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Posts Tagged ‘Gallop to Freedom’

LovevLimits-horseandriderbooks

I think it is Buck Brannaman who has often likened working with horses to parenthood. And, as a horse person and a mom, I concur it is strikingly similar. Loving someone and yet setting limits and saying “No” can be an exhausting act of balance. You don’t want to err too soft or too hard…and even when you think you might have it right, you cringe when you see that look of hurt in your child’s eyes after he’s been remonstrated; you feel badly when your horse sulks a bit after you push his nose away from your pocket.

Faced with this challenge, many of us wonder how the “magicians” of the horse world do it–how those who so obviously have close connections with their horses manage to find that balance between love and limits.

In GALLOP TO FREEDOM, the book he wrote with his wife, Magali Delgado, renowned horseman Frédéric Pignon explores this topic at length. And seeing as his spellbinding liberty acts were what made the original rendition of Cavalia an international phenomenon (he and Magali toured with their horses as part of the original lineup from 2003 to 2009), you have to think that maybe he’s got something in the mix about right:

I allow absolutely no biting or jostling: this is a rule that I start establishing with a young horse from the first day I work with him. In fact, with one that I do not know, I impose a strict limit as to how close he approaches me. No two horses are the same but as a guide I would suggest a distance of a forearm. Confidence breeds respect and vice versa. In liberty training, if there is mutual confidence between us, I can allow myself to tap the horse on his legs with my whip without causing him to run away—but only if my action is a justified reaction to something wrong or disobedient that he has done.

A common mistake is to do too much “snuggling up” to a horse from the beginning. You should keep the distance appropriate to the stage of your relationship. I don’t immediately let a horse invade my space. Quite apart from the danger of being bitten, it puts you on the wrong footing. Once there is total confidence and respect in both directions it becomes another matter.

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It is not easy to define rule making. It may seem from what I have said that there are few rules and that the horse is encouraged to take the initiative. However, it is the case that rules are not only essential but that the horse functions the better for accepting certain guidelines. Here is the crux of the situation: you must not impose unreasonable rules that the horse feels he cannot accept with a willing spirit.

Man has deprived the horse of his natural state; the horse has been dragged into the world of humans and therefore it is the foundation stone of our relationship that we earn his respect before anything else. He has lost his freedom but we can give him protection, security, and respect. In return, he will give us respect and affection and recognize the behavioral limits that we set together.

In order to become important to a horse, we cannot remain neutral. I have to impose laws and make it absolutely clear what is not allowed. At the same time, I know that horses often crave reassurance even more than liberty so I must provide this. I have to encourage this craving and convince them that I am the person to satisfy the need.

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It has always amazed me how quickly a good chiropractor or osteopath convinces a horse that he is important to him. The horse understands in no time at all that the osteopath will relieve him of his aches and pains and therefore accepts him as a friend. This is why I think it is so important to spend time reassuring a horse and helping him relax rather than treating him with rewards. I often spend a quarter of an hour in the company of a horse, either in his stall or in the field, without asking anything of him. I just rub him gently and caress him and try to show him that there is all the time in the world; I am not going to rush him and I’m not going to make unreasonable demands.

If one of my liberty horses gives another a nip. I give him a tap with my whip. He knows he shouldn’t bite another horse and as long as I tap him with the right amount of strength, he will accept it; he will even put his head on my shoulder as if to say “I know, I know.” But if he only “looks” as though he is going to bite another horse and I give him a sharp tap instead of a warning word, that is not fair and he knows it. He runs away and this time I have to make it up to him by going to him. Even after an hour’s work I may still see in his eye that he is hurt and depressed.

The secret is to deploy the right amount of warning signals when I see a horse has something naughty in mind. “Don’t even think about it,” is a common enough warning between people and I have to find the equivalent for the horse, but it has to be one that he associates with his intention. He then says in effect, “Fair game.”

