By Kathy Baar- 5-Star Master Instructor & HDS
From a young age, I felt there was something lacking in my journey with horses. I was taking lessons, working off my horse board, showing, and not having fun. In fact, I was anxious about going in the show ring to the point I couldn’t eat for a day before hand. The horses I was riding were expressing their dislike for the approach by being hard to catch and developing displaced behaviors in their stalls. I didn’t know if there was another way to “be” with horses, but I knew if this is what “being” with horses was like, it was not for me. I shifted my entire focus and decided to stop my journey with horses and redirect to a different path.
About a month after this decision, I watched the first clip I had ever seen of a real-life situation where a human (not in a movie or story book, but in real life) could ride a horse bareback and bridles, steer, do flying lead changes, go over jumps, and the horse looked happy and willing! This was my first exposure to a program that taught horsemanship in a sequence, starting with understanding the horse first. Learning what was important to them and how they thought. I knew right away that this was what I had been missing. I still had a dream of competing, but I had to learn how to bring my horse along on that journey in a way they could enjoy, first.
I dedicated the next 10 years to learning how horses learn, think, act and play. I lived and breathed horsemanship at the Parelli Center over the next decade. During that time, I feel like I learned the framework of horsemanship necessary to build a healthy athlete in the sport horse arena.
I have always loved horses, but it wasn’t until I learned how horses communicate that I could make sure they felt loved in a way that was healthy and sustainable for them. This was the framework for my journey: taking the foundation to performance, approaching the preparation in a way that keeps the horses mentally and emotionally balanced.
I feel that the horses give me feedback on my success by showing up at the gate, ready for another session the morning after a show; willingly loading in the trailer to go back to the show grounds after 2-3 days of showing; calmly standing in the stall at the venue in between events and even sometimes laying down for a roll while we watch other competitors.
Overall, the skills I learned by dedicating my time to horsemanship before sport have helped me have fun and stay safe as I move into the competitive world. Additionally, I feel the ability to understand my horses’ perspective first has increased the quality of their time with me and created a partnership where showing is something we do together, versus something that happens to them.
Are you ready for a better horse life? Try the Savvy Club today risk-free at tryparelli.com.