If there is such a thing as animal magnetism, then Jean-Francois Pignon has it in spades.
With a mere flick of his hand, the Frenchman gets his horses to perform the most amazing tricks.
From instructing them to stand elegantly on their hind legs to riding bareback on not one, but two horses at the same time, it’s little wonder that Pignon’s shows have become a hit with audiences worldwide.
The veteran performer, who appeared in the London International Horse Show at Olympia in December, has been training horses since when he was a boy.
“I started really young with (my first horse) Gazelle,” Pignon told CNN. “I was 11 years old and she was a year and a half. My first goal was not to do a show, but to communicate with my horse and play with them.
“And then I had the opportunity to perform in a small village to do my first show and I immediately liked it. I was very shy but I felt on this day that I really liked this job.”
More than three decades later, the 47-year-old — who lives in Calvission in the South of France — still puts in hours of training, although he is ever mindful of his horses’ welfare.
“The most difficult moves are when the horses are tired, which is rare, and also when the horses are excited,” he explained. “My role is to be the maestro in the middle, and to use them a little bit more, a little bit less, depending on their mood.”
Audiences are amazed when they see Pignon, says Jo Peck, who manages the marketing and communications for the annual Olympia event where the Frenchman has appeared four times.
“He can get horses to do things that other people just can’t get them to do,” Peck told CNN.
“He has this almost telepathic conversation that goes on … it’s almost like a communication with his horses. The way he asks them to do things is very different from the way a show jumper would ask his or her horse to do something,” she added.
“It’s not just one horse, he controls several horse at the same time. The skill is just incredible.”