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DVDs: La Leçon Indispensable de Frédéric et Jean-François Pignon (English subtitles) / quote

I know their names for a long time: Frédéric and Jean-François Pignon are two great showmen and although their shows are remarkable, this is not really my thing. So, I never took the time to go deeper in their work. But here comes that DVD, focusing on their philosophy and way of life, not on circus and tricks. That is the essence of the Pignon brothers and that’s a beautiful pearl!

This DVD is a must-see to all those who want to “play” with their horses without having any idea of how horses think and respond!

The harsh law of the world of horses. Horses don’t live in a Teletubbies world. It’s rather violent, actually.

La Leçon Indispensable de… , Jean-François Pignon

DVDs: la Leçon Indispensable de Frédéric et Jean-François Pignon

Rule n°1: establish your leadership

Become a leader by your gesture and your attitude. “For the horse, if you are not a leader, if you’re not a protector and that you prevent running away, you become a drag.” Most of the time, horses who try to escape are horses that can not trust the human who holds the rope, because said human is not able to lead and, worst, he prevents horses to save their own life.

We could define Natural Horsemanship by these words: look at horses in the pasture, look how they communicate with each other and how one becomes the leader of the other! Understanding their language is the first step to being able to speak the said language, which will help you become a leader AND a protector.

You must have no emotion in your move.

La Leçon Indispensable de… , Jean-François Pignon

Protection is too often the parameter that lots of riders and horse owners forget. They know they have rights over the horse but they forget they also do have duties!
There is a key: no anger, no stress, no hesitation. Be NATURAL! Being a horse leader should not cause more emotion to you than to go wash your hands… a natural, emotionless gesture.
Rule n°2: impose your space

One more time, let’s get back to the pasture and observe. Horses _ unless they look for comfort _ never touch each other, they respect one another’s space. How many of us have let horses step on us? Here’s the news: humans are the only ones to let such a thing happen, so don’t wonder why horses then tend to become a little rude.
“They have very quick signs”, this is another way to put in words one of the principles I mentioned: first deal is always soft, then comes firmness!

Horseman Jean-François Pignon

Rule n°3: never step back

“I never step back!”, says Frédéric Pignon. This is a rule I repeat all the time during clinics and lessons. Unless your safety is at stake, you should NEVER step back! You’re the leader, so the horse moves away, not you.

It is obviously possible to step back, but there are conditions to that backing up:

  • You decide when you want to step back
  • You decide where you want to step back
  • Your horse has no possibility to push you back
People get bitten or crashed because every time, they step back and the horse moves onto them.

La Leçon Indispensable de… , Frédéric Pignon

All this is subtle but capital. Horses see, smell and feel details that we are not used to detect. Natural Horsemanship teaches the humans to learn these signs in order to be able to respond to them correctly and right in time.

Rule n°4: remain calm all the time

“Domination, for horses, isn’t always expressed with violence or this type of behavior. On the contrary, horses will tend to follow a calm mare”, observes Frédéric Pignon. That is the role we, humans, ought to have with horses: being calm, no tension, no stress, no anxiety is fundamental in order to give the horse the protection and comfort he seeks.

Jean-François adds “Lately, I discovered sensations and a world of silence.” Remember the first principle I mentioned in my website? “All commands are given with our body, no verbal commands, no threatening behavior”… this is it! Being calm implies that you do not have to talk all the time, that you have the serenity to remain silent and give peace to your horse.

Rule n°5: release pressure

All horses need to calm down. If you forget to release, then you add pressure to pressure and the horse can not cope with that.
He admires you because you can protect him and bring him everything he needs.

La Leçon Indispensable de… , Frédéric Pignon

Working with a horse should never be confused with something unpleasant, a drudgery. Pleasure for both human and horse are the priority to any horsemanship session. That’s where you need a touch of hedonism in your relationship to the horse.

Rule n°6: finish the exercise
Basically, horses need to know when they do something right. It is your duty to reward your horse when the work is done, either it is just to walk one step forward or to lay down in front of a crowd, he needs to know when it’s over and if it’s good. We all love to be praised when we perform good deeds… horses too!

Take your time, there is no deadline to respect when educating a horse. All the things you’re doing together is done for the next couple of decades… so three hours or three months to complete an exercise, whatever!

The only important matter is to make sure you get something positive out of the time spent with your horse.

Rule n°7: vary your level of energy
It’s always about saving, just the minimum, precisely and at the right time.

La Leçon Indispensable de… , Frédéric Pignon

Sometimes, it’s like reading Ray Hunt or listening to Buck Brannaman: less is more! That’s a golden rule with horses, be as gentle and light as possible with your horse.

On the other hand, you have to be present, if you can tell him you’re his leader, he will listen to you. That implies that, sometimes, you need to firm up. “The horse has to pay attention to you”, that is the principle of the rectangle: make sure your horse is always focused on you, he should be oblivious to the rest of the world.

Rule n°8: do not demand anything

“I don’t expect anything and I require nothing,” in other words, offer peace and security to your horse, do not force him into something. Let him make the decision to come to you and be with you. The horse then “almost feels like it’s coming from him, that’s his idea.”

Rings any bell? Ray Hunt: “When you ask your horse to do something it should be his idea.” Difference is not in the discipline performed with horses, it is in the way of thinking his own life with horses!

Rule n°9: preserve the horse’s will
“He wanted to go back and you changed his mind just by suggesting something else. That is working at liberty”, says Frédéric Pignon. You should always start a session with your horse taking into account his state of mind, his mood. Make sure you start where he is, not where you want him to be. Keep the session interesting, cultivate his will and his curiosity, do not kill it!

As a conclusion, I’d like to quote Frédéric Pignon one last time: “We [should not] get frustrated because it doesn’t work, we [should not] get angry, we [should not] put any pressure, we [should not] stifle all that and put him in a box.”

These brothers have a real horsemanship philosophy, it’s a lot more than just circus and show, it’s a way of life!

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