For a few years now, I have organised a unique annual trip to the south of France for a small group, to learn from two outstanding horse people, Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado. It’s an experience that awakens the senses, a journey of discovery where we realise the extraordinary things you can achieve with horses when you approach them a different way.
As co-creators of the global horse show Cavalia, Frédéric and Magali performed with their horses to very large audiences, and the way they could communicate with them and give them freedom would leave the audience amazed. When I read Frédéric and Magali’s book Gallop to Freedom, I realised that they were working to intrinsically motivate their horses, and this embodies our philosophy of horse attunement at Ribbleton.
For us, attunement means working in harmony and inspiring responsiveness within our horses by motivating them from within.
Most training approaches work on extrinsic motivation, both positive and negative. Positive examples might be using praise or treats. Negative examples are using pressure and then release when you get what you want or punishment.
We’ve found that intrinsically motivated horses are waiting for you day after day, eager to be trained. These horses find pleasure in the learning challenge that you present. When you watch Frédéric approach the stables of his stallions, you can see them just about jumping over the door to be with him. These horses are excited to learn and when they are in training they are proud in their bodies.
When I am in France, I am amongst some of the most highly trained horses in the world – and yet there is a simplicity to everything that makes you realise that this type of relationship really is possible.
This year, we were lucky to be able to immerse ourselves in the world of Frédéric and Magali’s new show EQI Cheval Libre (EQI Free Horse).
For me, this trip took my appreciation of the importance of the energy that you emit both to your horses and the people around you to another level. The show is extraordinary. The quality of the dressage is first class, which is not surprising given Magali has ridden and won Grand Prix tests in Europe. The performances are not over-rehearsed. The horses are fresh and their acts are dynamic. The musicians are ready to amend the energy levels of the music so that they are working with the horses. It’s incredible; it really is art being created in front of us!
On one of the evenings we were part of the back stage of EQI. As you can imagine, there was great excitement back stage, as performers both two and four legged get ready for their acts. What was surprising was how happy and calm everyone was. People were laughing, joking and smiling. The horses were excited, some piaffing on the spot with no one correcting them or telling them to “stand up”. They didn’t seem stressed at all.
At one point, when Magali rode off the stage in a formal collected trot, she was to do a circle out the back and then ride back onto the stage to finish her act. She saw us off to the side and as she came past us she gave us a huge “woo hoo”, throwing her arms in the air. Her horse did a couple of big leaps of joy and she laughed out loud, a huge grin on her face. She then quietly collected her horse and re-entered the stage. Just imagine being able to live so beautifully in the present that each and every moment is new and savoured.
Their energy is grounded, light and joyous. It is compelling; you want to live your life embracing this energy. Magali talks about “following the direction of the horse”. This is her way of being with horses – not fighting with them, not forcing horses to comply with our wishes. Whether you are working on the ground or riding on their backs, this approach lets you keep this lightness, even if training high school dressage or complicated liberty acts with multiple horses.
In August 2015 we will travel to France again – and you could join us. Watch, learn and experience in-hand, liberty and riding lessons with Frédéric and Magali and their amazing horses.
“Frédéric, Magali and Paulette are unique teachers who share a common philosophy,” says Jennifer Turecek, who joined us in 2014. “They are as gentle and nurturing towards the people that come here to learn with them as they are with their horses. And they are just as genuine and generous with their time. On this trip they share their wisdom, their table, their horses and their world. The learning is effortless and exhilarating – all that is required of you is a readiness to open your eyes and your mind, to contemplate, absorb and enjoy, and feel the realisations and understandings sweep through you.”
As you travel through life, you come across just a handful of people who have a really positive impact on your life. Frédéric and Magali are two of these people. The sense of peace and yet excitement you feel to be with and learn for these remarkable horse people will stay with you for your lifetime.
Combine this with a gastronomy indulgence – many meals are shared with Frédéric and Magali at the Delgado breeding farm, and we stay in a beautiful hotel in the heart square of Avignon, across from a 12th century Cathédrale. You’ll even have time to explore the countryside and shop! Yes, it’s an experience of a lifetime.
This is a way of being with horses that will bring you fulfilment every day you are with your horse. And we can only take six people on this trip. Be part of a spectacular experience, and discover the joy of EQI Cheval Libre over seven days/six nights in August 2015.
If you would like to learn more, please email Paulette Evans from Ribbleton at email@example.com or follow this link to register your interest and watch the video http://www.ribbleton.com/go/avignon-inspiration-blog/