The good natured Selle Francais is known for its dog-like desire to please its owner!

The Selle Francais, pronounced “Sell-fron-SAY,” is an important French saddle horse, whose history is long and complex. It is a product of the mixture of several diverse breeds. These include early outcrossings of the heavy Norman Warhorse in the 1700’s with later infusions of equine blood from Egypt, Austria, and Asia at the beginning of the 1800’s, to finally the addition of Norfolk Trotter blood in the mid 1800’s. It has a mixture of calvary horse, saddle horse, and a fine carriage horse in its making. Named a breed in 1958, the first stud book for the Selle Francais was published in 1965.

Today this breed is used primarily for jumping. A powerful mover, the Selle Francais is fast, bold, and very trainable. It is a formidable contender in international competition at show jumping. It also does equally well in the cross country field as well as making a good quality dressage horse. Good natured and trainable, this horse is an excellent mount for amateur riders looking to further their education in the equestrian arts.

The Selle Francais are known for their amiable personality. They make good amateur mounts for just about any discipline, from western trail horse to endurance. Their patience and kindness also makes them a good lesson horse for adults and children alike.

Scientific Classification


    Horse Breeds

    The Selle Francais are a light horse breed. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
    Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or ‘other’. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the ‘other’ classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. In some cases the ‘other’ types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
    The horse class the Selle Francais primarily fits into is the ‘hunter’ type class as it is strong in show jumping, in the cross country field, and also has talent for dressage and three day eventing.

    selle francais horse
    Image Credit: Thierry de Villeroche, Shutterstock

    Horse Backgrounds

    France has been producing excellent riding horses as far back as the first century. In 1066 many of its great Norman warhorses aided William the Conqueror in his invasion of England. Outcrosses of the heavy Norman warhorses became common, and by the late 1700’s, they became known as the Anglo-Norman. There were two main types Anglo Normans. There were the ones used for work in harness which resembled draft horses, and a lighter type used for work under saddle, the “French Saddle Horse”. These lighter types were also often used for racing.
    In 1771 the world famous Saumur cavalry school opened its doors. Horses were breed to fill the growing need for a superior Cavalry force. The Napoleonic wars brought fresh equine blood from Egypt, Austria, and Asia to intermingle with the French horses. Finally, in 1836 the Ministry of Agriculture was instituted to become the governing body of the French breeders, with the responsibility to oversee the development of the breed. Norfolk Trotter blood was introduced, and this carriage horse influence is still seen today in many Selle Francais.
    After World War II, the need for military horses diminished, the breeding of work horses was replaced with a tendency toward breeding sporthorses for pleasure and competition. The Selle Francais was named a breed in 1958, with its first stud book published in 1965. In 2005 there were 30 stallions in North America that were approved by the North American Selle Francais Association.
    Sadly, the North American Selle Francais association announced in March 2008 that “the American arm of the French Selle Francais organization is shutting down, effective immediately…”. The Belgian Warmblood Breeding Association – North American District (BWP-NAD) has generously agreed to absorb NASFA’s Life Members by “grandfathering them into the BWP-NAD membership” and Selle Francais registered horses may be presented to the BWP-NAD for approval.”


    The Selle Francais generally stand between 16 and 17.2hh (hands high). Their scale of confirmation is similar to that of the Thoroughbred, however with more bone and a somewhat heavier build. Many of these horses have a large head with a somewhat convex profile. They stand with a square frame, and have powerful hindquarters for jumping. Any solid color is allowable. Chestnut is the most common color; however bay, roan and gray are also seen regularly.

    Horse Care and Feeding

    This breed is a fairly easy keeper, so overfeeding should be avoided. They do well on alfalfa and grass hay, with grain and mineral supplements as needed. They are outgoing and social, and love to be allowed to interact with other horses; and do well in a stall with adequate exercise, or in a pasture setting.

    close up Selle Francais Horse
    Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

    Horse Training and Activities

    Bred primarily for jumping, the Selle Francais does equally well in the show jumping arena or in the cross country field. They also make good quality dressage horses. Known for their amiable personality, they make good amateur mounts for just about any discipline, from western trail horse to endurance. Their patience and kindness make them a good lesson horse for adults and children alike.
    A Selle Francais by the name of Baloubet du Rouet was the only three time winner of the world cup in show jumping, in 1998, 1999, and 2000. His sire, Galoubet A was foaled in 1972, and was champion French 5-year-old and champion of France in 1979. He finished either first or second in 19 international Grand Prix show jumping events, and was on the French World Cup winning team in 1982 at Dublin. In 2002 the French won the individual gold and the team silver in three day eventing on their native horses.

    Common Health Problems

    The Selle Francais is generally an easy to care for breed, with little inclination for unsoundness or health problems. The mixed ancestry seems to make it somewhat hardier than that of many other European warmblood breeds, but the usual precautions should be taken to avoid laminitis and colic.
    The Selle Francais tends to be exceedingly sound, which understandably makes for excellent jumping prospects. Care should be used to avoid exploiting their hardiness. Jumping over three feet in height should be done with leg protection to guard against splints, as well as tendon and suspensory injuries.
    They are fairly slow to mature, and will grow well into their fifth year.


    There are many excellent Selle Francais crosses available in both North America and Europe. An internet search for Selle Francais will bring up many sale prospects, with varying price ranges based on age and training.



    Featured Image Credit: Sarah Barry, Shutterstock