Posts Tagged ‘Pat Parelli’

PostHeaderIcon Just What the Heck Is Natural Horsmanship?


For more than 6000 years, man tried to bridge the chasm between his own species, the ultimate predator, and the horse, the ultimate prey animal.  Man needed the horse to be a servant. The horse was programmed to be anything but a servant.  The man adopted his most efficient tool, brute force.  It was the basis of horsemanship practiced by the common man for millennia.

We had early natural horsemen:
Simon of Athens (400B.C.), Xenophon (430-355) and Alexander the Great are the names most well-known  by natural horsemanship students of today

The revolution in horsemanship occurred without a war, without shots fired etc.  A new theme was developed- “horses can be controlled more effectively without the use of force”. At the end of the 20th century, we no longer needed horses as servants. We invented tractor, trucks  and cars etc. Horse population plummeted.

Most of you might have heard of amazing stories of the early whisperer’s, trainers and professors. 

  • Professor Joseph Beery (1861-mid 1900′s)who started a correspondence school titled Beery School of Horsemanship.  He invented the running W to control the horse while desensitizing it. 
  • Keffery Kell (1878-1958) invented the rope with the ring on the end.  The rope with the ring is still one of the main tools of natural horsemanship methods today.
  • Monty Foreman (1915-1987) saw himself as a “research scientist for horsemanship”.  He excelled in performance rather than gentling wild horses.  He also invented the Monte Foreman Balanced Ride Saddle which is still being made today.  Not causing pain to the horse while riding certainly enhances the performance possibility of the horse.

The horse’s comeback in America started in the mid-70s.  Vietnam ended and the economy improved.  People had time for leisure activities.  Most of these people lived thru years of television (Roy Rodgers, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, etc) and western movies. 

There are thousands of people (mostly girl people) born with the invisible “horse gene”.  We all wanted a horse. Horses became pets and our hobby.

By the late 1970′s a new breed of horsemanship clinic sprung up in the west to meet the increased demand for horse education.  Old nonviolent training philosophies were presented side-by-side with modern, creative horse-handling techniques. Students liked this.  It struck a chord to their hearts and minds.

Word spread.  Followers became evangelists, students became teachers and it a matter of a few years this approach spread across America and to the rest of the world.  By the mid-90′s this became an international phenomenon.

One place where tractors and 4 wheelers did not replace horses was the Western cattle ranch.  Nothing could match a good horse to round up or cut cattle.  In California (the land of perpetual sunshine and no seasons and thus, no hurry) there was an especially rich heritage of horsemanship that traced back through the vaquero and “Californio” to Mexico and mother Spain.  They considered the horse a partner, a thinking and feeling creature that was as psychologically delicate as it was physically strong.  They built a relationship with their horse and took it to the highest levels of finesse. The vaquero was the link back to the great horsemen of the past.  They loved their horses, and for the sake of the horse, were willing to share what they had learned.

It was when their philosophies and methods fell into the hands of gifted teachers and entrepreneurs in the late 1980s that the revolution in natural horsemanship began in earnest.  It was then that clinics began introducing these techniques to the public and the systems of teaching that blended these techniques. Pat Parelli invented the word, “Natural Horsemanship in the mid-1980s.

We have a new language now. We no longer “break” a horse. We “start” a horse. We don’t work with our horses, we “play” with them and unlock their “play drive”.  “Game”s are preferred over exercises. “Discomfort” has replaced pain. “Joining up” or “hooking on” demonstrates the special relationship that develops between our two species. Words once used exclusively by scientists and behaviorists are used in the natural horsemanship world:  sensitization, habituation, dominance hierarchy, conditioned response and alpha behavior are a few.

Groundwork, the handling of horses from the ground is a study in itself.  Most behavior problems, even those experienced while riding, are solved by groundwork.

The most important term is “rewarding the try”.  You’ll find a lot of nice horse people in the world, but they never reward the try (release is what teaches) with an instant reward. They do not practice natural horsemanship. With patience, persistence and consistency in the asking, the horseman helps the horse find the correct answer.

