Manu is in charge of a rather specific team. Vanilla, Rasta, Ruby, Calinette and Idole horses are his daily colleagues.
Manu, as Horse Manager, what are your main responsibilities?
My main responsibility is to take care of the five horses we work with, from dawn to dusk. They are part of the vineyard team, just like humans. Beyond the maintenance, it is also necessary to train them to work in the vineyards, but also to train the rest of the team to work in collaboration with them.
How many horses work for the vineyard? What are their tasks in the vines throughout the year?
Today we have five horses, which allows us to work on more than half of the Clos. There are always three horses that rotate continuously. After a few weeks of rest, the horses are returned to service at the end of January for the stripping stage. This is a tillage that is carried out over several months using a plow that passes between the vines. The goal is to bring the soil below the vines back to the center of the row. It is a delicate and essential process for the good development of the vine. We try to leave as many good plants in the rows in order to allow the development of organic matter which contributes to the growth of the vines. At the moment, we are in the middle of a scratching phase. The horses pass between the rows with claws to remobilize the earth between the rows and to flatten the ground..
How do you choose your horses?
I select them based on the type of work to be done. This is why we need very different profiles: females, males, fillies, older horses. One of our mares has a very slow pace, so we use her for work as close as possible to the vine such as decavaillonnage. For faster-paced horses, we entrust them with work with the claws for example. This is a very specific ploughing method, using a tool with 5 claws. We do it on a regular basis from February to August, in order to regenerate the soils. We have just taken a young two-year-old filly. We chose her young to allow good development of contact with humans.
How does the vineyard team adapt to the presence of horses in the Clos?
This winter, the entire vineyard team underwent training to learn the basics of horse viticulture. They thus learned how to manage the horses. There was also a whole section on the morphology of the animal. It is important to know the different parts of the body and to master certain language specificities. They all have a Gallop 2 diploma. Since then, it has really changed the dynamism within the team. They are more comfortable and know the horses better and their different characters. They know how to adapt to them in order to move forward productively. It also takes a lot of practice, you don't just learn to put on a harness and adjust it in one day.
What has been your journey so far?
I have always worked with horses. I grew up in the region, in Auxonne precisely. It is a market gardening region and local farmers regularly use horses for certain work. When I arrived at the Château, nobody knew how to master a horse--the team had no knowledge. I gave myself 6 months to teach them everything, from the morphology to the safety positions in relation to the horse. Indeed, you must always warn the animal before touching it. If not warned, he may be surprised and react dangerously.
Can you say something about each horse?
Rasta is truly loyal to her name, a cool horse. She lives in her own world and likes to take her time. As for Rubis, he is quite stubborn. He always does things as he pleases, but he is very gentle. Vanille needs five minutes to adapt. In the morning, she starts very fast, too fast, in the first row before adjusting the pace. Calinette is the cuddly one. In French câlin means cuddle and it’s actually a good fit for her! Finally, the baby one, Idole, demands a lot of attention as well. She is the youngest and she likes to jump everywhere.