The Parelli natural horsemanship approach has been developed by husband and wife team Pat and Linda Parelli.
Natural Parelli Horsemanship is about building trust and confidence between the trainer and the horse. As with all natural horsemanship approaches it is as much about retraining humans as it is about training horses.
The underlying principle behind the programme is that trainers and riders need to learn new ways of communicating with their horse in order to achieve better and more productive results.
The overall aim of the Parelli programme is to raise the standard of horsemanship across the globe by introducing alternative and natural partnership methods.
Pat Parelli is an American trainer from a cowboy background and is an expert in natural horsemanship, once you have got beyond his showmanship.
He started his journey back in the late 1980s and has been adapting and developing his programme ever since.
The following video provides an overview of his style and gives you an idea of how he works and the effects of his teaching on horses.
Pat has developed a number of resources to explain his methods including this book which explains his model built on Six Keys to Natural Horsemanship
Pat has also developed this model further and added a seventh step which is support.
Much of Pat’s current work on horsemanship techniques is supported by the input from his wife Linda, and her work on studying horse personality.
Linda Parelli has a very different background to Pat because she was from a Pony Club background and a Dressage rider originally. She came across Pat’s clinics and saw it as a last hope option for her then untrainable thoroughbred.
Several years later Linda no longer competes, but devotes her life entirely to working with other riders to promote the methods that she uses alongside Pat. She also does a lot of writing to document Pat’s teaching, so it is widely accessible through as many different sources as possible.
Horses as Predatory Animals
Most of the teaching in natural horsemanship starts by explaining that horses are naturally predatory or flight animals. Most of their behaviour stems from this natural instinct to flee from any perceived danger.
When we are working with horses we need to understand this instinct and be able to reassure the horse that it is ok to go against their natural response and instead to develop trust in us to protect them.
The other key aspect of the Parelli teaching is to understand the different roles that the horse owner plays in their horse’s education. Linda Parelli describes three aspects that all horse riders need to develop. She describes how all riders are;
part behaviourist – develop a good understanding of the horse’s personality and be able to design training programmes using this knowledge.
part trainer – develop good clear communication skills.
part psychologist – understand the psychology of how your horse thinks and if necessary use reverse psychology to encourage him to try something new.
Linda states that it is only by combining these three skill areas together that you begin to understand the real principles of horsemanship.
One of the things that the Parellis teach is called horsenality, or understanding the personality types of horses.
The chart shown here explains the four different types of horse personality, which are based on the model of human personality types
left brain extrovert
right brain extrovert
left brain introvert
right brain introvert
Each of the different personality types has a different way of learning and will respond better to a specific training approach.
It is therefore very important that you can assess your own horse’s personality and determine which training approach is the best option.
Parelli Boxset – 10 DVDs
For real Parelli fans there is a box set version of 10 DVDs and booklets, that cover all the basic elements that Parelli teaches.
You can also read more about Pat and Linda Parelli and their work on their website parelli.com
I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any particular aspect of Parelli teaching that you would like to see discussed please feel free to leave a comment in the section below, it’s always great to hear from you.
There are some other articles on Natural Horsemanship techniques on this site that may be of interest, including;
Intelligent horsemanship is an approach to training horses that Kelly Marks and her mentor Monty Roberts have applied to numerous horses, at live training sessions throughout the world. It works by applying psychology to the horse and encouraging an understanding of what the horse might be anxious about or scared of. Not every horse behaves and thinks the same way, so intelligent horsemanship is about working together to achieve the best for both horse and rider.
In this article I want to explore a little bit more about – what is intelligent horsemanship and how exactly does it work?
Kelly Marks Intelligent Horsemanship
The Intelligent Horsemanship organisation, which is based in the UK, was founded in 1997 by Kelly Marks and aims to ‘bring the best horsemanship ideas together from around the world‘.
The organisation aims to achieve this through offering training courses, educational materials and demonstrations.
So where did the inspiration for Kelly’s work come from?, Well as many of you are aware Monty Roberts was a key person in her life who taught her many of the techniques that underpin her work today. Monty is a strong advocate of non-violence towards animals and does not believe that simply forcing an animal to do something is effective.
One of the most famous techniques that he has developed and which Kelly promotes, is the Join-up.
Monty Roberts Join-Up Technique
Many of the intelligent horsemanship principles work using horse psychology, and the principle that if you can communicate to the horse in their own language then they will understand better. Join-up is the first part in this conversation because it establishes the relationship between the trainer and the horse and helps to build trust.
Most of Monty and Kelly’s join-up work occurs in a round pen. The aim is to establish trust with the horse but ironically the first task is to start by sending the horse away.
You can see more about Join-up and watch one of Monty’s videos in another article I wrote.
Trailer Loading Difficulties
Once join up has been established it enables a whole range of activities to take place that involve the horse understanding and trusting its new human leader. The following video is one in which Monty describes how he applies the technique to loading a trailer, one of the most common challenges that he and Kelly are asked to overcome by horse owners.
Dealing With Plastic Bags and Other Distractions for Horses
It does seem to be a fact that horses find the most amazing things to be spooky at.
During the recent New year celebrations a nearby family to me decided to set off fireworks, with lots of bangs and lights. I rushed out expecting my older mare to be thoroughly distressed, only to see her looking out the stable totally unperturbed and enjoying the spectacle. This is the same mare that at a gust of wind will fly round the field like a mad thing totally excited.
Kelly and Monty have done some amazing demonstrations to show how to calm horses against some of their phobias, including clippers, bicycles, plastic bags and walking across plastic sheets. The Join-up is still the starting point for all these techniques, so that once trust is established the horse will then slowly allow the trainer to lead them and become closer to things that before the demonstration the horse would try to flee from.
Many of the approaches that Monty and Kelly advocate involve familiarising horses with their fears. They do this by introducing things slowly to horses and responding to their fears by monitoring their reactions and staying calm with them. Most horses tempt to flee danger and will look to run or move about restlessly. As the horse settles and stands still then this behaviour is rewarded and reinforced, so the horse learns that by not running the situation actually works out better.
Using this technique Kelly and Monty have managed to familiarise horses to a range of different spooky things. They have demonstrated consistently how the horse will settle once it trusts you and realises that the object will not harm them.
This principle can be used each time something new is introduced to horses whether it is new items in the yard, objects out on hacks or new experiences such as being, backed, shod or clipped.
Top Marks for Kelly
Kelly has demonstrated many of her skills and given tips and advice to people in her TV show Top Marks, which appears on the Horse & Country channel. Over the years she has used her own horse American Pie in demonstrations, as an example of how even the most spooky horses initially, can become a real show horse that goes everywhere.
Here is clip produced by Horse & Country TV which illustrates some of the things she shows to her followers.
The work of intelligent horsemanship has grown and along with Kelly Marks there are also regional trainers that have undertaken work with Kelly and are qualified to offer training of their own in the techniques used. Amongst the list are two Irish trainers on the intelligenthorsmanship website, who are Demeiza Franssen based in Tralee and Stephanie Heeran based in Tipperary.
Intelligent horsemanship clinics are now happening in the UK, Ireland, France and the Netherlands. All of which are a tribute to the work of Kelley Marks and her team, and an initial interest to help Monty Roberts spread the message of non violent horsemanship across the globe.
Further Reading on Intelligent Horsemanship
There are a number of books by Kelly Marks on Intelligent Horsemanship principles such as Leading and Loading which is shown below.
I hope you enjoyed the article and if so please do remember to share it on social media. If you have any other suggestions please feel free to add them to the comments section below. There is another article on Kelly Marks on this site.