Some very good questions… Part 2

We may have taken a break for a couple days, but we’re back to responding to reader comments!  Just because you guys are so smart and raised such interesting points.  (Or maybe because we’re both stupidly busy and having a hard time coming up with anything original right now.  One of the two!)  At the end of Part 1 we posted a comment from Monica that had intiated a bit of discussion in the comments of this post.

“They’re using Pat Parelli’s videos as examples of good resources? Really?

Not I have nothing against natural horsemanship, I do have something against endorsing people who say fancy colored super speshul super expensive sticks are the answer to all our problems.

Just saying…”

Ahhhh, Parellisites…  so very much to talk about here!

Pat Parelli strikes us as an ok horseman with a completely ridiculous moustache and excellent marketing/sales skills.

We’ve done a (very) little bit of “Natural Horsemanship”, mostly to find out what everyone was talking ranting about.  (It still seems amazing how strong people’s opinions are about the subject!  Borderline cult-like…)  The reason we haven’t done a lot of NH is that we discovered it really isn’t anything new or revolutionary.  It’s all about paying attention to the individual horse and it’s body language, and using your body language to establish yourself as the leader in the relationship.  Those are pretty basic horse handling/training skills that good riders pick up with experience (or are taught by good instructors).

What makes Parelli and a few of the other NH “trainers” different is that they’ve dressed it up and turned it into their own patented system.  Instead of calling a spade a spade and saying that you’re teaching a horse to accept human touch or lead correctly, to respect your space or move away from pressure; you play the “Friendly Game” or the “Porcupine Game” or some other ridiculously named exercise.  It’s still basically the same techniques “classical” trainers use, just with trademarked names.

“Realize that much of what you already do is the Friendly Game.”

From Parelli’s own website.

By breaking down basic horse handling techniques into fun “games”, Parelli makes it both more accessible and palatable to newbie horse owners and riders.  Someone who still dreams that their horsie is going to be their bestest friend and doesn’t ever want to hurt it’s feelings is going to be a lot happier playing the “Driving Game” with it than teaching it to move out of her way and respect her space – for all that it’s the exact same thing.

“It seems a lot of the natural horsemanship people want us to buy their super expensive equipment.”

-Allison Byars

“Well, of course, that’s how they make money. Those big trainers are nothing more than marketing machines these days.”

-Monica Morais

Oh yeah, Parelli and many others have figured out a way to make lots and lots of moolah by teaching basic skills THEIR way.  You don’t need all the special sticks, halters and clinics to do this stuff, but they sure need to sell them to keep their bank accounts growing! We’re not sure what’s more disturbing, how much they’re making or how many people view the NH stuff as an endpoint – almost a discipline unto itself.

Did you know that they actually sell a device called a “Carrot Stick”? Yup, that’s right.  For the low, low price of $47.93 (or $35.95 for members!) you can own

Oops, sorry, that’s not it.  For almost $50, you can be the proud owner of the following training tool

It’s just basic, BASIC training dumbed down so beginners can do it.  And that’s why we have no problem with CSRDT listing it as one of many resources that they recommend to people before actually purchasing a horse.  ‘Cause we’d rather people learn those skills from Parelli than not learn them at all! 

“I DO have something against Parelli…I’ve seen videos of Linda Parelli trying to ‘ride’.”

-Jennifer P.

Can’t really argue with that comment – skip ahead to the 6 minute mark to see why!  My horse would kill me if my lower leg swung that much or if my hands were that stiff.

“Ohhh SR…between Craig Stevens and Parelli, you may have open a big can of worms. Those are two very controversial people!”


Looks like there’s going to have to be a Part 3!


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Posted on November 5, 2011, in Misc Horsies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. The other issue I have with Parelli is that it seems that a LOT of people who use his techniques end up with their horse walking over them. I don’t know whether this is an issue with the techniques or with the kind of person attracted to them. I do know that it can take months, if not years, to fix a spoiled horse and that Parelli techniques produce a lot of spoiled horses somebody then has to fix.

  2. When I was a teenager, my barn “mentor” told me exactly what you just said. When I asked her about a NH clinic coming to town she basically said “It might be interesting for someone who’s new to horses, but you already know that stuff.” I watched the clinic and realized it was good for some people (namely the ones who had gone from a snaffle to a really severe bit out of fear of their animal and needed to realize there are other ways), but as my mentor said, I already understood the value of less is more and working out other solutions besids using killer bits.

