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Parelli Center Observations, Part Two

Published: 11/10/2009
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From Day Three on…

NickerNews reader Robin Kroc writes more about her two-week stint at the Parelli Center in Florida.

Read about her previous days by clicking here.

Read comments from the anti-Parelli contingent by clicking here.

I am so grateful to be able to be here and to see so many people striving for excellence with horses, putting the relationship first, knowing when to give the horse a release, using strategies for the horse that shows up today (or in this moment), changing strategies when the horse changes!


The level of teaching is "state of the art" education driven by Linda Parelli's study of research in adult learning. The faculty is highly trained by Linda and assisted by Pat Parelli's interns who teach for week at a time on a rotation schedule.
The interns study with Pat for six months to six years depending on their goals, learning about all aspects of the Parelli organization. They ride Pat's horses, learning to develop horses with all manners of background, from newborn foals to horses who are troubled rescues.

There is also a 12-week extern program which allows the students to get an in-depth education with their own horse. The top 20% of the group are asked to stay and become interns if they wish.

There are students here from all over the world. I chatted with a woman from Spain today who did not speak very good English but we had a lovely chat. She is "living her dream!"There are students here from all over the world. I chatted with a woman from Spain today who did not speak very good English but we had a lovely chat. She is "living her dream!"

Short-term students like Mary, Caroline and myself are here for anywhere from one to eight weeks.
Caroline, who lives in Litchfield was here last week for Liberty Level 1/2.
One of our fellow students is a young mother from Switzerland named Kristina. She took the one week On Line Level 1/2 course, the one week Liberty 1/2 course and is now taking the one week Confidence in Riding course.
Her husband insisted that she come over to the Florida Parelli International Study Center to study for 8 weeks. She has two boys at home: a 9 year-old and a 3 year-old.
Her dear husband and mother are taking care of the boys. She talks to her husband and children on the weekends on Skype.

Kristina runs a small riding program with halflingers based on natural horsemanship. European Parelli instructors come to her farm two times a year to give her lessons. She is thrilled to be here immersed in horsemanship.

That is a real commitment for her whole family.

Having reviewed the Parelli Horsenality chart yesterday, our morning classroom session included discussing strategies to use for each type of horsenality. Kathy Barr introduced Linda Parelli's newest research in Personalities. Then we spent some time looking at the needs of these different personalities and how they match or do not match the horsenalities. We also talked about our comfort zones and our expanding our learning zones.

How interesting!

Our morning demo was convened in the aluminum bleachers in the far corner of the playground. John rode his lovely bay mare, while his bay gelding followed them around at liberty.

Ryan, our intern assistant instructor rode his buckskin mustang, Warrior!

John rode circles and figure eights to "shorten" his impulsive extrovert while Ryan rode point to point with rest at each point to "lengthen and motivate his introvert.”John rode circles and figure eights to "shorten" his impulsive extrovert while Ryan rode point to point with rest at each point to "lengthen and motivate his introvert.”
Soon both horses achieved impulsion where their "whoa" equaled their "go"! How interesting.
We were sent to play with our horses on line to experiment on impulsion.
After lunch we watched John play with a student's paint mare. John played for an hour and 15 minutes explaining what he was observing and what strategies he needed to prepare the horse to be saddled and mounted.
The horse was an extrovert who demonstrated behaviors on both the left brain and right brain quadrant. John matched the mare's energy and played with her establishing his leadership and using the appropriate techniques depending on her reactions and later her responses to those simple techniques: the friendly game, the porcupine game and the driving game.
It seemed like magic except that we could see what, when, why and for how long which may it all so simple! How interesting!

Then we were given the challenge later in the afternoon of preparing our horse on the ground and in the saddle to achieve the same results. We all had a great afternoon.
We all have different horsenalities and different personalities.
Yet everyone on their own level , on their own journey were smiling and pleased with themselves by the time we all put the horses up for the day.

I gained a lot of confidence today. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Day Four

Amazing how fast the week has gone. It has been so interesting focusing on our horsemanship to the exclusion of everything else that usually makes up our world.
I am also finding it interesting that there are so many other people who feel the need to focus in the same manner. I now am really understanding how the horses teach us to look at ourselves. At how we are inside...our true nature as well as learned behavior, our mental, emotional and physical selves. Horses are so sensitive that they can easily show us who we are. We cannot fool them.

