Virginie Bernhard

Since some 15 years, I am working in training, breaking in horses and re-educating difficultones or suffering from various traumas. My first experiences in this field have been gained during the early 90’s in Arizona, by training Quarter Horses, Paint and Mustangs.

In 1997, I quit my job as a watch designer with Jörg Hyseck Styling, devoting now all my time to training western horses for Reining, but also for Trail and Pleasure – working with Mr
Allori, a half Italian and half Native reining trainer – at the “Equestrian Center des Îles” in Sion, Switzerland. We trained horses and riders as well, preparing them for various competitions in Switzerland, Italy and Germany. I did also follow some sessions in Italy, to become an international NRHA judge. After this I stop my contribution to the world of competitions for personal reasons.

In 1999, I open my own equestrian center called the “Winchikala Stables” at La Sarraz, Switzerland, a place where I do concentrate at training horses and treating difficult or injured ones. During the following years, I will be taking care of more than 300 of them. My training method is in constant evolution.

At the same period (1998 – 2000), I am staying several times, for many months, with the Northern Cheyenne tribe at Lame Deer in their Montana reserve, to train Mustangs and “Cheyenne” horses (a crossbreed of Quarter Horses, Mustangs and thoroughbred). Under the guidance of their respected chief and medicine-man Johnny Russel, I am learning from those experienced riders about their traditions, their techniques and what “a horse” really is…

Meanwhile, “Winchikala Stables” kept growing, becoming quite an important equestrian center with a professional framing and a large number of students. Personally, I concentrate on developing an environment where riders are guided in training their horses by themselves in a non-violent way and with a better understanding of their companion’s behavior. Much of the training is done without saddle or without irons. We practice western and English riding, working on the ground, stretching and massages techniques (with the collaboration of Jean- Michel Boudard, a French equine osteopath) and what I call “equestrian reflexion” to ensure that the relation man-horse remains primordial before looking for any kind of performance.

“Winchikala Stables” also gave shelter to many horses suffering from various types of ill- treatments, this sometimes in collaboration with Darwin’s Refuge in Geneva, an association devoted to the protection and defense of horses.

All along my way, horses have been my brothers, my teachers and my masters, helping and guiding me to develop my personal method “The Four Ways”, a concept based on my own experiences and learning as well as Amerindian principles.
I also had the chance and opportunity to work with well-known riders like Jean-François Pignon, Monthy Roberts, Etienne Regnier, Bartabas or Markus Fuchs, show jumper World champion.
During all these years I worked for various equestrian shows for a wider audience ! Demonstrations at the Swiss Fair in Lausanne and Pow-Wows organized by Native Amerindian societies in Lausanne and with the Unated Nations in Geneva, also during Festicheval, an annual gathering devoted to the equine world in Valais. With Jean-François Pignon, I participate to the organization of the equestrian show “Le Pardon”, followed by presenting the election of “Mrs & Mr Rider 2006”, the show “The Unicorn” and “The Talent Show”, all at the IENA in Avenches, Switzerland. During winter and spring 2007, I work with Dieter Speidel to produce his show “The Prince” about Louis De Bourbon in Versailles, presented in Bern during the BEA/Pferd with the participation of the master Jean-Marc Imbert and 12 of the “Winchikala’s” horses.

In 2008, too many ties, too many obligations! The pressure to recover much of my lost freedom of action reaches a point where I have to take some tough decisions. I close the main equestrian center, keeping only my personal nearby free stalling and open arena, where I pursue my basic activity like starting young horses, training, treating, and teaching owners how to train their horses by themselves. Much of my time, I am on the move, working with private owners or professionals in Switzerland and abroad.

And, once again, I grab my pilgrim’s stick, to improve and follow up on my own knowledge, travelling around the World and staying in places as different as Spain, USA, Peru, New Zealand, Mongolia, Australia and much more, confronting myself with many different approaches, cultures, people, and horses breeds. A never-ending learning procedure…

I invite you to follow me around the world and discover maybe another way to train horses with me, stay in touch with me on my website.

“Esh Pewa” !