They've taken to the streets. They've stormed the barricades. And they've done it on horseback.
Horse owners and equestrians in France are up in arms and up in the saddle this month, as they trot through the streets of Paris to protest a proposed massive increase in the national sales tax. The proposal calls for the sales tax to rise from seven to 20 percent in January 2014.
Horse businesses and riding schools say that it will put them out of business. Organizers predict that 2,000 riding establishments will close, that 6,000 people will lose their jobs and that as many as 80,000 horses will be sent to slaughter if the tax rises.
In a country that claims to be the home of two million equestrians and that is preparing to host the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in ten months' time, the threat to the French horse economy may resonate around the world.
The promotional efforts of the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games have painted a vision of France as the home of a keen equestrian culture that is ready and waiting to entertain the world and profit from the WEG crowds' horse-related largesse. Thousands of tourists will visit Normandy for the Games in 2014, and will also certainly be exploring other equestrian-related tourism opportunities throughout the country.
Who hasn't always wanted to ride into the marshes to see the wild horses of France's Camargue region? Who would pass up a chance to tour the iconic French national stud farms? Who wouldn't be planning to visit the horse museum at Chantilly, or ride on horseback along the beaches where the D-Day battles raged?
But will France's economy be flourishing by the fall? Will the horses still be available? Is the increase in tax the answer or the problem?
Meanwhile, Paris is gearing up to welcome even more horses as the annual Salon du Cheval horse exhibition prepares to open next week in the City of Lights. The always-colorful event will be a marketing platform for the World Equestrian Games and French horse tourism, and the tax threat will surely be the leading topic of discussion.
Often the birthplace of things dramatic and artistic in the horse world, France has premiered a spectacular crowd-pleasing dressage event: a "carrousel?mixte" between Parisian Republicaine Garde police riders and motorcyclists.
Seeing that video makes one understand that Ingrid Bergman may have had many things on her mind that night when she whispered to Rick, "We'll always have Paris..."
May the horse world always have Paris, too, and everything it adds to horse culture and sport. Let them eat hay! Allons ??WEG!
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