I'm having a bad French day

I have lived in France for what is now the majority of my adult life, and I’ve grown accustomed to the way most things work – or don’t – here. I like living here, and the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. But some days I do find the French reluctance to embrace progress on certain fronts unbelievably frustrating. The French love paper and they love hand-written letters and documents, which means that they have only been dragged kicking and screaming into the Internet age and still insist on certain levels of antiquity. I have just spent most of my afternoon trapped between two of the most antiquated bureaucracies in the country: France Galop and the National Stud.

Every horse in France must have two documents: one is a sort of  passport that has to go wherever the horse goes. It contains identification information, like the horse’s origins, markings and microchip number, plus a vaccination record. The second is called a “carte de matriculation,” or owner’s card, and it is supposed to be on file with the horse’s owner, and signed over to a new owner every time the horse changes hands. Needless to say, horses sometimes change hands a lot, and the owner’s card often does not keep up. So France Galop came up with a new rule that says every horse has to have an owner’s card on file with the National Stud that matches the owner’s name on the race program before the horse can be cleared to run. Fine. Except that the National Stud refuses to send the owner’s card to any owner that doesn’t have a French mailing address. So I have two dilemmas on my hands: One horse was sold and one horse is new in training and needs to run, and both have foreign owners. France Galop says I have to deal with the National Stud, which answers its phone only during the morning on certain days, meaning that even if I did have the time to spend all morning trying to call them, I’m not likely to get through because everyone else in France is trying, too. The other alternative is to fax a hand-written letter explaining all this to the person in charge there. E-mail will not do, apparently. We also need to send a copy of the receipt of sale for the horse along with the letter. Getting on the Internet and seeing that the horse was sold at public auction is not, apparently, good enough. I’m hopeful that I will, eventually, get the paperwork for these two horses sorted out. Meanwhile, I have to go back to my owners and explain to them the French love of paper…

5 Replies to “I'm having a bad French day”

  1. I’m not sure that resistance to change is confined to the French. I recall how awkward things used to be (when I was still breeding horses) with the Jockey Club (better now) and the concurrent difficulties in getting the horse’s papers properly changed when a sale or claim took place. Sometimes it’s the system, sometimes it’s the people in the system. I’m sure you will get it resolved soon though. Bonne chance.

  2. Not all that much easier in the US. To change the ownership of a horse racing at a NYRA track, one has to deliver a hard copy of a bill of sale signed by both the buyer and seller AND notarized for both signatures. It’s true that the auction companies can authenticate the Jockey Club foal papers when horses are sold at auction, but once they get to the track, paper still rules.

  3. Read similar stories about German trainers who either train in France or regularly have starters there. And the French tendency to outrightly ignore foreigners who speak less than perfect French doesn’t help matters, I hear.

  4. Malcer – All true. But that, you see, is my niche market. Since I’m here and I do speak French, I can work for those who want to get the good prize money without having to bother with the language. Since I don’t speak German, unfortunately, I get my clients from England and Ireland. The prize money everywhere in Europe is so bad that owners are starting to flock to France. I suppose this is France Galop’s form of protectionism; they can be dealt with, but it takes years to figure it all out.

  5. hey,
    sorry to here about your annoying dilemma and hope all the new horses have fit into the yard and that Belles back is all right. My exams are coming to an end (thank god) so, most likely to be able to see you soon!!! – surprisingly to me though my moped once again has a problem so, ‘the gloves are off!!!’

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