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For more on Pignon and Delgado’s ideas about establishing a balance between love and limits, check out their bestselling books GALLOP TO FREEDOM and BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER: YOU AND YOUR HORSE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

And, don’t miss your chance to train with them in person! They are doing a limited number of clinics in the US in March, or you can join them at their farm in Provence in May for a special retreat experience. For more information CLICK HERE.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Each year, as we flip the last pages of December in anticipation for the beginning of January, we at TSB take some time to pause and consider the books we published over the past months. Not only does this process provide an important review of content in preparation for future titles, it also gets us excited, all over again, about the new riding, training, and horse-care skills and techniques our fabulous equestrian authors have shared. In 2015, we tapped the deep well of mindfulness, honed our grooming abilities, and viewed the dressage horse from the inside-out. We found new ways to improve our horses’ confidence and attention, in and out of the ring, had burning questions answered by top judges, and discovered new pursuits that make kindness with our horses and others the goal and guiding principle. We found reasons to ride light, think deeply, laugh, and be thankful for our lives with horses.

We look forward to bring you more top-notch horse books and DVDs in the New Year—until then, here’s the roll-call of TSB equestrian titles for 2015:

 

TrainRidewConesPoles-300TRAINING AND RIDING WITH CONES AND POLES (March) by Sigrid Schope is a spiral-bound handbook with over 40 exercises intended to improve your horse’s focus and response to the aids while sharpening your timing and accuracy. Who hasn’t looked for ways to spice up ringwork and keep his/her horse interested in schooling circles? Here’s the answer, whether you’re practicing on your own in the ring or teaching lessons.

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GALLOP TO FREEDOM (Paperback reprint—March) by training superstars Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado. TSB was the first to bring you thoughts on training and working with the original stars of the international hit show Cavalia, publishing their book back in 2009. The continued value in this storied couple’s work meant that six years later, it was time to release the bestseller anew in paperback.

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WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES (April) by professional grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford with over 1200 color photographs by professional photographer Jessica Dailey. A bestseller before it was released, this unparalleled photo reference gives every horse owner the tips and tools he/she needs to keep horses in tip-top condition, looking and feeling their best, in and out of the show ring.

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THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN (May) by renowned veterinarian and author Dr. Allen Schoen and trainer Susan Gordon provides 25 principles each of us should live by when caring for and working with horses. Using personal stories and current scientific research, the two write convincingly of the need for an industry-wide movement to develop deeper compassion for not only the horses, but the people, as well.

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THE DRESSAGE HORSE OPTIMIZED (June) by Masterson Method founder and author of BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE Jim Masterson and dressage rider Coralie Hughes. Jim and Coralie team up with Grand Prix dressage rider Betsy Steiner and creator of Anatomy in Motion Visible Horse and Visible Rider Susan Harris to demonstrate how the muscular and skeletal structure of the horse work in dressage movements. Then Jim provides specific techniques from his popular form of bodywork to alleviate stress and improve performance.

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DRESSAGE Q&A WITH JANET FOY (July) by FEI/USEF dressage judge Janet Foy. This easy-to-use reference is a follow-up to Janet’s incredibly popular DRESSAGE FOR THE NOT-SO-PERFECT HORSE, featuring the most common questions she has received over the years. Janet tells it how it is, and includes plenty of her own stories from the road to keep us laughing while learning.

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OVER, UNDER, THROUGH: OBSTACLE TRAINING FOR HORSES (September) by Vanessa Bee, author of the bestselling HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK and 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP. Vanessa has made a name for herself as a terrific educator, delivering superior and thoughtful training techniques in bite-size chunks. OVER, UNDER, THROUGH doesn’t disappoint, with loads of step-by-step photographs and useful lessons for meeting everyday challenges with your horse in a positive manner that guarantees success.

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COWBOY DRESSAGE (September) by Jessica Black with Eitan and Debbie Beth-Halachmy. Jessica teams up with the founders of Cowboy Dressage to trace the origin of the movement to the present day, then taps Eitan’s expertise to provide readers the basics they need to get started in the pursuit of “kindness as the goal and guiding principle.” Eitan and Debbie describe Cowboy Dressage as a lifestyle rather than a sport, and the book mirrors that mission, inspiring us with beautiful photographs and honest ideals.

