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She Brought Rare “Marble” Breed To North America
Most travelers to France tour art galleries to see marble sculptures, but Lynn Gennrich journeyed there with the sole purpose of learning about “the marble horse of France,” otherwise known as the Boulonnais draft horse. In 2015, after much paperwork, a 4-year-old Boulonnais stallion arrived from France to live on her Rio, Wis. farm. At the same time, a bred Boulonnais mare was shipped to her friend in Deerfield, Wis. They’re likely the first Boulonnais in the U.S. since 1904.
Gennrich became enamored with the breed after seeing a photo in a book, then discovered there are only about 500 of them left in France. Before WW I there were more than 660,000 Boulonnais horses. When Gennrich took her first trip to France she met a 95-year-old French farmer who managed to keep one of his mares by hiding her from the Germans during WW II.
Gennrich and her friend currently have the only 9 Boulonnais in the U.S., with the goal of preserving and bringing attention to the breed.
“They look like a marble statue, with lots of sheen to their coats and a softness to their hair and skin,” Gennrich says. “Their coat glitters like diamonds when you give them a bath. They have an exotic quality to them.”
Related to Percheron draft horses, the Boulonnais tend to be a little shorter, 15.1 to 16.3 hands high, and more square. Though there are black and chestnut Boulonnais, most are white or grey. They have a defined arch in their neck, very thick manes and a gentle disposition.
“The bone in their thighs is substantial, but they move light and look elegant. My farrier says they have a fantastically structured foot with a good amount of heal-to-toe so they are more upright,” she adds. “They’re very sensitive, very athletic, and you can watch them think. They’ll follow you with their eyes.”
Gennrich returned to France 3 more times and purchased 6 more horses including weanlings and stallions. They’re trained to ride and drive. One stallion drew much attention at the Minnesota Horse Expo last spring. A trainer with the Cirque Ma’Ceo, an acrobatic equestrian show, was impressed enough to lease him from Gennrich, and he will appear in shows throughout the country.
Gennrich finds satisfaction in introducing others to the breed, though her Boulonnais venture has been very expensive and challenging. Importing weanling horses, including the costs of required quarantines, cost $15,000 each. For stallions it’s $25,000 to $30,000. With vet care and improvements to her farm, she has substantially more invested in each horse.
But, she says, they bring out a passion in her she has never had before. And she’s seen the horses work their magic on a friend suffering from severe depression.
Besides continuing to make people aware of Boulonnais, she has one big plan for them. “My goal is to have six of them in a Rose Bowl parade,” she says.
For people interested in the breed, she has created the N.A. Boulonnais Association. Also, she has a couple of males for sale.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lynn Gennrich, N4420 Christopher Rd., Rio, Wis. 53960 (ph 763 438-6331; www.naboulonnaisassociation.com; Facebook: North American Boulonnais Association; samsandgsplg@gmail.com).

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2019 - Volume #43, Issue #6