It was impossible to tell if Frédéric Pignon was following the horse or if the horse was following him. Regardless, the way they moved around the arena was enchanting. Just when the crowds didn’t think the entertainment could escalate, two dark shapes emerged from the stage entrance.
Pignon, a performer from Normandy in northern France, has made quite a name for himself. His parents were passionate about horses, so, as a result, Pignon grew up with the same love. He bonded with his father every week over their shared interest.
To be more specific, Pignon’s father often took him to a horse fair on a Sunday. There they both marveled at the magnificent creatures on display. In particular, the pair loved to watch the horse’s manes as they seemingly danced on the breeze.
In addition, young Pignon grew up with animals, which gave him experience reading their behavior. With both an interest and an enthusiasm for horses, it was only natural that Pignon would be drawn to equestrianism. His fascination led him to the Delgado family.
The Delgados’ show demonstrated that they agreed with Pignon’s own philosophy of training through respect and understanding, rather than dominance. He was also impressed by their famous horse, Perdigon. But the horse rider stunned him even more.
Magali Delgado captured Pignon’s heart, and they wed in 2003. Their shared love for horses only grew and became something amazing when they met a Lusitano stallion called Templado. He refused to let trainers lead him, so instead the couple followed the horse.
This unique approach was the beginning of Pignon and Delgado’s future training techniques. The result was an almost hypnotic display of equestrian performance art. Furthermore, it also led to the founding of an entertainment company called Cavalia Inc.
Pignon and Delgado were joined by fellow horse theatrics enthusiast Normand Latourelle to create Cavalia. Together, they have wowed audiences across Europe and the U.S. in front of crowds adding to about two million. Audiences have compared the shows to the famous Cirque du Soleil.
In addition, the couple have reached even wider audiences all the way across the world with social media. A good example of their breath-taking performances is the footage uploaded to YouTube in 2010. You have to see the caliber of Pignon-Delgado training to believe it.
The video, which is a recording of the EquitaLyon 2010, begins with Pignon alone in the arena. But a few seconds later he takes off running, and he’s joined by a beautiful black Friesian horse. It joins Pignon as he dashes in circles around the stadium.
The horse runs in slowly tightening circles until it meets Pignon in the center of the spiral. What follows is an enchanting dance, as he spins with the horse tracing his movements. When Pignon slows to a stop, the horse affectionately nudges his back with its snout.
The affection between the horse and Pignon is obvious. It’s also important to note that Pignon uses training aids to direct the horse, not strike it. Horse trainers use these implements to extend their reach and touch parts of the horse they normally couldn’t.
Pignon takes off running with the horse again – this time with the horse holding the training stick in its mouth. The pair dash to a podium in the arena, which Pignon stands on. Amazingly, the horse joins him with little provocation and returns his training stick.
The horse trainer touches his head to the horse’s own and dashes off with the Friesian again. What follows is an impressive display of how a training stick’s used. The slightest touch results in the horse lifting a foot in the air and spinning around.
After each incredible display, Pignon thanks his horse with a heart-melting show of affection. And this horse isn’t the only star of the show either. Suddenly, a second horse dashes into the arena to join the performing pair.
Pignon shows the second horse just as much respect as both equine celebrities dance around with him. They even take a bow in synchronization with their handler. However, the show is far from over, as the horses prove when they gallop to the podium.
Not only do both horses stand on the platform, but they happily allow Pignon to step up on their backs. He ups the ante again when a third horse joins the incredible display. The ballet continues with all three horses following Pignon’s lead.
Or is the man following the horses? It’s hard to tell. Either way, the Friesians seem to sweep Pignon up in their dance as they adopt different formations. They line dance, pirouette and lie down on command to the adoration (and amazement) of their audience.
The video ends when Pignon sprints to the podium for the final time and stands on the top. He waves to the crowd as the horses surround him for the cheering crowd. Then all the performers dash off, leaving the audience wanting more.
It’s easy to see why the video has been viewed more than five million times. “Their relationship with their trainer shows love and fun, not harsh treatment,” one viewer wrote. “He looks to be The Horse Whisperer.” It’s a fitting title for one of the most renowned equestrian trainers in the world.