I had a major breakthrough today. It seems so simple but I have been struggling with this for several years. I have not been able to mount from the ground for a long time. I can't remember the last time I was able to do so.
One of the things that has been emphasized this week has been doing all the basic skills with excellence. We had sessions showing us precisely how to halter, saddle and mount. Each day I made it a point to mount from a lower and lower "mounting aid". Today I arrived at the afternoon focus group for a Parelli style trail ride and I was still on the ground because I had taken the time it took for all my on line preparation.
The rest of the class had already mounted and was standing in a semicircle while John explained the guidelines for the ride.
I lowered my stirrups a couple of holes and mounted precisely and effortlessly and inconspiculously. I was elated.
It seems like such a small task but for me it was HUGE. I just knew I could do it before I tried.

We took a Parelli style trail ride. It was wonderful! You follow the horse in front, nose (zone 1) to tail (zone 5). The slower horses set the pace in front. The more impulsive horses are put in the back. You are to focus on the horse in front, staying in zone 5.
Each rider carries their carrot stick and plays a friendly game with their horse, swinging it all around their horse. If the horse behind you gets too close, the horse will walk into the carrot stick being swung by the rider in front. Therefore no rider has to "hold back" their horse. The horse who walked into the swinging carrot stick will eventually stay out of range and your horse does not get claustrophobic with you holding back using tight reins.
Pat and Linda Parelli are the King and Queen of SIMPLIFY!

Day Five

Another super day! John focused on the eight responsibilities: four for the rider and four for the horse and how that related to our confidence. He emphasized "prior and proper preparation" especially prepping for "got to" moments!
We did some simulations using our savvy strings as reins. It is amazing how the direct and indirect rein, the lateral one rein stop and lift to stop feels so clear when you are pretending to be the horse.
I had my eyes closed which made it harder for me to trust my rider but eventually I trusted her and could even trot and we were "moving in harmony” which is the name of the next course we are taking next week.

I forgot to mention at the end of every session, in the classroom, or a demo or group activity we always do a savvy clap! One hand up, one hand low and everyone says "saavvy!" and end in a clap!
In the classroom as soon as we do the savvy clap one of the externs touches the ipod and a great song begins which is so much fun. Yours Truly finds herself dancing out the door!

We played volleyball for about a half an hour. Fun! We went back into the classroom to watch a video of Pat riding Magic and driving Casper (tandem riding) then playing with Casper at liberty.

After lunch most people "warmed up strong to ride soft", then people who are not staying for the next course started to go home, waving to us who were still riding as they drove down the road on their way out!

I am so happy that I was able to take this course. My confidence has improved so much: words become thoughts and thoughts become things! I love my journey of never ending self-improvement as a horsewoman!

Week Two
Day One

We participated in Parelli games today from 9 til noon. I did the 'on line' and 'liberty'.
Mary also participated in the 'freestyle' games. The instructors are really positive and supportive. I love the atmosphere here. 'On line' I was a little nervous and rushed, forgetting that when you are 'on line' you should play like you are at 'liberty'. I did very well at 'liberty', however because I "knew" that if I hurried or was too big Little Jen might leave me. How interesting! She stuck to me and was very soft.
Pat is back from Colorado. He was riding around on his new solar powered ATV. He stopped by at the games this morning.

Little Jen and I also tried the tiny step up trailer today: got two feet on the trailer, then did so again later. I also practiced laying on her neck in preparation to mount bareback from her neck. We also played on the teeter totter again today. That was really fun. It takes a lot of confidence for the horse.

Finally saw Zeus, Pat's Fresian today pulling the hay wagon on their way into one of the large pastures. It is late in the season and hay is needed to supplement the pasture grass. Thunder and Lightening get the day off on Saturday and Zeus does the heavy chores.
Later we were able to examine his harness. They drive him with very long black savvy string size reins. If I get the chance I will ask Pat where he buys them.