Horses have become agents of change in the world that we live in.

  • Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books have turned into The Black Stallion Literacy Project and becomes the first book a child ever owns and flames the desire to read.
  • The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association has channel the healing power of the horse to empower emotionally and physically challenged disabled people of all ages.
  • America’s justice system is using horses to rehabilitate prisoners, gang members at at-risk youth. The rate of recidivism among participates is at an all-time low.
  • Corporate boardrooms are using the principles of natural horsemanship to teach the arts of gentle persuasion, benevolent leadership and nonverbal communications to produce better managers and happier employees…and a bigger profit margin.

The horse has become a reason and a vehicle of self-improvement.  A relationship with nature’s most magnificent beast, the horse, is the carrot on the stick that keeps us moving forward, striving to be better people.

Natural Horsemanship makes better horses and it makes us better people.  Find a teacher of natural horsemanship and learn the techniques.  That’s what happened to me! It has changed my life. The study of natural horsemanship is still in the process of changing my life. I want to be a vaquerro!

If you are intrigued by this concept or want to know more about the Revolution in Horsemanship buy the book of that name.  The book was written by Robert. M. Miller D.V.M. and Rick Lamb. My article is copied exclusively from 347 pages of this book. You can buy this book used on  I highly recommend this book to everyone that has an interest in horses.

The book is dedicated to Tom Dorrance, the father of this revolution in horsemanship.


Sue the “How Do You Do” Horse. It took Sue nearly three years to not flinch when I saddled her. I’m not talking about a slight shudder, either. I’m talking
about a 1″ rolling oceanic tsumni flinch along her back. That’s one inch of rolling fear. She was triple T terrified of the saddle.

Sue must have been saddled by a grizzly bear. 

Pat Parelli has taught us the safe way to saddle, bridle and mount horse. He
does things to ensure our safety and end up so we can live our dream with
horses. Do you realize that 85% of the accidents with people and horses occur when the leg is swung over the saddle? There are more than one reason for a horse to rear, bolt or jump when people mount. The safe saddling, bridling and mounting according to Pat Parelli eliminates most of those rear, bolt or jump reasons. It used to be a level 1 task in the Parelli levels tests.

Saddling. We can pick up the pad and the saddle at the same time, but you have to be handy to do that. Let’s just pick up the saddle pad and let your horse sniff it. Sling the pad on your horse. You can play the friendly game with the saddle pad a couple of times before you sling the pad on your the horse, but that isn’t an every-time rule.

Let’s talk about the word sling. Let’s talk about a grizzly bear about to
attack. It’s standing up on it’s hind legs with the front legs ready to rip you
to pieces. That’s what we don’t want you to look like when you are putting the
pad or the saddle on the horse. That’s the grizzly bear way of saddling. Instead, we want your arm to nicely sling the pad and saddle up on your horse.

Saddle. All the saddle hanging stuff should be nicely tethered to the saddle. We should not see a full length girth or billet swing . There should be nothing for you to step on if you are carrying your saddle somewhere .Carry the saddle the sexy way, not the stumble way.

Pick the saddle up, hold the cantle with your hand and snug the front against your body, fleece side in. It’s a very comfortable way to carry a saddle. If you are doing it right, your saddle feels like a feather. If you are doing it wrong, your saddle will soon careen of of control and you will drop it. It weights less when you carry it correctly too.  Really, I’m serious!

Stand facing your horse, rotate your upper body around so you are
offering the horse an opportunity to smell the saddle. If the horse is
comfortable with this, you can sling the saddle on your horse. If you have less than an experienced horse, you can play the friendly game a couple of times with some practicing non-landing slings. I used to practice non-landing slinging the saddle on Sue for a half day before the ocean of flinching fear would calm down on her back.

Slinging is also better for your back than grizzly bear saddling. When you pick up a saddle like most people do, your back can protest and put you at home moaning with pain. Your back loves slinging a saddle.

