Horse Training the Right Way
by Pat Parelli on Dec 28, 2022
By Pat Parelli
My first seminar was in North Hollywood, California, in 1982 and was organized by Dr. RM Bradley.
My opening statement, "Horsemanship can be obtained naturally through communication, understanding, and psychology versus mechanics, fear, and intimidation," was based on knowing the difference between training and torture. After a five-year journey with master horseman Troy Henry, I learned most horse trainers were great mechanics, great purchasers of equipment, especially bits and spurs, and knew every possible way to torture a horse to get them to behave. Troy told me most horse trainers would not make a pimple on a horseman's rear end, so that was when my journey started to try to become a real horseman.
In the last four decades, I've been walking, talking, teaching, and preaching about becoming a horse's partner using love, language, and leadership in equal doses. Not just love, love, and love, or leadership, leadership, leadership, or showing the horse who's boss. This extreme middle-of-the-road approach has helped me not only win the hearts of thousands of horses but helped millions of people understand their horse's nature better.
I'm proud to say I believe I've helped, to some extent, the level of horsemanship rise worldwide. I'm pleased to be in a leadership role for that endeavor, but it still saddens me to see how much primitive and shameful behavior is still prevalent and accepted in the horse industry. In other words, what people will do to a horse when they don't behave the way they want, rather than what they do with a horse so that he can truly become your partner and not act like a prey animal. This is easier said than done.
In the information generation, getting lots of opinions on the internet is very easy. It isn't until you've been around real master horsemen like Troy Henry, Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Ronnie Willis, Freddie Knie, Walter Zettl, Doug Jordan, and Martin Black that you realize there is a circle of unity as to the attitude, knowledge, tools, techniques, time, and support it takes to become the horseman our horse needs us to be.
Not everybody is the same, but the blueprints are very similar. Similar to aviation and computers, there is a blueprint that, if followed, can lead to extraordinary results. As we get more efficient and proficient, we learn how to communicate with our equine friends in a palatable and understandable way.
I believe the Greeks named the horse appropriately "Equus," meaning equal us. This definition has no room for chauvinism, autocracy, anthropomorphism, or linear thinking.
Each horse is a puzzle to be solved. They may be like snowflakes and look similar. Still, they are all unique individuals, so knowing how horses feel, think, act, and play and adjusting to fit the situation is one of the greatest puzzle-solving situations.
So, if you want to know the difference between training and torture, just ask yourself if what you're doing would be palatable to your mother or your horse’s mother. Would they be proud of what they're seeing? It's that simple.
This is why I say, "Keep it natural, and may the horse be with you.”