Jean-Francois Pignon’s free roaming horses

 

Gazelle was the beginning of it all ?

 

Excatly, I became very interested in horses when I had her, contrary to football where everyone was measuring one another and I needed to prove myself to my friends on the field. With Gazelle I could be very tired and I wasn’t judged by her in any way, she made me feel really good.

 

Later, when I found faith in God it completely changed my life. He made me understand that loving horses is a good thing but you must not forget to love the humans, too.

When I made the Gazelle film it was sparked by my love for people. I wanted to  give them the same message that had changed my life. What made me change as a human was not the horses but God himself.

 

So you’re very religious ?

 

No, not religious, certainly not. Because religions are the source of many wars and it’s not very playful. One of the most important phrases in the Bible is to love your neighbour as you love yourself. Religions make war and they often make mistakes. I believe too much in God to be religious. I really want to love my neighbour, even if he doesn’t think like I do. If theres a lack of respect I will retreat, and the same goes for the horses.

The horses that don’t respect me don’t have the right to come next to me. I always put them a little bit behind the others. My goal is to be in harmony with horses and the people.

 

How long does it take to train the horses? Do you try with several and then it only works with some of them ?

 

It works with all horses which is extraordinary. Here, I have 12 horses, the foals who arrive, the mares, it works with all of them. When I make clinics, I work with all sorts of horses and different races. It’s like if you you ask me; did God make us dominant over all the horses? The answer is yes, and you must try to find the right environment to be in harmony with the horse.

 

How long does it take ?

 

To make a horse take interest in me and follow me by itself, it usually takes one hour. I have a foal who began to play with me and I had to work with it about a week.

 

Do the horses have to be young ?

 

Oh, no, it’s like if you ask me if speaking English works better with a young person than an older one. It is the same (as they already know the language).

 

You travel a lot with your horses – how does that affect them?

 

When they’re in a herd in the truck they travel well. They have something to eat and drink and all is well. I travel between 25 – 50,000 kilometers a year with them, maybe 30 days a year.

When I’m home they’re on the field, the stallion with the mares.

 

“My dad taught me one thing which is very interesting and important – that the animal must respect you. I find that is the base.”

 

I hope I give them the liberty they need. They’re never in boxes, always outside. Only during the shows when we travel they have boxes. Some even prefer going inside a box than staying in the aisles where they’re free to move. For the horse it is important to avoid any predators so the box gives that protection.

 

How many horses do you have ?

 

I have 12 that go in my show and each year I make two foals. That allows me to change the herd and let the older ones retire. I never put any of the young males with their fathers to avoid rivalry.

 

What is the biggest challenge in your show ?

 

Basically, it is about entertaining the audience. The most challenging thing is perhaps when I announce the three sisters and they come into the ring, but so far I haven’t had any faults from them, I’m blessed with them.

I don’t have any favorites just as with my two children. My son prefers motorbikes, my daughter is very interested in the horses. My dad knew the last horses that worked in agriculture. He taught me one thing that is very interesting and important; that the animal must respect you.

I find that is the base. He did not have the technique to work with the free roaming horses but he gave me the liberty to experiment with this.

 

What do you think about the way the equestrian scene has developed ?

 

The horse adapts very well to all changes. There are many methods and you need everything to make the world. The Bible has taught me about tolerance and love, and everyone has their own ways, if it is jumping bars or racing a horse. I like what others do, too, and  I don’t want them to do the same as I.

 

How do you get new ideas to  innovate your shows ?

 

Well, it’s funny; my inspiration comes when I clean out boxes when we’re on the road. It’s a manual work that I dont have to think about and my ideas come at that moment and, of course, also when I pray. Whereever I go – Austria, Qatar, Oman – the language of the horse is universal. We entertain people and I’m also enjoying myself.

 

Do you ever use tack when you ride at home ?

 

No, the horses are nude. I’m dressed. I like it, when I ride a horse without a saddle. I feel him against me, his warmth – we become one more easily.

 

 

A work of art

 

J-F Pignon’s book, ‘Un Chemin vers la liberté’ has been published  in several languages including English.

 

J-F Pignon on the beach with his herd  :

 

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