About the Gardians - Tony Bonanno
Camargue Horses No. 59

About the Gardians

The Gardians are the “keepers” of the Camargue Horse.  "Gardian" is a French word for the "keeper".  There is no "u" in the word.  It is a culture that goes back hundreds of years in this region of France. The Gardian and their herders are responsible for managing the semi-feral herds and ensuring the purity of the breed and the protection of the herds. The breed is protected by French law.

The Gardians and herders are very passionate about their horses. A number of animals are used for their own mounts and also for the increasing tourism business, but the rules still apply.. most are never ridden, most are still semi-feral, and they are born in the wild. Family members often work alongside the Gardian and become equally skilled equestrians and herders.

The Gardian and their “herders” raise the black Camargue cattle and Camargue bulls that are used in the bull rings of Southern France. The Camargue Horse is especially suited for herding the Camargue bulls. The Camargue Horse is tough, quick to turn and stop, sure-footed, and fast, even when working in deep water. And they show little fear of the bulls. The Gardians select their mounts based on these qualities and they are always stallions. Mares are not ridden.

The training and the title “Gardian” is often handed down from father to son, and occasionally to daughter. They've been working with these horses for generations and they are proud of their lifestyle, their culture, and their horses. It is a love affair. It has been that way for hundreds of years ... and it still is today. As one Gardian told me, they and the horse are one. The Gardians’ tack, saddles, stirrups and boots are designed to ensure the rider stays mounted while working with the aggressive bulls.

The Gardians' clothing, their trident tipped staffs, the design of their quaint homes with saddle scabbards and stone fireplaces … all reflect a culture and passion that has changed little since the 16th century.


Powered by SmugMug Log In