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THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE (October) by artist Jean Abernethy. Fergus the Horse is a social media celebrity with well over 300,000 Facebook fans. This treasury of his greatest hits features comics from past print publications as well as those that have made the rounds online—and in addition, 25 never-seen-before cartoons. Jean also shares a little about her rise as an illustrator and the backstory that explains the birth of her famous cartoon horse.

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THE MESSAGE FROM THE HORSE (October) by Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling. The world knows Klaus from his bestselling books and DVDs, including DANCING WITH HORSES and WHAT HORSES REVEAL. Over 10 years ago, he detailed his own story in the form of an autobiographical narrative, detailing his discovery of how to be with and learn from horses, as well as how to apply what they teach him to his life as a whole. Now this story is in English for the first time.

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BALANCE IN MOVEMENT (Paperback reprint—November) by Susanne von Dietze. A perennial bestseller, demand for the book led to us bringing it out in a fresh format, ready to introduce a new generation of riders to Susanne’s sensible lessons in horse and rider biomechanics.

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RIDING THROUGH THICK AND THIN (November) by Melinda Folse. Melinda’s last book THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES gained her an enthusiastic following of readers who appreciate her big-sisterly swagger and humor. This new book is the culmination of years of research, providing us all guideposts for riding and being with horses, whatever we look like. Melinda’s goal is to give our body image a boost, and she provides countless proactive ways for us to take a good look in the mirror and finally like what we see.

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BASIC TRAINING OF THE YOUNG HORSE (Third Edition—December) by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke. It’s the Klimkes’ classic text, refreshed with new photos of Ingrid on her top horses. Need we say more?

 

For more about these 2015 horse books, and our complete list of top equestrian books and DVDs, visit our website www.horseandriderbooks.com.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs for 30 years, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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TSB author Magali Delgado with Mandarin.

TSB author Magali Delgado with Mandarin.

“Ability to make deadlines.” This is the kind of positive review we might expect to receive from a supervisor, or it’s a bulleted point we add to a resume. As a society, we value an individual’s commitment to doing what he or she says he or she will do “on time”—we schedule meetings we expect others to attend; our children have homework assignments we expect them to complete.

But when it comes to horses, deadlines are a recipe for disaster.

“In our world, everyone is obsessed with deadlines and speed,” says Magali Delgado in the bestselling book GALLOP TO FREEDOM, which she wrote with her husband Frederic Pignon. “In the horse’s world, you have to forget these. If you tug on a carrot, hoping to speed its growth, you will loosen the roots and achieve the opposite effect.”

Goals are different than deadlines, in that we can move the “achieved-by date” as necessary. We want our young horse to load into a trailer quietly and consistently? That’s a good goal. But a bad idea is to decide you need to reach that goal by the end of the week. Maybe you will accomplish it in that amount of time–or even less. But, few things scuttle your ability to work with horses in a rational, fair, and flexible way than stress and urgency brought on by—you guessed it—a deadline.

“When there are difficulties, I try to divide them up into manageable parts. I wait until the horse feels ready to take the next step, and I am convinced that in the end I save time by this approach,” says Magali. “When it comes to work, I try never to overdo it. Deciding on the correct length of a working session is vitally important. What is more, a horse must feel that if he does really well he will be rewarded with  a shorter session. If he is forced to go on too long it not only tires him, it also ‘demotivates’ him—a great mistake.

“In horse training, inevitably, you will make mistakes. As Albert Einstein said, ‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’ My horse shies: Is that wheelbarrow the reason? I remove it; he shies again. Is it because he doesn’t like being away from his friends? And so on. I spend my life trying to get to the bottom of enigmas.”

But one thing, say Magali and Frederic, remains very clear:

“Always be patient and never push too fast or too insistently.”