When your horse is comfortable with the fact that the saddle is going to be
place on the back, gently swing the saddle up and let it land as light as a
saddle-feather. Do not drop the saddle on your horse’s back. Practice “feather landings” when you saddle your horse.

Drop the girth and get your billet strap ready. The hand that reaches under the saddle to get the girth should not make it necessary to put your head under the horse’s belly. One little kick at a fly when your head is under your
horse…well…thikg of the pumpkin someone took off your front porch and
smashed it on the street. yeccha. You reach with your “back hand” and leave
your head away from the pumpkin smash zone.

Draw the girth up so there is light tension on the girth. There’s no reason to
have quick hands with this either. Quick hands should be hit by a
ruler-wielding 1950′s fifth grade teacher. If I see “Quick Hands”, I’ll call my 5th grade teacher back to earth with her bloody metal ruler!

The rule is move your horse three times and tighten the girth between each move. That is the bare minimum rule. Pat Parelli saw someone die because a little piece of flesh was caught in the girth when the horse was saddled the normal way. When the man swung his leg over the horse, the horse’s tender belly flesh was squeezed and caused the horse to rear over backwards. Think about the pumpkin being squished when thrown off your porch into the street. That was his head.  Slow girthing hands, light tension and moving the horse around prevents that belly flesh from being caught in the girth.

 Quick hands and tighten the girth as tight as you can get it the first time…is one of the things that cause the death experience when you mount the horse.

Velvet is a master at holding her breath and making her barrel puff out when I girth her up. Therefore the saddle is loose after a ride of a short distance.
When I’m going to ride on a trail ride or think about cantering in the arena and doing drop to trot lead changes….I like to have my girth tight enough. To ensure that your girth is tight enough for athletic moves or a tricky-breath horse, you need to either canter the horse or have it jump over something.  After the canter or jump, tighten your girth one last time and you are ready to mount and ride anywhere.

I’ve had lot’s of fun with loose saddles in my inexperienced life with horses.
I’ve learned that where ever the saddle goes, your body will follow. when the saddle slides from on top of the horse to the side of the horse, your body goes right along with it.  This is a rule of physics.

Practice safe physics with a saddle. Heck, just practice safe saddling! We need to keep you around living out your dream with horses.

PostHeaderIcon Powder’s Progress – Development Pending

Sunday, Powder will be headed to “For the Horse” Ranch to enjoy 30 days of training with Jennifer Vaught

Jenny was a Parelli 3 Star instructor for 15 years.  Pat found Jenny near the beginning of the development of the Parelli people training system and asked her to be an instructor. She has influenced untold numbers of people in the midwest.  She has influenced my life a great deal!

Jenny has taken two Horse Development courses with Pat Parelli and Pat’s mentor Ronnie Willus and was certified as a Young Horse developer.

Jenny is the secret to all my successes with horses. She’s started all my horses.  I can’t imagine what I would do with a young horse without Jenny being in my life.

Powder will be the fifth horse for me to develop into a finished saddle horse.  I can’t imagine developing a horse without that crucial start from a  Parelli certified “Colt Starter” and one who has started thousands of horses…..including Sage, Velvet, JR, Nova and soon Powder!

Powder has the potential to be the best of them all!

Jenny and Tony are going to be wintering in Florida for 2010.  They are taking in training horses.  They will be about an hour south of Orlando. Contact them if you are interested.

PostHeaderIcon JR’s Journal – Chris and JR in Parelli Spotlight

KC Parelli Pat & Chris

Chris has Down’s syndrome.  He also has a connection with animals. Chris and JR performed in Pat Parelli’s Kansas City Celebration Spotlight events. They did “online”.  JR was in tune with Chris.  JR was using everything he had to do what Chris wanted him to do.  Now and then Chris moved out of position which made it difficult for JR to do what Chris wanted.  He tried.  The audience held our breath…and then JR did it!  The audience erupted.

