, and interact naturally. Incorporate regular exercise and conditioning routines into their schedule.
  • Handling and Training: Use positive reinforcement-based training techniques to build a trusting and cooperative relationship with the horse. Handle the horse carefully and respectfully to minimize stress and promote good behavior.
  • Clean Environment: Keep the horse’s living environment clean and well-maintained to reduce disease risk and promote good health.
  • Safety Measures: Ensure the horse’s environment is free of hazards and implement safety protocols during handling, riding, or driving.

The Health of French Trotter

The health of French Trotters, like any other horse breed, is of utmost importance to ensure their well-being and performance. Proper care, management, and attention to their health needs are essential to keep them in good condition. Here are some critical aspects of the health of French Trotters:

  • Nutrition: Providing a balanced and appropriate diet is vital for the overall health of French Trotters. They need adequate amounts of forage, such as hay or pasture, as well as concentrates and supplements tailored to their needs. Working with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian can help create a diet plan that meets their specific requirements.
  • Regular Veterinary Care: Regular veterinary checkups are essential to monitor the horse’s health, identify any health issues early on, and administer preventive care, including vaccinations, deworming, dental care, and health screenings.
  • Parasite Control: Regular deworming is crucial to control internal parasites, adversely affecting the horse’s health and performance if left unchecked.
  • Vaccinations: Ensuring that French Trotters receive appropriate vaccinations based on age, location, and use is essential to protect them from common equine diseases.
  • Injury and Illness Management: Promptly address any injuries, illnesses, or lameness issues to prevent further complications and ensure a speedy recovery.
  • Stress Management: Minimize stressors in the horse’s environment and handle them carefully to reduce stress and promote well-being.
  • Breeding and Genetics: Responsible breeding practices can help prevent the transmission of hereditary health conditions and promote the overall health and soundness of the breed. 

Versatile Uses of French Trotters

French Trotters are not only talented harness racing horses but also possess qualities that make them versatile and suitable for various other equestrian disciplines. Here are some of the versatile uses of French Trotters:

  • Harness Racing: French Trotters are primarily known for their prowess in harness racing. They excel in trotting races, pulling a two-wheeled cart called a “sulky” with a driver, demonstrating their speed, endurance, and elegant trotting gait.
  • Riding: While they are primarily bred for harness racing, French Trotters can be trained for riding. They have a willing temperament and can excel in various riding disciplines, including pleasure, trail, and even competitive riding events such as dressage or show jumping.
  • Combined Driving: Given their natural trotting ability and willingness to work in harness, French Trotters can be trained for combined driving competitions. Combined driving involves three phases – dressage, marathon (cross-country obstacle driving), and cones (precision driving). French Trotters’ speed, agility, and obedience make them well-suited for this sport.
  • Pleasure Driving: French Trotters can be great for recreational pleasure driving. They can pull carriages or carts for leisurely drives, providing a smooth and enjoyable experience.
  • Work Horses: In some rural settings, French Trotters are still used as workhorses on farms and for agricultural tasks. Their strength and stamina allow them to perform various farm-related duties.
  • Therapeutic Riding: Some French Trotters can be trained for therapeutic riding programs due to their even temperament and trainability. These programs use horses to provide physical, emotional, and cognitive benefits to individuals with disabilities or special needs.
  • Leisure and Companionship: French Trotters can also serve as wonderful companion animals, offering loyal and affectionate bonds with their owners. They can be kept for leisure and enjoyment without engaging in competitive or intense activities.
  • Crossbreeding: French Trotters can also be used in crossbreeding programs to improve the traits of other horse breeds. Their trotting ability and athleticism can be beneficial when introducing these qualities to other breeds.

The popularity of the French Trotter Breed

The French Trotter breed is relatively popular, particularly in its country of origin, France. It is highly regarded for its trotting ability and is primarily known for its success in harness racing. The breed is strong in harness racing and has earned recognition for its athletic prowess, speed, and endurance in trotting races.

The popularity of French Trotters extends beyond France, with enthusiasts and breeders in other countries also appreciating their qualities. They have been exported to various parts of the world, including North America, where they have gained some following among harness racing enthusiasts.

In addition to their success in harness racing, French Trotters’ versatility and trainability have contributed to their popularity. They can excel in various equestrian disciplines, such as riding, combined driving, and pleasure driving, making them attractive to a broader range of equestrians.

It’s important to note that the popularity of horse breeds can fluctuate over time based on various factors, such as changes in equestrian sports trends, breeding programs, and the emergence of new competitive opportunities. As such, the popularity of the French Trotter breed may continue to evolve beyond my last update.

Final Talk on French Trotters

French Trotters are a remarkable and versatile horse breed that has captivated the equestrian world with their exceptional trotting ability and elegant gait. Originating in France during the 19th Century, they were specifically bred for harness racing, a sport in which they excelled and became highly regarded.

These horses are known for their spirited and energetic nature, making them well-suited for competitive racing events. Their willingness to work and trainability have made them popular choices for harness racing and other equestrian disciplines.

Beyond their success in the racing world, French Trotters display great versatility. They can be trained for riding, combined driving, and pleasure driving and even serve as valuable companions for leisure riders. Their cooperative temperament and adaptability allow them to excel in various roles and make them beloved by horse enthusiasts.

French Trotters are athletic but also elegant and well-built, showcasing a balanced and sturdy conformation. Their coat colors and markings add to their beauty and individuality, making each horse unique.

Proper care and management are essential for the health and well-being of French Trotters. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and a clean and safe environment are crucial for keeping these horses in peak condition.

As with any breed, responsible breeding practices are necessary to maintain the integrity and soundness of the French Trotter breed. Breeding programs aim to enhance their trotting ability, athleticism, and overall qualities while ensuring genetic diversity.

The popularity of the French Trotter breed has extended beyond France, with enthusiasts worldwide recognizing their talents and potential. Whether in the heart of France or across the globe, French Trotters continue to captivate and impress with their grace, speed, and versatility.

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