 

CLICK IMAGE TO JOIN THE WAITLIST

CLICK IMAGE TO JOIN THE WAITLIST

GALLOP TO FREEDOM: TRAINING HORSES WITH OUR SIX GOLDEN PRINCIPLES is coming in paperback!

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE WAITLIST on Trafalgar Square Books’ online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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In 2009, TSB released GALLOP TO FREEDOM, the first book from the extraordinary French horse trainers Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado. Frédéric and Magali were the original stars of the hit traveling show Cavalia, with which the couple toured beginning in 2003 when the Cirque-du-Soleil-like performance—with horses—first took North America by storm. Over six years Frédéric, Magali, and their cast of beautiful stallions performed before more than two million spectators in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Now, five years after we published their first book, the fabulous follow-up is available. In BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER–YOU AND YOUR HORSE, Frédéric and Magali offer a series of practical and ethical guideposts to help build an honest, open, happy life with horses. Hundreds of emotionally charged photographs by internationally renowned photographer Gabriele Boiselle provide deliciously enlightening glimpses into the kind of relationships we all dream of having with our horses, and with each other.

In celebration of their second book on horses and horsemanship, here is a look back at part of writer Elizabeth McCall’s 2009 interview with Frédéric and Magali:

 

Q: You dedicated your book GALLOP TO FREEDOM to Dao and Templado, two of your world-famous Lusitano stallions. Describe what each horse contributed to your philosophy.

M: For me, Dao opened a door to encourage me to work deeply on the mind and on the body of the horse. It was like a revelation every day I was riding him. It was like, “Uh-oh, there is another way to work. Open your mind. Open your senses.” Dao showed me that.

F: When I started to work with Templado I understood that he was very special. He was one of those horses who makes you understand that every horse is very unique. There is no rule. There are no mathematical ways to understand a horse. Templado was a unique personality. He was not like the hundreds of horses I worked with before, and he made me understand that when we work with a horse, we have to adapt ourselves and even adapt everything we’ve learned [before] to this new unique personality. He taught us a lot, but the way he opened my mind…about working with a new horse using all we know and trying to learn more. When you work with a horse, I think it’s important to realize that he could probably teach you much more than you already know.

 

Frederic, Magali, and Dao on the beach in Malibu, California.

Frederic, Magali, and Dao on the beach in Malibu, California.

 

Q for M: There are some incredible shots of you on the beach in Malibu, California, in the book. You were galloping Dao without a bridle in Paradise
Cove! Were you sure he would stop?

M: At the beginning, I was feeling like he could gallop all the way to Los Angeles and we would both be happy. (Laughs) Both of us we were so excited. It was such a special feeling to be free with him on the beach, I didn’t care if he was running fast and I don’t think he cared either. You know that feeling—the horse starts to run and you don’t want him to stop. It’s a magical moment in your life. We did a lot of cantering on the beach that day.

Q for F: The book has photos of your two Friesian stallions Phoebus and Paulus when they first arrived on tour [with Cavalia] at one-and-a-half years old. It also shows them all grown up, performing at liberty. How did you train them on tour, along with performing, rehearsing, moving from city to city, and everything else?

F: That was the difficult part of having young horses on tour. It was a work in progress. It was interesting to let them learn how it works with
music and a show, but sometimes they were like two Friesian teenagers. That’s why now, I’m enjoying the time I can spend with them. It’s much
easier, but they had good experience [on tour] and now they are very professional.

 

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Q: You always look cool and calm in photos where you’re performing. Don’t you ever get nervous when you’re going on the stage with a horse for
the first time or competing?

M: For me it’s not nerves. I’m really excited. When I have a new horse, I’m always really excited by the results of my horse in the show and to see the reactions of the people. For me, it’s like a positive energy, but I know it’s not the same way for everybody. I’m lucky. I’ve been in shows since I was very young and I know myself very well. I need that little point of excitement inside when my heart is going boom, boom! (Laughs) But I’m not afraid and I’m not tense. I’m just very focused, concentrating, and full of energy and that has helped me a lot for the competition and for the show.