We took the Texas mule couple out to lunch today. They had not been off the property since they had arrived as their truck broke down in Tallahassee on the way to the Parelli Center last week-end.
They had to pay a guy $400 to pull their trailer from Tallahassee to the Parelli Center. They were given special permission to live in their trailer up on the hill where we all park our trailers.

Their truck will not be ready until Tuesday and still have not figured out what they are going to do about when or how to get back to their truck.

We drove a half hour south and east to see the Hardwick Hideout Carriage maker this afternoon. He was an interesting guy but he did not have much to show us except one marathon vehicle. He makes them to order and ships them out.

Mary and Peggy went back to the Center tonight to put some meds in Elias' eyes. They have been a little runny but late this afternoon Mary discovered that they were swollen (from an allergy to something?)
One of the Mastery students (interns) told Mary that she has seen that happen to some horses when they come from away. Luckily Peggy's horse vet is coming tomorrow morning so Mary can trailer Elias to Peggy's farm to see the vet. It is so nice staying with Peggy because we always have someone to answer questions or ask directions or help us problem solve.

There are six of us including Mary and me staying for the next course. We are expecting seven new people to join us. It will be fun to meet some new people.

Day Two

Pat talked to our class today about the importance of a good foundation (Level 4 in all four savvys) for every horse no matter what we intend to do with the horse.
He told us that he has been working very hard to make DVDs that will make it simple to get to Level 4 if we put in the time it takes! You can see how passionate he is about wanting to make the world better for horses and humans! Whoo hoo!

This morning we did several simulations riding each other on all fours to feel what our horse feels when we use our focus: eyes, belly button, and legs before we use the reins.
When we used our direct and indirect reins with our focus it was very easy to feel the how the rider can influence the horse. Next, we put the savvy strings around our partner's waist and used the direct and indirect rein to turn our "horses".
Again it was easy to feel the influence when we used our bodies appropriately. I had to laugh. Here I am 63 years old and I am dancing around "pretending" with a rope around a friend's waist like I used to do at recess as a kid!!

John demonstrated how to warm up our horses for better harmony releasing when we get soft, accurate responses. After lunch we warmed up strong to ride soft.
I was able to get better balanced in the saddle and gain a lot of confidence today. I have to ride circles and figure eights to calm Jen's impulsiveness, then add point to point when she loses motivation. We are getting some nice fluid trots now. I even cantered for a few strides unintentionally early in the ride and sat very balanced.

It is so much fun to meet the mastery students and externs from so many different places.
John' s assistant this week is Sarah from Vermont. Angel and Susana are from Spain and Anna is from France. The mastery students and externs from last week all stop and ask how you are doing this week.
It is amazing how supportive this environment is day after day. Everyone is so positive and interested in everyone doing well.