Chris and JR performed like clouds on a dreamy day. They drifted around the arena in harmony.

Everyone was very moved.  Pat was really moved and awarded Chris his level 2 string-on the spot…in the arena.

Chris became a Level 1 graduate and tears were in everyone’s eyes.

Note:  JR was sold to Lynne and Walan Burger in 2008. Chris is Lynne’s nephew.

PostHeaderIcon Susan and Velvet – Parelli 2009 Spotlight Blue Ribbon


Pat Parelli's 2009 Celebration Spotlight!

The reining demonstration is pretty cool. At the end when we run down the arena preparing to do a slide stop, I open the umbrella and it turns inside out!

Our Dressage demonstration is highlighted by a “dressage hat” I found at a toy store and really cool dressage moves. We do leg yields at flat foot walk and canter – that means we travel diagonally across the arena. Velvet also does her rocking chair canter-naturally. If we have time, we do drop to a trot lead changes. It’s all bridleless!

It’s all pretty darn fun to watch too…and Velvet just blows everyone away!

When the 2nd song ended, Pat Parelli said, “Susan Engle, If I didn’t have boots on, you would have blown my socks off! You got 10 in all four categories. Your ribbon is the top ribbon – Level 5 in performance. And for selling 100 tickets, you get a free two week course!”

Velvet and I got two (or more) standing ovations from the crowd including all Pat’s Master Students and Certified Instructors.

That afternoon, Nichle Copple took Velvet back into another Spotlight performance. Nichole and Velvet performed with Nichole’s sister riding Sasha. At one point, they both stood up on their horses and rode around at a trot…STANDING! They rocked the house! Nichole and Caitlyn were also awarded the top ribbon. This top ribbon was given to three people or groups over the weekend out of all the performances. It’s just simply outstanding that Velvet got two of the three Level 5 performance ribbons!
Needless to say, I was shocked beyond belief. Later in the week, Velvet and I were mentioned in the Parelli eNewsletter than goes to 10′s of thousands of people all over the world.

PostHeaderIcon Nova’s Notebook – The Beginning

Pat Parelli is always telling us how he’s got yearlings on up that have happily learned the level 1, 2 and 3 tasks. Since Nova is at Pine Dell boarding stable, I decided that she should become a level 3 baby. I’ve given Jennifer Vaught this task.

This is what she looks like at 18 months!


Jenny has fallen into the “I Love Nova” club. Jenny reports that Nova is bright and light. Nova is fox trotting and trotting during her training sessions. We’ve not seen any sign of the dreaded pace. She is doing great in her training. Jenny is going to have her ten year old daughter be the first one to ride Nova. She would like Nichole to start the experience in “starting horses” and Nova is the ONE. Jenny is going to lead Nichole around riding Nova. I wish I were going to be there to watch my baby take her first big step towards “Saddle Horse”.

I was chatting with a women yesterday. Her horse is in the same pasture as Nova. She told me that Nova was a sneaky horse. What? Well, when this woman goes out to get her horse, she’s walking along and all of a sudden she feels hot breath on her neck. It’s Nova. Nova has been following her.

Another couple who have a horse in the pasture have told me how they love Nova. She comes over to visit them. She’s sweet, pretty and friendly. Another person told me when they ride by the pasture, it’s Nova that runs over to meet their horse.

There will be more and more people in the “I love Nova” club as time goes on. The next one will probably be Nichole!

Jenny is Jennifer Vaught, long time friend and Parelli 3 star instructor for 15 years. 

PostHeaderIcon JR’s Journal – Passed the Parelli Level 1!

JR has now officially passed Level 1 in the Parelli program.  The wonderful family that came up here from Florida had a great time riding Velvet and JR…we took turns. 
The husband rode JR today and was formally assessed in the L1 test.  I am very proud of JR and pretty amazed that someone else could take him through the tasks and pass.
Congrats to Kevin and JR-Great Stuff!
NOTE: A couple years later, Kevin bought a yearling from me and is doing amazing things with him.  Here it is 2010 and Kevin is passing Level 3 tasks with a 3-4 year old Missouri Fox Trotter named Tenor!

