A recent visit to Fez by famed French horse whisperer Jean-Francois Pignon offered local mule owners a different way of working with their animals
Brought to Morocco by the American Fondouk, Mr Pignon has an extraordinary reputation for communicating with the most difficult of horses. Since 1991, he has held spectaculars in arenas worldwide, featuring horses guided by him using a silent language of trust.
For Director of the American Fondouk, Dr Gigi Kay, the hospital for working equids in the Fez Medina, seeing Mr Pignon's methods changed the way she worked with horses, mules and donkeys. "I saw Jean-Francois a few years ago and his show was so amazing, I realised I had been working with horses all my life, and I hadn't understood how fully you can communicate with them."
"Then in May 2014, I did a workshop with him, and he showed us his technique."
Usually Mr Pignon is highly paid to perform and teach, however, he offered to come to Morocco free of charge to assist local mule owners.
The mules and donkeys of the Fez Medina are a hardworking bunch of older animals, that can be relied upon not to kick fellow pedestrians. The source of their owners' very modest income, they spend their days labouring up and down the narrow alleys carrying large loads. They are generally unused to kindness, as they are not pets.
"I don't expect them to take on Jean-Francois's techniques, but I do want owners to see their mules more as a partner and less as a machine...to inject a little love into the partnership," said Dr Kay.
When one work-worn mule met Mr Pignon, it first ignored him. "The mule seemed zoned out. It had obviously worked so hard and it was old, used to a difficult life. But the animal was still able to respond to him."
After twenty minutes of guidance and kindness, the aged mule followed him around. The mule owners were astonished and, as one giving voice to all their thoughts said, "Look, it's following him like a dog'."
After the demonstration, Dr Gigi Kay overheard more than one mule owner saying, "He's so soft; we are too hard on our mules."
|The mule owners had plenty to think and talk about|
Visitors are welcome at the Fondouq.
See the animals and have a close look at the interactions between the team of vets, technicians and the owners of the animals. Drop-in visitors are always welcome as well. We suggest you arrive in the morning. Also visit their website HERE