Q: So that helps the horse stay calm and focused too?

M: Yes, it’s like in my mind and my body I tell the horse, “OK, relax.” I speak a lot through my body.

Q for F: How do you deal with pressure situations, like when you’ve got five loose stallions to control?

F: You have to first work on your own stress. It’s why I do yoga. We have to first control ourselves and our emotions. If you can control yourself, then you can help the horses.

Q: What do you hope that people will realize about horses after they read your book?

M: I just hope that we can help people to look at their horses differently, to think their horses can understand. I hope the stories, from Dao to Mandarin to Templado, open people’s minds. Maybe if your horse is reacting he has pain, or he needs more attention. Look in his eyes and try to come back to a natural feeling. Don’t get distracted by everything around you. You’re not focused on your horse when you’re thinking, “I have the children, my job is bad, I have many bills to pay.” Just focus on your horse—try to read him and try to understand what he needs from the moment you are with him. I hope the stories we shared about the horses that taught us so much, like Dao and Templado, can help many people come back to some basics—first let your heart speak and your feelings. Then, forget everything going on around you and just think of your horse.

F: What we tried not to do is just method. There are already lots of books on that. What I observe most of the time is that people use methods like horses are bicycles. They’re horses. A horse is a big adventure when you start to be with one. We wanted to offer some new ideas of how to work with horses. What we wanted is for people to ask questions about what they’re doing and say, “Why we don’t rethink the situation with horses?”

 

Watch Frédéric share his “adventures” with a couple of his liberty horses in this video:

 

“When it comes to horse people, Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado are the most outstanding souls I know,” says photographer Gabriele Boiselle who provided many of the images in GALLOP TO FREEDOM and all of the photographs in the new BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER—YOU AND YOUR HORSE. “The smile of Magali, the hands of Frédéric; I can’t think of anyone else with such a gift for intuitive communication and connection with horses…[Frédéric] has another wonderful talent, an ability to convey his wisdom and experience in words, in moving stories that inspire and motivate others. He is not only a wonderful horseperson, he can share that part of himself so that people understand and can try his methods with their own horses. Everything with Magali and Frédéric is about love and horses…I’m very privileged and happy to work with them both…Over time, our relationships have brought about deep connection, deep satisfaction, and deep insights, bringing us to the conclusion that what can be done with horses can best be done with love.”

 

GALLOP TO FREEDOM and BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER—YOU AND YOUR HORSE are available from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

 

Federic, Templado, and Fasto take a break in Malibu.

Federic, Templado, and Fasto take a break in Malibu.

 

 

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, TSB couldn’t help but think of two individuals who clearly love horses and how life can be fuller and more joyful when horses are part of it. TSB is proud to announce the soon-to-be-released new book from Magali Delgado and Frederic Pignon, the founding stars of the hit show Cavalia and authors of the bestselling book GALLOP TO FREEDOM. Their new book, BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER—YOU AND YOUR HORSE is their meaningful, beautiful, and personal account of  how people can begin, and then nurture, thriving and happy relationships with horses.

 

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“For the horse and our relationship to evolve in a good way, we have to remain open,” writes Frederic in BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER—YOU AND YOUR HORSE. “In my imagination, I see open doors between us so that we always feel that physically and mentally we can achieve anything we set our minds to. If we rest on the principles we have been taught or learned, the relationship with the horse will stay shuttered. Every day I try to make a fresh start: this is a new day for me and for this horse I am with. What will happen? If I do not take this approach—and there are plenty of people in the horse world who do not—I shall never really get through to this horse and learn about his true nature.

“With the passage of time and all the experiences we have had, both good and bad, Magali and I gave up wanting to control everything and, in fact, we listen more and more to what the horses tell us they want to do….To me, being open means being in tune with myself and others, not having immutable principles but always having the wish to be as fair as possible. For the horse to have a beneficial effect on us we must remain open. We must entertain a sense almost of abandon so that we are always ready to be surprised and moved, and ready to question all our previous experience in order to find the true way forward.”

