Monday, June 4, 2012

Horse and Soul Parell USA Tour 2012..... An Experience with Linda Parelli

Part One

Most of what I saw the first day at the Horse and Soul Parelli USA Tour 2012 centered around Linda Parelli. During that time she admitted she does not get a response from a horse as quickly as her husband.  Her reasoning is he has far greater experience and with that comes timing and knowledge which equates to quicker learning for the horse.

I certainly agree with that. I think I can get most anything I need done with a horse but not always quickly. I sometimes need a little thinking time to even decide what I might do next if a horse is struggling with understanding what I want. The more experienced I get, the quicker things seem to go. The more different horses I handle affects that as well. Makes sense sto me with the thousands of horses he has worked with over the years he would be better at it than her.

At the beginning of each session they did what they called a "spotlight. " This was a demonstration of the Parelli strategy at work. The first one of these I saw was with four yearlings. The horses were worked together both loose and in hand.  Each very easily adjusted to the commotion of the arena and the large crowd. Parelli's question, "Wouldn't you like a horse that had been started like this?" certainly struck a cord with me. The skills I saw exhibited are exactly what I strive for in my horses.

The first demonstration I saw by a Parelli involved Linda Parelli and a woman with a large gelding. The audio system could be erratic depending on a person's location in the arena so I did not pick up all of the history of the horse and handler. What I did hear suggested the woman was having trouble completing certain goals within the games. She believed it was the horse's fear causing the problem and she was seeking help on how to handle it.

Both Pat and Linda Parelli, over the course of the weekend, said something to the effect: "People tell the story. Horses tell the reality."  I understand that concept especially knowing the practice of anthropomorphism is so widely spread in the horse industry. I know when I look at horses misbehaving in the ring, I seldom see what the rider is describing. More often I see an issue created by the person and not something the horse is thinking.

Although I missed the explanation concerning the woman's status healing from a broken leg, it soon became apparent  the woman was limited some in her movement and strength.  It looked to those around me like she maybe even had some fear in dealing with the animal. Whether it was the weakness or her process she got behind the horse quite often.

As much as Linda Parelli stressed safety, the woman repeatedly put herself into a postion that could have ended badly. It was clear that Linda Parelli was not particularly comfortable with the situation emerging between the woman and her horse. The clinician struggled between giving the woman the chance she wanted to fix it herself and the need for safety.  Sometimes I could see her arms and hands mimicking what she was directly the student to do but the handler was just not getting it.

I've been in that frustrating situation. I've actually done that thing with my arms and hands. Torn between giving a person the opportunity to learn on her own and keeping things safe. I didn't envy Linda Parelli her position knowing that many would be criticising her choices when she really was trying to do what was best for the woman AND the horse.

It was obvious watching the interaction, the horse's problem was indeed caused by the woman. It also didn't take much to see that the woman was not equipped to deal with the situation. Her timing was off, her understanding limited and the horse already had her number. He easily exploited her weaknesses getting ahead of her and avoiding going anywhere she really wanted him to go.

The other thing that was clear was that the horse wasn't dangerously aggressive. He wasn't doing what he was told and he was doing some gesturing (flattened ears and head shaking) but nothing that said he was going to hurt the woman. He could have kicked out at her to voice his displeasure because she was trying to control him but he didn't. He was trying to tell her his displeasure not hurt her.

Linda Parelli stepped in immediately when it was clear the woman was in over her head. I don't believe Linda's intervention was off in timing at all. She gave the woman enough time to see she needed help without jeopardizing the safety of the woman or the horse. The woman got the opportunity to see she wasn't up to handling the situation and she readily relinquished control of the horse to Linda at this point.

Linda directed the woman to go someplace to watch what she was doing with the horse. Because the horse was avoiding the tarp, the large ball and the platform, it made sense to choose one of those. The horse wasn't going anywhere near anyone of those on his own volition so the woman would be safe and Linda could do what she needed without worrying about the woman's location. That meant she could put her entire focus on the horse's behavior as she figured out what it would take to get this horse responsive.

The work with this gelding was done in hand and I believe the woman said she was working on the second game.  My understanding of the goals was getting the horse to negotiate those obstacles as directed in a safe manner.

Considering how many horses I see dragging their owners around, anything that helps handlers learn proper ground manners makes sense to me. I could see where the props used would help the handler have a specific agenda to work towards so the handler could learn how to have proper control. To be able to get a horse to negotiate consistently any kind of obstacles in hand, a handler must be able to do some very specific things.

Just getting a horse from point A to point B is not nearly as specific as getting the horse to safely walk over a tarp, step onto a platform or roll a ball.  To be able to accomplish these goals, the handler would have to be able to control backwards, forward and sideways movement. Breaking these thing down into steps gives the individual specific ideas on what she is trying to accomplish and how to get it.  That in turn should lead to some pretty good control over the actions of a horse in hand. The interesting part was watching this horse with his personality and how and why he tried to avoid it.

To be continued...........

Gelding Issues.........


  1. Nice that she stepped in ,but also nice that she let the client try first . as long as safety is monitored I think that is the way to go. But as you said when she saw that the lady was at risk, absolutely step in

  2. It always amazes me how many people who have horses or ride horses don't actually know anything about them. These are huge powerful animals who have certain characteristics that must be taken into account when working with them.

  3. I think when you let the owners make their mistakes and reach the point where they admit- I suck at this, which is why I am here! They admit a bit of defeat and are more open to listening when you step in and help. Otherwise they have the attitude of I know how to do it, leave me alone.