Until now I’d associated Cluny with the most powerful monastery in medieval Christendom; a monastery whose abbey church was the greatest in Europe until St Peter’s in Rome got built; a monastery whose Paris pied-a-terre was so big, it now houses the museum of Middle Ages; finally a monastery whose tentacles spread in England via Glastonbury, Lewes and Bermondsey.
Not any more.
Yes, all these things are true, but it’s what you didn’t know that impresses you and the studs were new on me.
As Celine Saillet who works there explained to me, Cluny’s Studding Program was founded by Colbert in 1665 to breed top-notch horses for Louis XIV’s cavalry.
Today there are several such places in France, but Cluny has opened its doors to visitors and offers direct viewing of the stallions as well as offering spectacles on summer Thursdays with the group Equinoctus.
There are three main breeds of Burgundian workhorse, French race horses (selle français) and trotteurs.
All this was good, but, ahem, how do they reproduce?
“Artificially”, said Celine. “We have a false mount and we put a mare in heat in front. A plastic vagina with a semen collector is held underneath by an employee”.
There are jobs and jobs I suppose.
“You can buy our sperm online“, continued Celine.
Then I saw the false mount. “THAT?” I cried. “The stallion thinks THAT is a mare? Are your studs that thick?”
“Horses aren’t that intelligent when it comes to reproducing” replied Celine.
Or are all thoroughbreds descended from the genes of an idiot ancestor?
This is the false mount. You decide.