Thousands of horse enthusiasts, and their ponies, protest sales tax increase on riding schools

PARIS – Thousands of riding enthusiasts, many atop ponies, are protesting a sales tax increase they say will make riding lessons too expensive and force many schools to close.

In January, France plans to nearly triple the value added tax on riding schools to bring it in line with EU regulations. But the move has angered horse people, who complain that it will erode an important piece of rural culture, already struggling to recruit enough clients in a poor economy.

On Sunday, thousands paraded through Paris along with hundreds of ponies and a few horses, carrying signs criticizing President Francois Hollande, whose proposals to increase several taxes regularly attract such protests.

The riders won the Senate’s backing last week when it voted to leave the rate unchanged for riding schools.