Michael Bevilacqua - NHE official representative in Canada and Worldwide
It was summer vacation out in the country. My first real introduction to the horse world was watching a two year old horse a neighbour brought in just for pleasure and training. The horse was scarred over the nose from a rubbing halter or chain during frenzied lungeing, and welts on the hindquarters from whipping. When his training was done for the day, I would stand on the fence to his outdoor box and try to get him to take a bite of a carrot instead of taking a serious bite of me. I knew nothing about horses or training them but I knew this horse needed a friend. I was 9.
Horses always got my attention, but I never pursued the regular route of going to a school and taking riding classes. Life moved on. I did some military service, became a pilot on my own, did my own security consulting work and counter-espionage security for military contracts, and also a bodyguard for corporate clients. I got tired of very long hours and time away from home. I decided to take a break and a riding class.
For the very first time in such a long time, when I was walking with that horse, I felt the moment. My world had been in overdrive and my mind always flooded with thoughts. My work was to be too aware of what man could do because of greed or hate. With this horse the whole world faded away - even the instructor! That horse returned to me an inner peace and awareness that I had long lost. My life would not be the same after that day.
Much was learned from different people in different areas of the horse world who shared with me their experience and personal insight: breeders, trainers, in western, dressage. I found that some of the older people, who spent the major part of their life with horses, sometimes seemed to talk almost with a learned and knowing regret. As if to say, this is how it is done, but...
From the time I walked into a training stable and saw a horse at the end of a lunge line rearing in panic and fear, it reminded me of that first horse I saw like that. I observed and tried to understand the training, I learned it, but refused to do it. Without knowing the science side of things or physical reasons, at the time, I already refused to ride with a bit. I went by my own intuition judgeing from the look on the horse's face. Like many others, I found an alternative in Parelli. Yet, even there, there was a limit to the negative reinforcement that I was willing to do just in Level 1. I did not follow the norm, nor the popular alternative. But by calming some 'crazy' horses on my own and people seeing me work with my own horses, people started to ask me to train theirs. What I did was working, but if people would ask me how I did it, I would be hard pressed to give a concrete answer! Every horse was as an individual. I had no specific method. It was important for me to find ways to work alone with the horse. No audience. No distractions. The work was quietly, calmly showing the horse what I wanted.
The problem I was faced with is that owners did not live with their horses the same way that I worked with or treated them. The horses could be good with me, but, eventually, not with the owners who were part of a traditional stable life. I got excited about training with Frederic Pignon and Magali (Cavalia fame), but found that I did not really learn anything that I did not already experience. After learning the standard ways, studying many other ways, working in my own way that was intangible, I felt that I had come all around to the point where I started. I felt that I really knew nothing. Then, through Lydia, I discovered Nevzorov Haute Ecole.
Perhaps they reminded me of the importance of truly being with the horse. Like the way I was the day the world disappeared and it was just me and the horse. Seeing what a horse can give, but also being surrounded by the mentality in the predominant existing horse world, I felt stuck between two worlds. They helped give substance to what I considered 'intangible', which really comes back to the basics of connecting with the horse. With their support and guidance and encouragement I am doing things with my horses that I never thought would come so easily; that I never thought of doing before. Mostly, we are having fun again. It's been a long time. With my wife, Monica, we got our own place far from the city and keep the horses with us. The summer vacation has become permanent. This time, the way I always thought it should be.