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.
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.
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.”