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11/19/2009 Name not provided
I have personally seen Pat Parelli and I'm not interested in having information about him. In fact, I saw plenty Pat at the Tom Dorrance Benefit in Fort Worth, TX. Ray Hunt had to reprimand him twice and Carolyn Hunt also reprimanded him. Do the words, "that's enough Pat, put that colt up" coming from the great Ray Hunt's mouth cause any of you Parelli-ites to wonder about whether Parelli is in it for the money or in it for the horse. I've seen enough for myself. I don't think that Parelli is in it for the horse. I just hope that those of you that are so enamored with Parelli and his games see enough of those great horseman that are in it for the horse to see the truth.
1/2/2010 stella y
It's fascinating how Parelli causes strong emotions to come to the surface for different folks and how quickly negative opinions are formed and vented. It really speaks to the power of the Parelli program--what it brings up in people and how that comes through in their interactions with horses.
8/1/2010 NoKoolaid
I don't consider myself a negative person and have always been impressed by Pat and Linda Parelli's horsmanship and showmanship skills. However..... I just completed a two-week course at the Colorado Parelli Center. Everyone has asked me how it went. Well, quite honestly I was VERY disappointed. For the money spent, the 1500+ miles traveled, the stress on my animal, etc., it was NOT worth the trip. First of all, the thing that disturbed me the most was the way the horses are confined. It is anything but "natural". They are kept in 24' x 24' dirt pens with no shelter (man made or natural) and no easy access to water. Even the BLM holding pens for round-up horses have ready access to water for heavens sake. Horse owners are encouraged to withhold water from their horses so the horse will have an increasing dependence on you for basic sustinance and companionship. ("Trust the process", we're told) There are large community troughs that you can take your horse to for a drink of water. However, my horse would not buy into this process and refused to drink from the troughs. The end result was I had to haul 5 gallon buckets of water to my horse a few times every day up the hill to his pen. Either way, you get a lot of hiking in. Why make the 'process' so diffucult on the human?? A simple hose near the pens so buckets could be filled easily would have made sense. Temperatures the first week were in the mid to upper 90s with thunderstorms every afternoon. The horses have no relief from the heat and sun during most of the day. I went to check on my horse several times during the day and make sure he had plenty of water. The group was in lectures/demos from 9 a.m to about 2:30 or 3:00 each afternoon. Then we were free to "play" with or ride our horses using the methods shown in the day's demonstrations. Most of the day the horses just stand and wait for their owners to get them and do something--anything--or look for mischief to get into from shear boredom. I found it interesting that many of the instructors come from a military background of some sort, or education administration--People used to following established processes and procedures, usually without question. The teaching methodology is typical M.O. of the military, i.e. Break down everything you (and your horse) know and teach the Parelli way of doing things, regardless of whether the particular method is necessarily what the horse or owner need. Of course the instructors make it look easy, but if you're new to Parelli, when attempting to do the same things shown in the day's demonstrations, you end up getting tangled in a mess of ropes, strings, sticks, etc. And my result was a confused horse. I can understand starting a colt using the Parell method and that is the foundation he understands his entire life. But my 11 year old horse does not need starting...or restarting for that matter. To make a horse who loads into a trailer like a champ try and put all fours on a pedestal for trailer loading prep is ridiculous. I wasn't looking to establish a totally new foundation for my horse, just work on a few things I think he needed help with. But students are never queried on what it is they want to work on or what they feel their horses need. One size fits all (sounds like a lot of our public schools). The instructors are not what I would call too interactive. You have to ask for help, or demonstrably screw up in frustration before they offer to intervene. Also there isn't always consistency among instructors as to the approach to take, the game to play, why, and how the horse is interpreting the game you are playing. This was a bit frustrating. On a personal level though, the instructors are exceptionally fine people and genuinely love what they do and who they work for. Anyone would be lucky to have such people work for them. Some of the under saddle work was okay albeit a bit dull. Going through some of the hand positions on the rope reins was an interesting process. It was the first time my horse was ridden in a rope hacamore with rope reins. However, in a real [dismounting] emergency I doubt I'd remember to telescope my hands down the reins three times before actually getting my horse under control (not that I have to worry about that with my guy). Sometimes speed is of the essence in getting out of a jam. One day all of us in the class were practicing our rope wriggling facing the outside fence of the round pen. Pat Parelli graced us with his presence with a wave and told everyone (at once) to say their name and where they were from. Quite a personal touch, no? Pat has a following of middle aged women who gush over him like he is some sort of rock star. I'm 55 and not into hero worship of any kind and to see some of these women gush over actually seeing Pat sighting was a bit commical to me. I thought his attitude toward those that paid beaucoup bucks to be at Pat's World was rather arrogant. But based on what I've heard about Pat from a lot of the locals in Pagosa Springs, he can be quite pompous. Linda gave a lecture one day for about an hour and a half. Ever the perky marketing guru she had many of those Pat worshipers hanging on her every word. She made the lecture interesing and to her credit actually interacted one on one with the students. Then there's the red light guy. Oy! His treatment is going to make sure your horse never needs another injection, supplement, never colics, whatever. All you have to do is rub him with the magic laser pen a few times a week. No empirical studies have ever been done on this $500+ device, but with that laser pen, and a new Parelli saddle of course, your horse will always be the perfect picture of health. I have to admire Linda'$ marketing geniu$ in making Parelli the money- making empire it ha$ become. But it'$ really not about the hor$e anymore. Still, I will continue to watch my Parelli DVDs. There are little gems of information in them that I hope to draw on. And because I paid a lot of money for them.

"A horse doesn't care how much you know until he knows how much you care." - Pat Parelli