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People of Ibiza: David Capdevielle

What does the son of a celebrated French Rock Musician, a 40kg overweight beach bum kite surfer and the European Go Carting Vice Champion have in common with this Horse Whisperer?


I've known David Capdevielle for a while. In the North, we call him the Horse Whisperer. He has a dry humour and likes to correct us, deadpan with "Horse Screamer".

Arriving to interview David at the Ibiza Horse Valley, it was to find all hell had broken loose. Ibiza had just been hit by a particularly strong storm and the Sanctuary had lost all water and electricity. David and his companion who helps to run Ibiza Horse Valley, Cosima Jung, were frantically raiding the neighbours water supply - including the fish pond - to get food and water to the herd of eight rescued horses.

The morning was cold, mud was everywhere and despite the seriousness of the situation good humour abounded and the horses seemed blissfully calm and patient.

David Capdevielle Ibiza Horse Valley People of Ibiza

Two hours later, the job was complete and David offered me a cup of tea. Made with boiled fish pond water, over gas in an old saucepan. It was just a hint of what was to come.

Born in France Davids family were at Barcelona port, catching the boat to Ibiza on the day Franco's death was announced. David was six years old. He stayed on the island until he was sixteen, leaving only because Ibiza has no Universities (still true to this day).

Returning to France, he set himself up to study Literature. Not because it was a driving passion but because he was already fluent in French, Spanish and English. However his real driving passion was... driving. After two years of study, David left university to follow his passion. He progressed quickly becoming the European Go Carting Vice Champion and then moved on to Formula Ford, Formula Renault and finally Formula Three. Here he encountered his biggest disappointment. The realisation that he was never going to be good enough for Formula One.

David Capdevielle Ibiza Horse Valley People of Ibiza

At a loose end, Davids father Jean Patrick Capdevielle, a French Rock Musician and friends with the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and close personal friend of Eric Clapton, introduced his son to the World of show business.

David moved into managing Pop Opera singers, people like Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. For ten years he flew around the World, living the 'life of Riley'. Finally he accepted that he was both fat and bored. He gave up the flat, the cars and as he cheerfully quips "the beautiful but oh so expensive girlfriend"

On a whim he returned to Spain, deciding to become a kite surfer. "I was a beach bum and very good at it" His aim was to lose weight and within two years he'd achieved his goal, losing in excess of 40kgs. His exercise of choice was kite surfing, for no other reason than he had friends who were doing it and it looked like fun.

Across all time nonetheless, he had returned to Ibiza every summer. Finally fitter, slimmer and happier, he returned as usual and bumped into his childhood riding instructor. She asked him if he wanted his old job back for even as a child himself, David had helped teach other children to ride horses.

David Capdevielle Ibiza Horse Valley People of Ibiza

After a year, David set up his own stables on the island but was soon offered another job with a far bigger set-up on Ibiza. He handed his own stables over to his then wife and took on the role of overseeing the wellbeing of some sixty horses.

However, he couldn't get away from the thought that horses are inherently social, herd animals and the stables didn't allow for this. Four years later he moved on again.

Then he met Kate Burns, self-made multi-millionairess and powerhouse behind numerous Internet successes, including Google and AOL. Kate offered David and his childhood friend, Cosima Jung along with her older sister Lillian, a valley in the north of Ibiza to set up a Horse Sanctuary. David prepared the land, at that point little more than an overgrown pine forest. There was no water supply, no electricity, not even a shack to store food and saddles. Cosima used her skills in the PR World to source financing and support.

Six months into the project, tragedy struck. The worse fire in the recorded history of the island ripped through the area, devastating the north of Ibiza. The Ibiza Horse Valley was right in the middle of it. Everything was destroyed, including the newly built (by hand) Tack Room. The local Sant Joan villagers turned out in force to help. The horses were walked the 4km to the village, the locals gifting food and water.

David Capdevielle Ibiza Horse Valley People of Ibiza

It seemed all was lost but that is neither the Ibicenco or Davids way. After the fire when the land had cooled sufficiently, word got out that the Sanctuary needed help. Billionaire industrialists, international super-models and the villagers themselves came together to help re-build this remarkable life-line for the horses.

I sip my fish pond tea and look about me. The valley is quiet after the nights storm, the horses below in their herd, covered in mud but obviously content and confident in their surrounds.

I ask David about his views on spirituality and he grimaces. As a child growing up on Ibiza in the 70's, he met a group of people who proclaimed spiritual enlightenment. He discovered however that they were little more than sexual predators and free-loaders.

He admits that if pushed to define it, his spirituality is now animals, "They're honest. If they don't like you, they bite."

His hero?
"My Father."
I wonder if it's because his father is a celebrity but David smiles and admits he simply admires his fathers charm and ability to interact with people.

He has local heroes too - his friend Ben Fox who worked exceptionally hard, side by side with David in clearing the valley. There's a wry smile as we speak of David's partner Monique. Ever glamorous and charming, she's a lynch-pin in the operation but so humble you'd never know.

We leave our tea - David's drunk his, I've merely sipped at mine - and walk down to see how the horses are doing. I'm trying not to slip in the mud but David makes his way through it sure-footedly. His phone bleeps and he sits on a rock to send a text, the horses walking up to him.

It's wonderful to watch the interaction. These animals who have seen such misery in their lives are finally at home. So too, it seems, is David.

About Ibiza Horse Valley.

Ibiza Horse Valley is a registered Association on the island.

Each horse costs 225 euros a month to feed, water and home. At time of writing the sanctuary has eight horses but a ninth is about to arrive. This cost does not include medical bills. If you would like to help or visit, please do as they survive purely from donations.

The Ibiza Horse Valley also offers a range of treks, including swimming with the horses and overnight stays.

You can also learn the story of each horse rescued, on the website.

Website: Ibiza Horse Valley

Photography by Cat Milton

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