n. the understanding and ablitiy to read equine behavior beyond the scope of normal interation
Everyone wants that gallop down the beach, bareback, no bridle, just you and your horse relationship, how to get there is the question. Tonight I spent some time watching a Pat Parelli 30 minute show. Pat is an amazing teacher, encouraging just the right amount and then directing enough, the kind of guy I would want to sit down with and really listen to, although my qualms with him come from his message that just anybody can train a horse. The basics of the Parelli system is amazing, the same way that most natural horsemanship trainers take is finding a balance between punishment and reward, by reinforcing the good and ignoring the bad. This is the same way I think much of human interaction could be boiled down to. I had the wonderful experience of being in the CSU colt training class, and I saw firsthand how these training techniques and the conventional when combined can produce amazing results.
That being said, the girl who was receiving the lesson was a perfect example of the problems I have with Parelli. The girl was hardly able to trot her huge off the track thoroughbred. He was honestly a nice horse and very willing to be put through his paces and learn the new exercises. The problem becomes when the “teacher” the person trying to train the horse can hardly ride, nor has any idea what they are asking for. Even though Pat was obviously trying to get the horse to yield his head to both sides, the girl had no idea what or why she was asking for what she was asking. This is a prime example of many of the Parelli students I have met, mind you, not all. It seems his biggest following is middle aged women who have some rank horse too young or untrained for the riders ability and they begin to work their way up the levels of Parelli, finally they have arrived at say, level 10, haven’t gotten their horse to trot under saddle, but it can kick a ball! Finally when they do get in the saddle and ask for something more than walking, the horse explodes, the lady gets hurt, and there goes any work they have made. I have heard this story over and over, and it is fine for people who literally just want to “play” with their horse, but for actual riding, they need to get a horse they can ride, or find a trainer.
I want to reiterate that I like the Parelli mission, I mean, it is basically the same as all of the rest of the natural horsemen, a balance between reward and punishment, a way to ensure trust and leadership in a relationship with a horse. Honestly, I think these guys are geniuses, they figured out a way to market themselves and sell the “magic carrot stick” with the message that if you buy this magic stick, then you too can have the perfect horse, you too can create the perfect horse, when in reality they are just good trainers with an amazing nose for making some money. Heck, if I could sell a halter and make a million dollars for a year, then I would too. The bottom line is it takes work and experience, not levels and some games to make a safe, rideable, respectful horse. I would love for every person out there to use some groundwork, some trust and some leadership to make a partnership with their horse, just I beg they do it safely and not outside their abilities.