Feel

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.

Furthermore, although reading has formed much of my body of knowledge about horses, reading alone does not make you a “trainer.” If you have only read about techniques, or only seen a few videos, it is so much more difficult to find the timings to release pressure, to reward, to absolute quit and walk away for a day. This whole thing we call training is really a learned feel for the communication of the horse, these great horsemen marketing their knowledge have it, you automatically do not get that amazing timing just by watching the video or reading the book. My advice to anyone who wants to really get down and dirty in these methods is to actually attend some clinics, work with a horse in front of a trainer, they will fix your timing and try to teach you how to “get bigger” (or when to really establish your presence.) I hope everyone realizes that these people live and breathe training, they know the look in the eye, they know when to release or when to turn into a hairy scary monster. It is incredible, and you cannot learn this kind of “feel” from a book, from your sofa. Bottom line- watching a video or reading a book does not turn you into a horse trainer. I do not even close to pretend to be the kind of horseperson I dream of becoming, although I have been around horses for 16 years, I know it will be a lifelong journey to even have an ounce of the knowledge that is out there, to even have a pinky’s worth of the talent of the horsemen and women that I have had the privilege to meet and work with.
In conclusion, I have always admired these horsemen, Monty Roberts, Pat Parelli, Buck Brenneman, Ray Hunt, Clinton Anderson and many more. They are doing great things for the training of horses and being ambassadors for the equine language. I know this might be a subject that touches a nerve, I know the Parrelians who swear by his work- and I say again, it is great- will have a bone to pick with me criticizing his fan base. I just want people to be a little more realistic.
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8 thoughts on “Feel

  1. Ooh…the great Parelli debate. People either adore him or abhor him.I went to one of his clinics and had to walk out because what he is doing is, in my opinion, very, very dangerous for beginner horse people. He is, in essence, telling every body who has ever wanted to be around horses that they are perfectly capable of training their own horses, despite their inexperience and ignorance. I think it's highly irresponsible of him. I've seen some die-hard Parelliites get really, really hurt by their horses because they lacked the experience to read what their horses were telling them and figure out why they were behaving the way they were, but they wouldn't back down and seek professional help because Parelli said they could do it. There are some truly dangerous horses out there that beginners have no business being around and Parelli has pretty much told them to wave a rope and a stick at them and they will behave. He may have some useful insights for experienced or semi-experienced horse folks…but for true greenies he's dangerous. That said…he attempts to teach nothing more than what experienced, tactful and aware horse people already know (or should already know!). He is teaching horse sense, something I don't think you can really understand until you've been around horses for awhile, with quite a bit of that time just spent observing how they act and interact with each other. I admire Monty Roberts far more than Parelli because although they have similar philisophies, Roberts isn't afraid to tell people that sometimes, they need to seek an experienced trainer. Parelli teaches people they can do it ALL, no matter how crazy the critter may be! Oh, and welcome to the world of blogging! Looking forward to reading more from you.

  2. Bec, I agree with both Jenn and you. I think Parelli does have an excellent understanding of horses; that he "speaks horse," if you will. I also think he has been run away with by the marketing angle and the money he makes, to the point where he is endangering people. Looking forward to more posts,Ruthie

  3. I have to agree with all three of you. He does indeed have an incredible amount of knowledge and a good system. That said, I think Horsndogluvr nailed it. He has learned to sell his name and the profits seem to outweigh the responsibility of keeping his students safe.I like his program (as well as Anderson's, Brenneman's, Hunt's and many others) but not his philosophy. It seems to be based more on money than anything else.

    • Rude1, as far as the philosophy, I think there were good intentions behind everything he did, I believe from a marketing standpoint, these men are geniuses, especially Parelli as he was really the first to make his program mass marketed, followed quickly by Clinton Anderson. Where I disagree is the concept that he is more focused on money, I really do believe he is trying to do good by the horse, but I believe his intentions are misinformed is in the simple concept that “anyone can train.” I believe that is where he runs into trouble.

  4. I don’t have really strong feelings for or against Parelli, but I definitely agree with the point of this post–feel–that the most important aspect of training is intangible. I bought a horse two years ago who I thought was a decently well-broke greenie with a very quiet, laid-back personality. His job was just going to be teaching walk/trot lessons to beginner riders–he seemed to have the charisma and good nature to do that well, although I knew he was really young and inexperienced. I’ve been riding for 12 years now, but I had only done a little bit of training, mostly heavy-duty schooling rides under an instructor. The hard part isn’t knowing what to do–you CAN read that–but in knowing when to do it and when enough’s enough. I think the Parelli ideal of everyone being able to train is overly optimistic, but, that said, I do really like one aspect of the program: that every time you interact with the horse, no matter what you’re doing, you’re training it.

    • egrdog, I so appreciate your comment, and I completely agree with your final comment about no matter what you do, you are training. It is amazing how intelligent horses are, and how they are always learning from us, just as we are always learning from them. They are probably even more attuned to our emotions than we are, and in that aspect we must always be aware of out mindset as well as our actions around horses. It is absolutely fascinating. Thank you again for your comment!

      • Hey I read all your pages and they are very interesting!! I ride horses and I absolutely love them!! Oh and of you have the time to answer my ? Below that would be great!!

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