Sport

Jean-Francois Pignon: The 'telepathic' horseman

Published 1215 GMT (2015 HKT) January 4, 2016
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Meet the amazingly talented Jean-Francois Pignon -- a man who can ride two horses at the same time. Peter Nixon/Kit Houghton/Kit Houghton/file
Pignon enjoys a special relationship with horses, training them to do incredible stunts at his farm in Calvission, southern France. Jean-Francois Pignon
The 47-year-old has been amazing audiences all over the globe with his performances for nearly three decades. Jean-Francois Pignon
Pignon started training horses at a young age. When he was 11 years old he was given his first horse, a Camargue filly called Gazelle. Jean-Francois Pignon
He has an almost mesmeric hold over his horses training them to perform a range of stunts as well as playing dead -- as pictured here. "Each horse is different," he says. "It's my (job) to adapt to the horse to get the best out of him." Jean-Francois Pignon
Pignon performing at the London International Horse Show at Olympia in December 2015. The annual event which was first organized in 1907 showcases an international cast of riders who compete in showjumping, dressage, carriage driving competitions. There are also theatrical shows like Pignon's, which are always a hit with the crowds.
"He can get horses to do things that other people just can't get them to do," explains Jo Peck, who oversees Olympia's marketing and communications. "He has this almost telepathic conversation that goes on."
Kit Houghton/© Kit Houghton
"It's very, very difficult to get horses to do what he gets them to do without having them on reins," says Jo Peck, who manages the marketing and communications for the annual Olympia event. Jean-Francois Pignon
"Calling a horse in from a field is hard enough, but he can just turn up, move his hand and they will all come running to him," Peck explains. Jean-Francois Pignon
Pignon has taken his show all over the world, performing in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and Africa. Here he is performing with his horses at the opening ceremony for the 2014 FEI World Cup jumping and dressage finals in Chassieu, France. ROMAIN LAFABREGUE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images/file
"They're almost like dogs, but really, really well-trained dogs! To do that with horse is just incredible," Peck says. ROMAIN LAFABREGUE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images/file
"He gets his horses to do amazing things -- they will lie down, roll over, they will tolerate him riding on their backs standing and jumping off them," Peck says. "It's not just one horse, he controls several horses at the same time. The skill is just incredible."

"The crowd love it. They can't believe it. Most of them will have some knowledge of horses or been around horses so they are very appreciative of how skilful he is."
ROMAIN LAFABREGUE/AFP/Getty Images
Pignon has also directed and starred in the 2012 biopic "Gazelle" -- named after his first horse. Jean-Francois Pignon
He currently has around 20 horses, including this miniature Shetland pony.
Jean-Francois Pignon
"The most difficult moves are when the horses are tired, which is rare, and also when the horses are excited," he explains. "My role is to be the maestro in the middle, and to use them a little bit more, a little bit less, depending on the horse's mood." Jean-Francois Pignon