EQUUS - - Front Page - By Frédéric Pignon

“We had to live this mo­ment to­gether: you to leave, and me to ac­cept your go­ing.”

In the first years of the 21st cen­tury, Tem­plado be­came one of the most fa­mous horses in the world: The white Lusi­tano stal­lion tossed his now fa­mous knee-length mane on the cov­ers of mag­a­zines, in tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials, on stage and in films, first in France, then through­out Europe, and fi­nally in Canada and the United States.

Americans first came to know and love Tem­plado as one of the star equine per­form­ers in the hit show Cavalia, where his lead­ing role in the as­tound­ing lib­erty acts with trainer Frédéric Pignon awed sold-out au­di­ences from coast to coast.

The story of Tem­plado is fa­mil­iar but com­pelling: He was the young rebel brought round by a pa­tient friend and the dis­cov­ery of a “pur­pose.” His re­la­tion­ship with Frédéric ul­ti­mately su­per­seded his early fear of los­ing his in­de­pen­dence, and the joy­ous en­ergy he ex­hib­ited be­fore the cam­era and spec­ta­tors seemed to in­di­cate a gen­uine plea­sure in per­form­ing. While at first Tem­plado cease­lessly tested Frédéric’s abil­i­ties to evolve as a trainer,

to seek another route to mak­ing a true con­nec­tion with the horse that seemed to hold so much po­ten­tial be­hind lock and key, there came a day when he, as Frédéric says, “gave an inch.” Tem­plado opened him­self to the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing with---rather than at odds with---a hu­man friend and part­ner, and that was the mo­ment that changed his­tory.

With­out a doubt, Tem­plado was the most im­por­tant horse in Frédéric Pignon’s life. “Since Tem­plado, I value each horse, ev­ery mo­ment I spend with him, and ev­ery new level that we reach,” says Frédéric. The trainer was with Tem­plado the day he died, at home in France, after a long ill­ness. This is his goodbye.

It was the evening we got back from Spain after two months of Cavalia shows. As al­ways, you were wait­ing for us, and I spent an hour with you, telling you how great it was that you were still hold­ing on even though your health had been de­te­ri­o­rat­ing steadily.

But on that evening, you did not ap­pear to be too bad, and you were clearly glad to see us. I felt anx­ious de­spite your good hu­mor so I fol­lowed my instincts as al­ways and went back after din­ner to spend more time with you.

The next morn­ing I gave you a good wash down; I don’t know why but I felt you had to be clean. You let me do it with pa­tience even though you had long since got­ten bored with show­ers. I called [my wife and part­ner] Ma­gali to come and see how long your mane was now: It touched the ground. I let you out into the gar­den to graze and then visit your friends whom you en­joyed ir­ri­tat­ing a lit­tle.

It made me smile, but un­der­neath I knew.... The sun was climb­ing into the sky: It was go­ing to be a hot July day. At mid­day a friend came to see me. It was as if I were wait­ing for a bus: Was it com­ing or not? Doubt­less my friend could feel my anx­i­ety.

Sip­ping cof­fee in the house I had one eye on you as you grazed in the gar­den. Sud­denly, you lay down. I knew the bus had come. I ran out­side to get you up. It was not good for you to be ly­ing down in that mer­ci­less sun. You obliged and fol­lowed me to your stall where you lay down again. A sense of panic con­tin­ued to rise in my throat. I knew the mo­ment I dreaded had ar­rived.

I ad­mit that, for a sec­ond or two, I wished I were miles away, but your calm re­stored my rea­son and I knew you needed me to be there. We had to live this mo­ment to­gether: you to leave, and me to ac­cept your go­ing.

I came near you. I felt your warmth as you be­gan to breathe deeply. I laid my hand on your head as a mother would on her child’s. You were per­spir­ing and grow­ing frailer by the minute. You tried to get up a few times, per­haps to look out at the meadow where we had run and played to­gether so of­ten. You seemed to ac­cept that it was time to leave and that there would be no re­turn­ing.

At the end you looked like a foal who had just been born and I was try­ing to tell my­self that this was but life’s cy­cle: the com­ing and the go­ing. Your

I un­der­stood at a pro­found level that life goes on: This last page had turned and the great book of your life had shut.

strength was fail­ing. You made a lit­tle move­ment of your head and then you lay still.

A poem that [my fa­ther-in-law] Pier­rot wrote at your birth came into my mind and it calmed me. I un­der­stood at a pro­found level that life goes on. This last page had turned and the great book of your life had shut. I felt that noth­ing would be the same again for me. We had drunk the nec­tar of life from the same cup. You taught me so much and now be­ing with you at your death has helped me to un­der­stand life at its most in­tense.

Tem­plado, I feel your en­ergy around me; it ra­di­ates from the walls, the ground, and the longe­ing ring where we lived so many in­ti­mate mo­ments to­gether. I think of how some­times a lit­tle white but­ter­fly would cir­cle about our heads. Chiefly, I think of you, my beau­ti­ful white horse, I pic­ture your mane fly­ing in the wind, and I smile.


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