I can’t remember when I first heard about Parelli or Natural Horsemanship; it could have been as long ago as 25 years which would have been about 1992 when I went to Agfest near Launceston in Tasmania where I used to live and saw some girls doing amazing things with their horses in the arena. When I moved interstate to New South Wales I got involved with a few different horse pursuits; Endurance rides, 40km back then, 20km now mainly, riding to hounds with Sydney Hunt Club, an annual basic One Day event, each month with Illawarra Horse Trail Riders where we do a fair bit of traveling all round the district which always involves floating & then getting on and riding.
Through the trail riding side of things I met a guy who ‘did a bit of Parelli’. He arranged to get a ticket to see Pat & Linda when they came to Sydney. We went up 2 days in a row, to see this cowboy fella doing some horse things. I had watched some videos before (compliments of the guy I knew) and found them to be pretty compelling about how you could teach horses without any torment or torture but it wasn’t until 3 years ago, that I realised that Neil Pye and his lovely lady Sue were back in residence and operating clinics at the Australian Parelli Centre, Wilton, which is less than an hours drive for me. I went to an open day and audited at a couple of clinics and found I knew a few people that were involved with Parelli. We were getting re-acquainted so, I lined up to ride at a clinic. Although I couldn’t “walk the walk or talk the talk” & probably still can’t, I truely appreciate the techniques & the philosophy. I have had Neil help with getting some clarity and possibly even get my ropes & sticks less tangled, with my appaloosa Jasper. I thought Jasper was pretty good generally but it seems as though he’s one of the ones that has that momentary explosion from time to time. Not dangerous or anything really but we have to do a fair bit of changing gait, changing direction, getting him moving & then coming down/calming down or use the One Rein Stop. I have found it valuable with getting horses on & off floats calmly and helping other people if I can.
Primarily I think basic message is, you need to do the work on the ground to get it to work properly when you are mounted. Even if it takes that little bit longer you’ll find that you’ll get a better result of a smoother or safer ride. The other side of it was for me to change too, to have focus but not be so direct line and task orientated, to relax and take the pressure off the horse when the object of the exercise was achieved. Plus being Positive rather than dwelling on our/my issues and set goals to progress not stagnate. I have also found the techniques can be used when I am coaching at our Riding for the Disabled Centre. Those horses aren’t Parelli trained but being calm and encouraging helps get the message across. That communication is paramount. You need to have understanding and it might mean being a bit firmer to get through to the horse. I’m sure there is a phrase that Pat uses.
The other thing about Parelli is the people, they are so supportive of each other, usually gentle, encouraging and positive thinking. Neil has many years of experience and teaches an Aussie version of Pat’s world renowned theories on horsemanship. The staff are so welcoming and helpful and there are a number of volunteers who add their expertise on busy days. The Centre at Wilton has great facilities and is available for member use on certain days once a certain level of competency is reached. There are enclosed areas & open spaces with obstacles and lots of trees too. This alternate venue helps your horse see other places and things, not just your round yard or paddock that may inadvertently become a torture chamber if you only use it for work or training. These benefits have helped me achieve my Level 2 certification. It was a terrific surprise when I was presented with my special savvy string, badge & certificate one sunny afternoon recently. Going through the program can benefit anyone, not just those having issues, but to understand life from the horse’s point of view and how to help you safely become each others partner. The Levels are a pathway that will give you tools & techniques to achieve this, and if you start with the basics it will benefit everything you ultimately do with your horse. I thoroughly recommend anyone coming to have a look when something is on & perhaps you’ll be hooked too.
Ann Garard, NSW, Australia
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