Aurélie de Mévius is a unique and inspiring character who is focusing her life on the well-being of horses from her base at Aquila Farm in Belgium. She describes the facility in Beauvechain, close to Leuven, as “our little place of paradise”.
Text & photo FEI
The 29-year-old has been involved with horses for almost her entire life having first been put on a pony by her aunt as a toddler. She developed as an accomplished Eventing athlete and qualified for the FEI European Championships for Juniors at 15 years old with her beloved mare, Impala du Puy.
Tragically, the horse died after a fall in June 2007 and that proved to be a watershed moment for Aurélie. It was then that she decided to see equestrian sport as less about winning and losing, and more about the welfare of horses.
Aurélie founded Aquila Farm in 2016 and has since then been gaining a strong reputation for her successful development of the horses in her care. Now an ambassador for Horse Pilot, the FEI’s official apparel supplier, we decided to find out more about her outlook and how she thinks the rest of us might better look after our horses.
Could you tell us how your interest in equine behaviour developed?
Aurélie: “Losing Impala du Puy after our fall in Jardy in 2007 was the event that turned my life around. After that I really started looking more and more into understanding horses’ behaviour to better train them – avoiding unnecessary stress, anxiety and misunderstanding.
“This is how I embarked on a journey from 2010 to 2015 through Switzerland, England, Holland and then the USA to train with what some call ‘horse whisperers’ but are really just amazing horsemen with amazing feel and common sense to understand that a horse is firstly a prey animal.
“They come from the wild and before we ask them to work with us, we need to understand their language, their needs and their living environment. I brought this thinking back to Belgium and founded Aquila Farm in 2016.”
What is your job on a day-to-day basis?
Aurélie: “Like anyone in this industry it’s a very full-on type of job. Passion drives us, so counting hours is not a thing – I live on the property.
“We have an average of 15 horses in training. It goes from my horse that I train to compete, young horses to start and develop, and then horses with either / or behaviour and physical issues.
“What I love most is see a horse progress through the levels – see them grow mentally and physically stronger and staying happy through the process. Then I teach and obviously sharing my passion gives me satisfaction.”
What is one thing that riders and owners could do that would be truly beneficial for their horses?
“Think about their basic needs before even trying to train them – social contact and interactions, open space and free movement, appropriate nutrition, read about horses and understand how they function and how they learn; then apply it to your everyday life.
“Don’t always try to do like everyone else. As they say, ‘If you always do what you have always done then you will always get what you have always gotten.’”
What about wider changes that could improve horses’ lives?
Aurélie: “I think it doesn’t take much to improve a horse’s well-being, you just need common sense.
“In Europe, a lot of our habits come from the traditional cultural usage of horses, some military and let’s say a little cruel to the animal, using it more like a machine than a living being.
“I wish for more laws and rules around the well-being of horses – like they do in Switzerland. I think the FEI is putting a great deal of effort into this and this is how things will improve.
“People most of the time don’t do things out of bad intentions they just do what they know or have been told.
“The love for the animal in the end is what connects us – all disciplines and all ambitions together.”
Could you tell us about the work you will be doing with Horse Pilot?
Aurélie: “It’s very exciting to work with brands that have a big vision and ambition. Obviously, they have amazing clothes but also a great drive to always do better and look further into the technical development for safety and comfort.
“I think we need more people coming into the horse industry from outside that have a fresh view on our sport. Evolve.”