 

Watch Magali and Frederic demonstrate their love of horses in these spectacular clips from Equitana 2013:

 

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

And CLICK HERE to pre-order a copy of BUILDING A LIFE TOGETHER—YOU AND YOUR HORSE by Magali Delgado and Frederic Pignon for the special horse person (and Valentine!) in your life.

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Linda Tellington-Jones doing Tail TTouches on one of Frederic Pignon's horses.

Linda Tellington-Jones doing Tail TTouches on one of Frederic Pignon’s horses.

TSB author, horse trainer, and animal behaviorist Linda Tellington-Jones sat down with world renowned liberty trainers and performers Frederic Pignon and Magali Delgado during the first weekend of Equitana in Essen, Germany. Linda, Frederic, and Magali discuss the ways Tellington TTouch, the specialized bodywork that forms one important piece of the Tellington Method, dramatically reduces stress in the sport or performance horse, as well as increasing the horse’s desire to work with you, in and out of the arena.

“[Tellington TTouch] is a way to ‘think’ about being with horses,” says Frederic, who rose to international fame alongside his wife, a dressage rider, in the hit show Cavalia. “It gives you a way to find what your horse likes, so you need only a light and momentary touch to relax him in a stressful situation.”

In the Equitana presentation, Frederic shares the story of Guizo, a young stallion who appeared in Cavalia when it was touring North America.

“I worked with Frederic and Guizo in Dallas, Texas,” explains Linda. “Guizo was the youngest stallion of the three who worked at liberty in Cavalia. He performed beautifully, but was concerned about the older stallions and had a tendency to bite at them. Frederic had been managing this by keeping Guizo slightly apart on the upper stage and asked me if I had any thoughts of how to give the stallion more confidence to stop this habit. I showed Frederic how Mouth TTouch can effect the emotional behavior of a horse by quietly working the outside of the mouth with the flat hand and then slipping the thumb into the mouth. At the same time it is important to hold the intention of the behavior you want—in this case, to hold the vision of Guizo keeping his mouth quiet, breathing normally, and relaxing around the other stallions (I discuss the idea of training and riding with ‘intention’ in depth in my new book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL).

“Working the lips and nostrils affects the limbic system—the part of the brain that controls emotions as well as affecting the ability to learn. It sounds so simplistic, but it worked! Frederic told me that the first evening he took maybe 30 seconds when Guizo entered the arena and spoke quietly to him, lowered his head a little, and slipped his thumb into the mouth. Guizo was able to work quietly together with the other stallions for the first time!”

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“TTouch is good for the mind of the horse, and also the body,” adds Magali. “I warm my horses up well before a performance, but then they must stand backstage and may get a little cold, a little stiff. I do two minutes of work with the horse’s shoulders and tail [Shoulder Release and Tail TTouches] backstage, and just before riding I can promise you my horse is very relaxed, his back very fluid, able to do all the movements easily.”

Linda talks about the work she has done with Frederic and Magali, as well as over 20 other top dressage riders, trainers, and horses, in her new book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, which is available now from the TSB online bookstore.

GALLOP TO FREEDOM, the first book about training philosophy by Frederic and Magali, is also available (CLICK HERE TO ORDER).

Check out this video of the session with Linda, Frederic, and Magali at Equitana! (Note: They speak in English and German throughout the video–there is great stuff here in both languages, so be sure to watch through!)

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Frederic Pignon, co-author of the bestseller GALLOP TO FREEDOM, with his stallions on the beach in Malibu.

“I think Frédéric Pignon and [his wife] Magali Delgado have done a tremendous amount for equestrian sport in a way everyone can appreciate. The liberty work Frédéric does is just incredible. It really does take the beauty of the horse to everyone,” said Hilda Gurney, American dressage pioneer, Olympian, trainer, and judge after seeing the hit equestrian “spectacular” Cavalia when it took North America by storm.

