Monday, July 13, 2009

Thoughts on the Parelli System

Parelli Natural Horsemanship is one of the most popular horse programs ever conceived. Hour 2 of this week’s radio show is a classic interview with Pat and Linda Parelli in which they give us a behind-the-curtain peak at how their system developed. They talk about their teachers, their struggles and those “ah ha!” moments when their understanding reached new levels. Of the many interviews I’ve done with them, this is one of my favorites.

I got my first glimmer of understanding about natural horsemanship from a demo Pat Parelli did about 13 years ago. I can’t say I’m a Parelli student in the technical sense, but since that day I’ve certainly studied their work, attended numerous events, and even bought a couple of their horses. I’ll admit, I’ve had special access. Friendship aside, I think they have a lot to offer, and if I had to sum up their strengths up in one word, it would be organization.

There is no doubt that Pat Parelli is a fine horseman, but that isn’t what makes him a key player in this modern revolution in horsemanship. It’s his ability to communicate intangibles in ways that people understand that makes him important, for at its heart, this revolution is really a revolution in communication.

So much about reading and riding horses comes down to the feel of the moment. How do you teach that to someone? It’s akin to describing a sunset to a blind man. Yet, somehow Pat has done that without oversimplifying or diminishing the wonder of this creature. Furthermore, he’s managed to put the concepts in an order that makes them comprehensible to the student. In other words, he’s given this swirling mass of ideas organization. No small feat.

Then along comes Linda, who has taken Pat’s work to still higher levels with her own contributions to both the substance and the presentation. Make no mistake. Both are important if you want to be engage and empower students.

Is the Parelli system right for everyone? Probably not. But it’s a Godsend for beginners looking for a step-by-step, enjoyable, safe, and effective approach for working with their horses. Plus, among the tens of thousands of Parelli students, there is a sense of community that is hard to come by. And that, my friends, ain’t hay.

I hope you enjoy the interview.



John said...

I got my first intro to the Parelli system in the mid ninties and at the time I didnt realize how special this program is. If I am not mistakin the word Natural Horsemanship is a phrase that Pat created. I dont think the horseworld would be what it is know had it not been for people like Pat Parelli. I think that Pat made horsemanship a study that anyone can obtain. I personally think that Pat is one of the finest horseman of our time. I am not in any way associated with Parelli but I am certainly willing to acknowledge what he has done for the hoese world and the horse. He is not only a great Horseman but a true pioneer in horsemanship.

Sandra Vann said...

I loved your "Thoughts on the Parelli System" but I disagree that is is not for everyone. I would love it if everyone practiced Parelli Natural Horsemanship with their horses. I have been a Parelli student for many years, and it has become a way of life for me and my family. I have always deeply loved horses but never imagined a relationship with a horse could be so close. I am amazed daily with the results from the program and my horses love it.

Pat said...

I agree with John and Sandra. Parellis are the bomb! I could not do my job as a natural hoofcare practitioner, dealing with unhandled, spoiled, horses who live with unconfident owners, without the strategies and confidence that PNH given me.

I'm sad however that they choose to stay with Jim Crew as a farrier. I was adviced recently that Linda took a bad spill and was hurt when Remmer tripped and fell with her on his back.

Remmer's farrier might blame his feet, but I blame his farrier. Sadly, Remmers hooves are in way worse condition now than when he was a young horse.

Parellis say barefoot isn't for them because they ride on varied terrain, but that's exactly what works best for going barefoot.

I've heard that the real reason is they can't take their horses out of the spotlight long enough for their hooves to transition from the condition they're in, to sound bare hooves.

Which is worse? Doing what they've been doing and expecting different results, or taking the time it takes to transition their horse's hooves.

I hope Linda is going to be okay and Remmer too.

Priscilla said...

Thanks, that was a great post!!

Rick said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. Sandra, I agree that everyone can learn something of value from the Parelli system. However, it works best for the student who prefers a structured, step-by-step program. Some folks don't. Some prefer to gather as much input from as many different sources as possible and sort through it themselves. I'm one of them, although the nature of my job makes that a necessity. This "cherrypicking" approach can be confusing for the newbie because differences in style or emphasis can be misconstrued as differences in substance. Sometimes it's better to have a program to follow. Ironically, the more I learn, the more I appreciate the sophistication of what the Parellis teach, so it's certainly not only for beginners.