By: Pat Parelli
I remember reading every book available about horses. I remember getting the Western Horseman every month and reading every article about training horses. I remember even purchasing a book on how to train horses for tricks. I even got a copy of Professor Barry's home study program.
I was searching, searching, searching.
Then, I ran into a real horseman. His name was Troy Henry. I was his apprentice for five years until the day he died in December 1981. I realized he had a blueprint he was trying to share with me. Start on the ground, get horses to bond, to be obedient, and to be exuberant using a short rope, then a longer rope, before moving to liberty.
It all made sense to the horses. It didn't make sense to me until the horses started having good behavior patterns when I rode them the same as they were on the ground. For example, the Circling Game. If they could maintain gait and maintain direction without me micromanaging them, taking a whip, and spanking every five seconds, I noticed when I rode them, they automatically went into the same behavior pattern I instilled on the ground.
It was at this moment I realized how important a blueprint was.
I've always been a learn-a-holic and a share-a-holic. On March 1, 1982, I held my first seminar in North Hollywood, California. My sponsor, Dr. R. M. Bradley, asked me to share what I had learned in that five years with Mr. Troy Henry. I realized, first, I had learned a philosophy. Second, I learned a concept. In over five years of arduous work and learning, I'd learned the theoretical application of true horsemanship.
Whether English or Western, no matter what it applied to, the cake was ready for the icing. My goal is to help horse lovers, no matter where they live, save a minimum of one decade, if not two, if they genuinely want to learn how to be their horse's partner.
I celebrated the 40th anniversary of my first seminar this year. Over the last 40 years, I've seen thousands and thousands of people come to my clinics with their horses. I've seen the simple pattern—people think like people, and horses think like horses. We must learn as human beings to know how horses feel, think, act and play. This allows us to play with their nature.
The clinic business has gone rampant over the years. Now, remember: decades ago, there were only a handful of us. Now there are hundreds of people doing clinics, and people have become addicted to going to clinics. Before you know it, everyone is mixing and matching.
The next thing I knew is that I started seeing people with what I call the banana-flavored pepperoni enchilada with pickle juice and a cherry on top—in other words, trying to put Chevy parts on a Ford truck with a Volvo exterior and a Mercedes interior. None of it fit.
Mixing and matching is something their grandpa had told them. Over the years, I've realized four things predicate the horse industry: wives' tales, mythology, bovine fecal matter, and ego.
The ego causes people to hang on to opinions that do not match up with facts. The fact is horses are prey animals. People are predators. The fact is horses are precocial species, which are full faculty learners at birth. Humans are altricial species, which are not full-faculty learners at birth.
In fact, horses never forget, but they often forgive. Humans frequently cannot remember what they need to, but they do hang on to what they don't need and don't forgive.
This is just the nature of the two beasts. I love the word Equus. To me, it means "equal us".
As a learn-a-holic, something I have learned in all the areas of life—music, martial arts, aviation, horsemanship—every time I stick with a program, I get good results. Every time I mixed and matched the programs, I ended up all over the place. So, I advise you to stick with it whichever program you choose.
My other advice is to check out the philosophy first. Are they doing things to the horse? Are they doing things with the horse and for the horse? Check out the concept. Does it match what we do on the ground and relates to the horse on what he will be expected to do as a behavior pattern in the saddle?
Make sure the theories are true to true horsemanship. Then, make sure it's an empowerment program rather than a micro-managed puppeteering program. When the puppeteer is not holding the strings, you, the puppet, will fall.
Horsemanship can be obtained naturally through communication, understanding, and psychology versus mechanics, fear, and intimidation. That applies to humans as well as horses.
Keep it natural. And may the horse be with you.
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