PostHeaderIcon Velvet and Susan attain (original) Level 3 in Pat Parelli Program!


The Parelli program is modeled after Martial Arts program (Judo) with the different colored belts to signify the status. Velvet and Susan will be wearing a green 6’ rope, which is the mark of their status. Each level has from 20 up to 53 tasks that must be assessed by a certified Parelli instructor in person or via videotape. Velvet and Susan had to be assessed on 53 tasks in Level 3.

 Most of the tasks seem simple, but none of them are easy. For instance, Susan had to load Velvet into a trailer on the end a 45’ rope. Velvet had to trot or canter into the trailer. The farther away you get from your horse, the easier it is for the horse to do the opposite of what the human wants! Forty five feet is a long way. Velvet also had to side pass and back 45’ away from Susan.

For Susan, this was an eight year undertaking to pass all three levels. Velvet and Susan started on Level 3 tasks in 2000. It took three years to pass all the tasks. Each task was video taped at least once and sent away to a four or five star instructor in the program. Many tasks were taped more than once when the video was returned and the task not passed. It took a lot of focus and dedication to realize this goal.

The Parelli levels’ tasks take the horse and human through supreme versatility. Many of the tasks in Level 3 are dressage related. Velvet had to canter diagonally, change leads and then canter diagonally the other direction.

She had to counter canter once around the arena in a refined manner. (That was very difficult for her.) She also had to perform “haunches in” for a distance. Her head & forequarters traveled straight and her hindquarters traveled in a separate track to the inside of the arena.

Velvet had to show a collected walk, trot and canter with a kite string in her mouth. Susan also had to canter Velvet bareback and bridleless three times in a circle and, still at the canter, turn into the center, stop and perform a forequarter turn. It took Susan 2 years to be able to ride that well bareback!

 Velvet also had to drag a barrel both going forwards and then turning around backwards to face the barrel. She had to gallop a barrel pattern with four barrels. She had to canter around each barrel without breaking down to a trot and then gallop off to the next barrel.

At liberty in a round pen, she had to do  flying lead changes when she reversed direction. She had to canter around the round pen and come down to a trot, a walk and then stop at a signal from Susan who was standing in the middle. She then had to trot into the middle and join up with Susan…this was all at liberty. These are just a few of the tasks that Susan remembers best on this journey!

Pat Parelli honored Susan and presented her with the coveted green rope signifying the graduation as a Level 3 Student. This occurred at a Parelli event in Springfield in front of a large crowd. Many of Susan’s friends from Kansas City and southern Missouri were in attendance. They gave her a standing ovation!

Velvet has been a tremendous public relations versatility horse for the Missouri Fox Trotter Breed. There were nearly 2000 people in attendance who saw Jennifer Vaught, a certified Parelli instructor and Jennifer’s four year old daughter both ride Velvet during Parelli events at Springfield, Tulsa and Council Bluffs this year. These appearances plus Velvet’s past appearances at Kentucky Horse Park for the 2003 Missouri Fox Trotter breed weekend, Equitana, the MidAmerica horse show half time demonstration and Kansas City Fox Trotter club all breed half time horse show demonstration shows add up to about 18,000 people.

The videotape of Velvet’s and Susan’s halftime performance at the MidAmerica Missouri Fox Trotter breed show has been circulated all over the United States, Canada and Germany among hundreds of Parelli students!

What’s next for Velvet? Velvet is semi retired- NOT! She plans to have one foal and perhaps do some demonstrations. Susan plans to stay busy bringing up young horses and following the path that Velvet has set!

Velvet, a ten year old mare nicknamed “The Princess of the Pasture”, has carried Susan Engle through the three (original) Parelli Natural Horsemanship Levels Program: Novice (Level 1), Harmony (Level 2) and Refinement Level 3). Velvet is the first Missouri Fox Trotter in the Universe to pass Level 3. It is estimated that more than 2000 gaited horses are in the Parelli program, but Velvet is the third gaited horse to pass this level and the first fox trotter!

