Henson Horses
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About Henson HorsesAbout Henson Horses



Henson (French: Cheval Henson or Cheval de Henson) horses are from the area of the Baie de Somme in Picardy (now part of Hauts-de-France), in north-eastern France. Unlike the majority of French horse breeds, the Henson was created in the late 20th century with the goal to obtain a hardy horse adapted to all forms of equestrian tourism, outdoor riding and leisure.

Near the end of the 1970s, horse riding was oriented towards outdoor recreation for nature-loving families. This promoted pony trekking as well as driving. This trend implied the search for a leisure horse suited in regions such as the Somme, where equestrian tourism became popular in the area of the Baie de Somme.

In 1974, the birth of two foals, half Fjord and half Anglo-Arab, attracted the attention of Lionel Berquin, attendant at the Centre Equestre de Morlay (Morlay Equestrian Centre). He discovered the abilities of these foals. Adopted by the Association des Cavaliers de la Baie de Somme (located in Port-le-Grand), they were named "Henson" a few years later. They combine the dun coat color, the qualities of hardiness and the mental balance of the Fjord horses with the fiery temperament of the Anglo-Arab, and a body adapted to driving and recreation. This crossing brought about heterosis, which resulted in the setting of sought-after qualities; hence the good results of the experiment. The experiment was deemed worth being repeated, so the Fjord was crossed with Trotters and Selle Francais horses, but the Anglo-Arab proved to be the better cross.  

Members of the breed's development project, including Berquin and Bizet, gathered in 1982 to become the Association des Cavaliers de la Baie de Somme. Lionel Berquin co-created the Association of the Henson Horse that same year with Dominique Cocquet, then leader of the "Syndicat Mixte Pour l'Amenagement de la Cote Picarde" (Mixed Union for the Development of the Picardy Coast), to "give life to this crazy bet" which was to create a new breed of horse, promote it and establish it. They gathered all their Fjord cross horses, and bred their mares to the stallions. The goal was to get horses with similar phenotypes, so the genotype would be stable and reproducible, but also to have sufficient first generation animals that were 50/50. From 1984 to 1986, 50/50 Fjord mares were covered by an Anglo stallion, the product was 25% Fjord blood. The morphology and character were interesting but the dun coat colour was lost in more than half of the cases. The same mares produced foals that were 75% Fjord, in order to better establish the coat colour for selection criteria.    

In 1995, they believed the population of first-generation horses was sufficient, the breed studbook was closed to outside horses whose parents were not of the Henson breed. Purebred breeding continued, exclusively on horses of second and following generations.  

Henson horses were recognized as a breed by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Haras Nationaux in July 2003. 

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