Pat Parelli Purchases His Road to the Horse Colt from the 6666 Ranch and Plans to Chronicle the Young Horse’s Development
It was what some might call a chance meeting. A cowboy steps into a round pen with an untouched colt to build trust and showcase the power of natural horsemanship. Over two days the soft eyed and tentative colt turns the cowboy’s head with his nature and earns himself a new home. So goes the story of Pat Parelli and the colt Hey Whiskey, now affectionately known as Troubadour.
The two met at Road to the Horse – the World Championship of Colt Starting February 25-27 in front of sold-out crowds at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, TN. In adjacent round pens, fellow clinicians Chris Cox and Clinton Anderson worked diligently with their own colts, but Hey Whiskey seemed to only have eyes for Parelli, right from the start, even lingering near the round pen gate while Parelli took breaks from training.
The 3-year-old colt was bred by the esteemed 6666 Ranch and is sired by Paddys Irish Whiskey and out of Hey Doll Baby by Juno Dat Cash.
An NRHA and NRCHA All-Time Leading Sire and a 2009 NRHA Leading Sire , Paddys Irish Whiskey is a consistent sire of for all walks of the reining and cowhorse worlds, siring champions in versatility ranch horse, reined cowhorse, cutting, reining, calf roping and team roping. As a cutter and reined cowhorse competitor, this lineage is something Parelli could easily appreciate.
“I’ve always wanted to ride a Paddys Irish Whiskey,” said Pat after day one with the colt, “but I didn’t know that’s what he was until after I picked him. First, I just liked his look and he seemed like the kind of horse I’d like to ride. Number two, I liked his nature.”
When asked by event host Rick Lamb if he felt “he could win the event” on the winsome sorrel gelding, Parelli answered “I think I can win the horse’s heart”. In the end, though not an uncomplicated task, that is exactly what Parelli managed to accomplish.
In the first session of round pen work, where the trainers have 2 hours of work time including a mandatory rest period of 30 minutes with their colt, Parelli was bareback on his horse’s back within 50 minutes (including the time for several rest breaks). Despite some bronc-worthy bucking when the saddle was placed on Hey Whiskey’s back, the colt appeared to calm and Parelli was in the saddle on the colt’s back another 20 minutes later. Though hesitant about his right side, all systems appeared to be go half an hour later when the pair was getting ready to wrap up their day 1 experience.
Then it happened.
Pat Parelli got bucked off.
But, like any true cowboy, Parelli (who rodeoed for 14 years and won the Bareback Rookie of the Year title in 1972) got back on after moving the colt around the round pen for a systems check. With just a few minutes left on the clock, Parelli was up on the colt again, bareback this time, to make sure the relationship was still intact. As the buzzer heralded the end of day one, it appeared the pair was well underway to success again, but no one could be sure what the next day would bring.
“The colt gave me green lights everywhere today,” said Parelli in a day one wrap-up interview, “except on that right side. I didn’t really realize it was as strong a yellow light as it was until I got up there. As soon as I got up there and tossed the lead rope to the right side [Parelli was riding in just a halter] and I saw he didn’t want to look at me out of that eye I got a yellow light. That yellow light turned to red there pretty quick.”
With a night for both horse and man to reflect on the day, the pair progressed rapidly on day two. A fact that did not go unnoticed by judges or fans.
“[Pat's colt] was a sleeper. He was quiet and somewhat lazy and caught us all off guard. Pat flexed his neck to the right and the colt got stiff and literally was out of chute number one. We were all amazed at what Pat was able to accomplish with this colt after that point. Finesse or as Pat would say ‘Savvy!’” said judge Marian Buehler after the event.
Parelli was quick to tell the crowd at the beginning of Saturday’s round pen session that he had misread the colt’s readiness the day before, but would be working diligently to get him comfortable on that right side.
A little more than two hours later when Parelli guided the colt quietly through the obstacle course in only a hackamore and bounced a 4-foot diameter green ball 10 feet above the colt’s touchy right side without Hey Whiskey moving a muscle, it was safe to say from the grin on Parelli’s face and the standing ovation of the crowd that any challenges between the two had been overcome in spades.
Just moments earlier, upon entering the obstacle course, Parelli announced the decision to purchase his colt.
“When I started this project, I thought about the cowboy who would be messing with him,” he said of the horse, “not thinking it would be me,” said Parelli, who went onto explain that he and wife and teaching partner Linda Parelli had talked and decided the little sorrel fit into their program and should come home with them to Florida.
Parelli will be chronicling Hey Whiskey’s progress on social media channels, including Facebook, YouTube and Parelli’s own training support cum equine social networking site ParelliConnect.com.
That process has already begun. Just days since the competition, fans have seen Parelli load his colt on the trailer for the trip home, give the colt his first bath, track cows and explore the ranch with another saddle horse.
Parelli has announced the colt will now be known around the barns at Parelli campuses in Ocala, FL and Pagosa Springs, CO as Troubadour, thanks to the George Strait song the two rode to in the obstacle course at Road to the Horse.
Defined as a traveling lyric poet, perhaps no better name could be chosen for the small sorrel colt than Troubadour. Parelli has shared with Troubadour’s fans that it is his intention for the colt to appear at his two Pat Parelli Presents young horse events over the months to come.
At Pat Parelli Presents Colt Starting Naturally in Ft Worth, Texas May 6-8, 2011, natural horsemanship aficionados will catch up with the pair while six ranch colts from the Pitchfork Ranch are started simultaneously alongside six town raised colts over the course of three days.
Then again in Reno, NV on July 29-31, 2011, the pair will show their progress together as Parelli explores the topic of Wild Horse Taming Naturally using six gathered mustangs.
“We need to define the difference between starting a colt and taming a colt,” Parelli said in explaining the purpose of the two upcoming events at which Troubadour will make a guest appearance. “There is a difference.”
Parelli posits that taming a colt occurs when you work with it until it believes people are not going to harm it. Every horse must be tamed at some point during its life, whether it’s immediately after birth when it is imprinted or later when it is introduced to humans for the first time.
“If taming doesn’t happen, you haven’t won the ‘friendly game’,” Parelli explained. “You haven’t proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to the horse that you are a friend, not foe, and that’s why there are so many horses out there that are 8, 9, 10 years old and still snorty towards people. They’ve never been tamed, only started and trained. It’s like skipping the first letter of the alphabet and trying to spell without using the letter ‘a’ the rest of your life.”
“It used to be, if you’re young and dumb and indispensable, you’re the colt starter. That was me. I was a bucking horse rider, so people were like, ‘Let him start them.’”
“But now that I have savvy I teach my students that instead of breaking and training a colt, we want to start a relationship with them that can develop into a lifelong partnership. That’s what I’m looking to do with Troubadour over the months and years to come. We’re in no hurry.”
“Natural and beautiful should go hand in hand,” said Parelli. “Natural colt starting and training young horses should be this wonderful, beautiful, seductive experience, so that the horse begins to think the whole thing is his idea, and he wants to come back for more the next day. That’s what I hope to show people as Troubadour and I grow as partners together.”
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The Parelli method combines in-depth equine psychology and common sense communication techniques in a proven recipe for horse and rider success. It allows horse owners at all levels of experience (from trail rider to Olympic level Dressage rider) to achieve success without force, partnership without dominance and harmony without coercion. The wider goal is to help create a better world for horses and the people who love them through the non-profit Parelli Foundation.
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