April 24, 2018
Building a Life Together -- You and Your Horse
Review by Nancy Brannon
On the surface, the book appears to be a self-aggrandizing, over romanticized portrait of the two stars of the equine Cirque du Soleil-type fantasy show, Cavalia: Magali Delgado and Frédéric Pignon. But the essence of the book is to present a philosophy, a model for building a relationship with horses that goes far beyond the mechanical to a heart-to-heart encounter built on trust, empathy, and understanding. The fabulous photos by Gabrielle Boiselle enhance the “mystical” element of the book’s focus.
All four contributors to the book share a basic love for horses and the desire to make the language of horses more understandable. In addition to Delgado, Pignon, and photographer Boiselle, Agnès Galletier is a French journalist who covers every aspect of horses. The introductory pages tell the story of how each of the contributors met each other and the impact they have had on each other’s lives. Both Delgado and Pignon grew up with horses, so they have a lifetime of practical experience and learning that they bring to each other and to their horses.
This book demonstrates a real life case study of the horse-human heart relationship that Leigh Ballard writes about in this month’s Horse Health Care section (p. 8). A caption for a photograph early in the book reads: “Frédéric listens to Templado’s (horse) breathing, becomes aware of the horse’s heartbeat against his own chest and the pulse through his fingers…”
Chapter One begins with descriptions of Frédéric’s and Magali’s first encounters with horses, using the particular case of a newborn foal: meeting the horse on his level, becoming accepted into the herd, all the basic aspects of getting to know a horse for the first time. Speaking of his childhood experiences with horses, Frédéric says: “We thought of horses as embodying all that was beautiful, sensitive, and harmonious.” As Frédéric gently strokes the mare, her new foal watches attentively and sees that his mother does not mind being stroked by this two-legged creature. Then the foal moves closer to be part of this encounter. “I always use the same approach with the foals in the stud: I wait for them to seek me out,” Frédéric explains.
Throughout the book there are pages devoted to keywords in their philosophy: Intuition, Trust, Peace, Communication, Openness, Rigor, Risk Taking, Abandonment, Sense, Talent. “When it comes to horses, intuition is vitally important – learn to trust your instinct ‘because our intellect and experience do not always supply the answers.’” Trust: “Trust is central to the relationship; you must always be aware that the horse is a living creature that can have an unexpected reaction…Even in the closest friendships you never know the other totally. With horses, I would suggest that you seek out new adventures and experiences…”
Chapter Five brings to conclusion the process of learning, teaching, training that Frédéric and Magali have related in the preceding chapters. “When two thousand people are aware of the positive energy and tenderness of our horses who come freely and calmly toward us in order to be stroked, then I can talk about the incredible resonating spirit that clothes the world,” Frédéric writes. “[Horses] have been my constant companions in my efforts to improve the way I communicate and to sharpen my reactions. I have always been intrigued by the calmness that radiates from Tibetan monks; I feel I have discovered the same secret through my life with horse.”
For me, the best part of the book, and respect for the couple’s approach to horses, came last: in words from Linda Tellington-Jones – how she came to an understanding between two species at a deep level. She calls it PIC: Profound Interspecies Connections. “It seemed to me that the accepted methods of achieving domination by endless repetition had the effect of desensitizing the horse. Sadly it is the most common approach to horse training. My vision was to establish a loving relationship that would bring as much joy to the horse as to the rider,” Linda writes.
She sees Frédéric’s and Magali’s connections to the horse as the epitome of PIC: “His connection with the horse was so tangible that the two seemed to be one,” she writes. Linda has taught the couple her TTouch methods, which enhance and fortify their relationships with their horses. Linda writes that she avoided using the word “love” to describe the foundation of Frédéric’s work, “but when I see Frédéric telling people that a successful relationship with a horse has to be based on love, I can find no other word that will suffice.”
If I were a horse in domestication by humans, Frédéric and Magali and Linda Tellington-Jones are the types of people in whose employ I would choose to be.
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