The beauty of Frederic and Magali’s work on stage has moved and inspired many souls around the world, in stage shows, liberty exhibitions, and through Magali’s success in the dressage arena. Their philosophy has establishing a joyful and respectful union with the horse at its heart–something we all aspire to, no matter our favored discipline or breed, no matter our riding goals or competitive ambitions.

Gallop to FreedomFrederic and Magali shared much of what makes their work with horses so special in their book GALLOP TO FREEDOM, the international bestseller full of gorgeous color photos of these two masterful trainers and their stunning horses.  Check out this excerpt from the book, which is available to order from the TSB online bookstore:

Learning to Read Your Horse

The horse makes signals with every part of his body. I have to learn to read his thoughts by watching his nostrils, his ears, his eyes, and his general attitude. His eyes are particularly important to learn to read because they are like an opening through which I can see what is going on inside his head. He is telling me with subtle signals how he feels. Is he happy? Once we start working or playing, I ask myself, is he satisfied with what we have done together? I try to remember at what moment I was aware of progress and how I achieved it.

Misunderstanding produces an even greater barrier between us than ill treatment. Understanding will, on the other hand, begin to forge a link between the two of us. I will begin to feel that I am on the same wavelength as my horse and that he is accepting me. Even at rest, you can learn much from observing your horse. Take the ears for example: what might his ear movements mean? If a horse moves his weight from foot to foot, does this indicate something? And what about when he shakes his withers? How do you interpret the look of his eye? Is it a “soft” or a “hard” eye, and what does this mean about him? How does your horse stand in his stall when he is contented? If he is unhappy, does he stand differently? If he has an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach does he not show this by the way he stands?

It would be so simple if I could give you hard and fast answers to all these questions, but life is not so simple. You could not do such a thing in the analysis of human behavior.

What I can say to you is watch out for all these indications; allow your instincts to tell you what your senses observe. Very soon you will automatically take in the things you have learned to look for and you will have the ability to look for other more subtle signs. You will also see that the same signal does not have the same root cause for every horse or even for the same horse every day.

At this point, you may throw up your hands and say that this is all too ambiguous and too much to learn. But you have already learned to do all these things with other people. When you meet with someone you know well after you have been apart for a time, can’t you see in an instant when something is wrong? Why should “reading” a horse not be similar?

Frederic and his famous stallion Templado "at play."

Frederic and his famous stallion Templado “at play.”

The Importance of Concentration

I always watch the horse with every fiber of my being: I not only try to read him with my senses of sight, hearing, and smell, I concentrate my mind on communicating my own thoughts and listening to his. I concentrate so hard that other thoughts are excluded.

People understand that there are situations in everyday life demanding total concentration; mysteriously, it may not occur to the same people that, in dealing with a horse, there is the same requirement. Perhaps someone will allow himself and the horse to be interrupted by a phone call, which not only breaks the person’s own concentration, but that of the horse. When you work with a horse you ask him to leave whatever he is doing and pay attention to you. You are trying to reach the same wavelength as that of the horse and, if you allow an interruption on your end, you are being disrespectful to him. We humans may be able to switch on and off, or from one subject to another, at the drop of a hat but a horse is not so flexible. If he has decided to give you the benefit of his full concentration, and you lightly drop it because something more important to you crops up, he might not want to risk giving you the same degree of attention again.

I often use breathing to relax both the horse and myself, and to help develop concentration. I breathe out in a way the horse can understand and copy. All my horses learn to do this even if, like Guizo, it takes a long time. With him it took me a whole year but as soon as he understood and began to breathe with me he became much more relaxed. When I am doing this work, I like to be alone and not have other people present or watching me.

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“Frédéric and Magali exemplify the art of humane training and illustrate the magical results of what is meant by the human-animal bond.” —Karen Rosa, Vice President, Film & Television Unit, American Humane

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