PostHeaderIcon JR’s Journal – Walk in the Park Horror

JR and I were practicing our gait last Sunday. I like to call it purity of gait practice. We rode by ourselves at James A Reed Park. The park has a lot of trails and they are flat and grassy. It’s just great for consistency.

We were zipping up the side of a paved road going to the trail head on the other side of the road.

Out in the parking lot FLASHES a 7-8 year old girl RUNNING with a KITE! The KITE is low to the ground and is dipping and flipping.

My heart commenced to dip and flip.

Just think how I felt being there alive and convinced that any second something unpleasant was going to occur…like sitting on a volcano about to erupt. Think how you would feel if the same thing happened. Yup, you would feel a certainty that you were going to die.

FORTUNATELY, we were still far enough away that the KITE wasn’t a scary object to JR. Guess how GRATEFUL I was for that!

The little girl kept running around in the parking lot with the flippin’ an dippin’kite. Instead of dying on the spot, I was now thinking that I was either going to have to stay in that spot for the rest of my life or turn around and go back the way I came when…

THE LITTLE GIRL FELL DOWN IN THE GRAVEL. She dropped the KITE! This made me VERY HAPPY. When she started screaming in pain, I tried to feel sorry for her, but couldn’t. After all, she tried to kill me.

JR and I went on up to the gravel parking lot. As we were passing by the parking lot, the brother asked the little girl what was wrong with the kite. The little girl (between screaming) told him it was broken. He started to dart after the kite and I YELLED, “PLEASE DON”T TOUCH THE KITE! The horse will be scared of it and KILL ME!”

The entire family looked at me with a stunned expression on their face… the little girl even quit crying. They must have thought I was insane, or from Mars, Or they were marveling at how JR and I looked pretty kewl, maybe they were admiring the fact that JR and my hair matches. Either way, I lived and I passed by them into SAFETY!

I felt bad about saying that about JR, but the potential for JR to face the fearful thing and run backwards from the kite over the dam dropoff or into the lake was a real possibility.

GASP, I might have had to make an emergency dismount and end up in the emergency room!

I’m thinking that all kites in WalMart should be destroyed and there should be a KITE search of every car that goes into James A Reed park!

PostHeaderIcon JR’s Journal – Jenny’s Opinion

JR’s proud Daddy came over to see him and Jenny wanted to show us how she first gets on a colt. She gets on the colt bareback. In case she has to suddenly bail off, there’s no stirrups, horn, etc preventing immediate ejection!

Jenny got a small stool and stood by JR’s side. He moved and she went through about 3 minutes of moving him around until he was very grateful to stand still. She jumped up on his back and just hung there, rubbing him all over with her feet and her hands. She did that about three separate times. Then she did it on the other side. Finally, when she jumped up on him, she swung her leg over and sat up. JR just stood there. He was very very calm. He thinks that’s all he has to do. Jenny was giving several people lessons during this and finally she got to sit up and resume giving directions to the students in the arena. After about 4 minutes, Jenny got off and then got on the other side. She got right on this time, and again, JR just stood there as calm and relaxed as can be.

Watching him, I did think that he looked just a little bit like a horse rather than my baby!

Later that weekend, we had a going away party. Terry asked Jenny, “What do you think of JR by now?” I shuddered. I had wanted to ask that very same question, but was fearful that she might tell me that “it takes him a long time to figure things out…or something else horrible.” So, I have been afraid to ask. Jenny replied, “I like him! He’s smart and catches on very fast.” I about fainted with relief and pride. Then the daring Terry asked, “What will he be like compared to Velvet?” I thought, what a stupid question. No one can top the esteemed Velvet! Jenny replied to Terry, “I think he’ll be better than Velvet. He’s very laid back and picks things up quickly.” I lost control of my body parts and slid under the table in pure shock!