The Merens is a little horse saddle, show jumping, aerobatics and teamwork recognizable by its very black and shiny dress. He is French and comes from the Ariège valley in the Pyrenees, northern Spain and Andorra. It is commonly called the Mérens, Mérengais or Ariégeois pony. Here is everything you need to know about this magnificent horse.
The origins of Mérens
The Mérens has very ancient origins since we find representations of it 13,000 years ago, but it is more than 60,000 years old. It comes from the Foix region and has helped for centuries the Ariège peasants in the work of agriculture. In the middle of the 20th century, he almost disappeared, but he was saved by a Monsieur Lafont from Sentenac and the hippie communities who relaunched his breeding in the 1970s. Currently, he is traditionally raised in the village of Merens-les-Vals to whom it owes its name in semi-freedom thanks to its rustic appearance or exported to the Netherlands and the island of Reunion.
Aspect of Mérens
Le Mérens is a small rustic horse suitable for the mountain. Originally, the Mérens was a light draft horse, but as it is sporty and elegant (ranked among the 23 most beautiful horse breeds in the world by Cheval Pratique), it is used more for recreational riding.
The size and weight of the Mérens
The current size of the Mérens at the withers is 1.45 m to 1.55 m. Its weight ranges from 400 kg to 500 kg. The ideal sizes desired for the breed are 1.45m for females and 1.49m for males. If the Mérens is 1.47 m at the withers, it is then considered as a pony in equestrian competitions.
The general appearance of Mérens
The Mérens is a horse entered in the Stud-book in 1948. The criteria have changed several times, but he must have a energetic general appearance, a solid, dense and robust musculature giving it a natural nobility.
The head of Mérens is very distinguished and expressive. The forehead is broad and flat. The ears are short and very hairy on the inside. The eyes have a lively and gentle expression. The profile is straight. A black beard grows on his cheeks and a star can be allowed while the balzane is rejected.
The neckline, although short and wide, is of medium length in the modern Mérens while it is straight and solid in the Mérens of the old type. The shoulders are sloping, but often straight and the withers marked wide and not very raised like mountain horses.
Back and hindquarters
The back is shorter in the modern Mérens than in the rustic Mérens which has it stronger and longer. Its sides are down and full and the loins broad and muscular. Its often double rump supports a rather low set tail.
The limbs and the horsehair
The limbs are strong with well defined joints and muscular forearms. The feet are wide and of a good size. They are equipped with a solid black horn allowing the Mérens to be able to work without irons. The hair is very long and thick and sometimes wavy. The single mane can also be double. The tail is very thick.
The Mérens dress
The dress of the Mérens horse is very recognizable, because it is composed of very shiny and fine bristles. She is black zain. This color is the only one allowed for this breed, but may have ribbons or small lighter spots on the flanks. Depending on the season, the dress may change color and may be a little red in winter. Foals are born with a temporary café-au-lait or silver-gray coat. Note that only about 10% of Mérens are heterozygous and carry a recessive allele of alezan. Thus, a foal can be born chestnut.
This horse is very docile and calm. He can work for a long time because he is hard at work. His character is excellent, but sustained. Le Mérens lives in the open air without suffering from bad weather and requires very little maintenance. It still tolerates cold better than heat. His foals are born in the snow.
This rustic horse enjoys a excellent health. It is only fragile in the intestines and can be prone to colic, summer dermatitis or even mud scabies. It is therefore advisable to monitor him and have him do a regular veterinary check. When the weather is hot, it should be protected from the sun by providing shelter even if it lives in pasture.
To acquire a Mérens, it takes between € 1,000 and € 5,000 on average. There are farms in the Pyrenees, but also everywhere in France. It is also found in Italy, Germany and Switzerland among other countries.