    The only NH style routine I’ve flat out learned from a NH trainer is to disengage the rear end on an aggressive bolting draft cross (one day she spooked and bolted so hard I literally pulled a groin muscle trying to stay with her! YOW!). We taught her on the ground and then in the saddle that a certain touch on the reins meant to swing out her back end (and therefore stop). Not ideal for a dressage horse, but it made her owner feel safe to ride her with an emergency break. And that’s where I like NH – when it takes a horse and rider that perviously did not work out together and allows them to work safely and comfortably.
    The dressage trainer we were working with could handle the horse because she, well, was a trainer. I was a pretty decent rider (*cough* before law school ruined my riding) and the mare would still get away from me sometimes. The owner was petrified of the animal. The dressage trainer’s response was to be better at riding (though I can hardly disagree with this statement), but the owner and I weren’t going to become trainer quality riders without said equine to practice on, so weird non-dressage measures that our trainer never would have tried turned out to be the answer.

    What scares me is when people who are terrified of their horses latch onto Parelli methods and do it WRONG. It’s like these people (men and women alike!) who would normally get a reputable trainer, get some profesional training on their horse (or sell it and ride well-broke horses for a while), or quit the sport entirely after realizing how scared they were of their animal, are told that THEY can train the horse. I’m sure everyone has seen the result of that… Instead of getting the help they need, they try to fix their horse on their own. Instead of the horse learning to respect humans, the horse just gets confused, bossy, and dangerous. I’ve nearly been trampled by a “Level 4 Parelli” Freisan cross mare, and when I slapped her hard on the chest with the rope to get her off of me, she started pushing me with her chest. Yuck. First horse I’ve ever had to handle that I’ve been genuinely afraid of – nothing sensical seemed to click with her. She was big, bossy, and horribly confused.

  3. I KNOW! I just posted below you about how terrified I was of a boarder’s “Level 4 Parelli” mare. Yeesh!

  4. GAH! That video just scarred me for life! I don’t know what’s worse: letting lunge lines DRAG on the ground, Linda Parelli’s voice, or the fact that she’s gripping the reins like a frightened 10 year old and flapping her hands all over the place just to make a simple turn!

    I need brain bleach, ASAP!!

  5. I had a friend you used parelli effectively on one of her mares and encouraged me to do the same, I looked into it but maybe spent 10 minutes playing some ‘game’ overall before realizing how stupid this was. If you step back and think about what your actually doing your going to be better of then dumbly following someone’s instructions, your always going to be better off because your thinking for yourself and ultimately thinking about your horses.

    There is no real problem with parelli at all and shit there are bad riders everywhere! The problem is when people stop thinking

  6. I am awed by the horsenalities! I mean, who doesn’t think this is a great idea?

    >>*Don’t push him. He’ll have you working harder than him. He’s also great at objecting when asked to go faster and usually responds by kicking up, swishing his tail or laying back his ears. Do the opposite of what he expects such as stopping, slowing, petting or giving him a treat.<<

    If a horse lays back his ears or kicks, give him a treat! W00t!

    Learn more stuff that will guarantee your horse walks all over you as @Jennifer P. noted. (That sentence can be found under left brained introvert.)

    • Yes, let’s reward horses for bad behavior! Because it’s so cool to have an animal that might kill you thinking it’s OK for him o do whatever he wants…

      All i could think while I was watching that little display with the super speshul game playing lunge lines was those horses have got the be drugged or something. If I ever used a line, even a short lead line like that with the horses from the barn where I ride, they WOULD walk all over me. Literally.

    • Oy freaking vey! And congrats! You just taught your horse that bad behavior gets him what he wants. I can’t even believe that thats a suggestion! It’s like an instructional of how to create a spoiled pushy horse!

      Run away from Parelli, run far far away. I love CSRDT and the work they do, but I honestly think that not learning at all may in fact be better than learning terrible and outright dangerous habits from Parelli.

    • Yeah, the basic games have some value and the idea that horses have different personalities and need to be treated differently does too. But some of the suggestions on how to deal with different “HorsenalitiesTM”? Not so much.

  7. She sure does like the sound of her own voice.

  8. I tried Parelli for um, 10 minutes. When my mare ran me over at a mosey I figured I should quit while it was slow mo.

  9. Errk. I don’t really mind Parelli himself i guess, but I completely disagree with the message he sends out. The majority of his clients are beginners (otherwise they would hardly need to buy his equipment), yet it’s almost as if he goes out of his way to be unsafe.

    Another thing I dislike is the fact that NH seems to bounce all over the place. It ranges from letting horses get away with biting, to being almost abusive. Not to mention I read parelli saying that if a horse goes to bite, you should give him a treat – yeah, good one.

    Speaking of Linda – I dislike her. A lot. Pat might be ok, because he seems to have a limited understanding on things and his horses seem pretty well trained, but the sooner he learns to keep his wife out of the spotlight the better. That video of her and the blind horse was RIDICULOUS. It made me pretty angry, because even I couldn’t figure out what the hell she wanted the horse to do – how was the horse meant to get it?

  1. Pingback: Some very good questions… Part 3 « snarkyrider

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