- Pat Parelli
- Linda Parelli
Born in California’s Bay Area, Pat Parelli was obsessed with horses at an early age. When Pat was just 13, a horseman and trapper named Freddie Ferrera of Livermore, California, recognized Pat’s talents with horses and took him under his wing. During the summers he would teach him valuable lessons about how to be more natural with horses, dogs, cattle, and nature itself.
Pat’s horse career began with working in stables at age 9. If there were horses, Pat would be there, enthusiastically helping with whatever he could, ears open for every drop of information. He even started to develop his own ideas about raising foals and training horses, an unusual thing for a young boy.
At the age of 17, Pat Parelli launched himself into rodeos, his favorite event being the bareback riding. A natural, with a good coach in John Hawkins, Pat won the Bareback Rookie of the Year title in 1972, his buck-off average just 4%. Watching many rodeo athletes trying to move on, Pat was determined to find life after rodeo. A career in training horses seemed logical and he started a business that concentrated on starting colts. However, like many trainers before him, it wasn’t long before the pattern of equine and financial frustration set in and Pat found himself on the verge of getting out of horses altogether. He also resisted the idea that horse training should treat horses like inanimate objects.
Then three significant events changed his life:
- He met Tony Ernst from Australia, who was a student of the horse, a disciple of Kung Fu martial arts and a master musician;
- He began to work under the tutelage of Troy Henry, a master horseman from Clovis, California, who specialized in training and developing both horse and rider for competition using psychology and communication;
- He took an interest in developing mules to be able to perform like horses.
Through Tony Ernst, Pat learned about inner power and the Kung Fu principles of discipline, body control, and mind-body mastery. Troy Henry opened up a whole new world to Pat by helping him understand horses’ mental and emotional processes as prey animals as well as the true dynamics of horsemanship and how they applied to performance horses. The mules taught Pat the importance of reverse psychology, the principle of safety and comfort as the only real incentives, and developed in him more savvy on how to get a prey animal to “want” to perform. They also taught him about patience! In 1980, Pat founded The American Mule Association.
Being an intense student of horses and horsemanship, Pat had begun to develop his own style of teaching and expanding these principles. He also became interested in showing reined cow horses and was successful in reining and cutting events with both horses and mules.
One of the greatest frustrations Pat experienced in training horses was handing them back to their owners who often had a noticeable lack of skill and understanding. He found that if the rider didn’t have enough savvy, the horses would regress. After much soul searching he finally decided that he couldn’t go on just training horses, he had to find a way to help people become more savvy with horses. Pat Parelli discovered that he had a natural talent in finding the right words to explain what he understood about horses. So he turned his attention to helping people instead of horse training. He began to give “lessons” but had no idea that one day he would be able to help people on a much larger scale.
In 1983, while performing bridle-less at the California Livestock Symposium, Pat met three men who significantly contributed to his horsemanship knowledge: Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Ronnie Willis – all masters who became Pat’s mentors. A few years later the world’s leading equine behaviorist, Dr R. M. Miller, observed one of Pat’s bridle-less demonstrations and recognized that Pat’s concepts aligned strongly with his own philosophies on influencing the horse’s mind and on foal imprinting. He predicted that by the time Pat Parelli reached age 40, he would have become one of the best horsemen and teachers the world had known.
When we look at Pat’s life now – with Parelli Natural Horsemanship centers on three continents and students the world over – we see that Linda and Pat Parelli are fulfilling the Parelli goal of changing the world of horse training and changing the world for horses and the people who love them.
Dreams Do Come True!
When people hear Linda Parelli’s story, they always want to know how in the world a dressage rider ended up studying with a cowboy like Pat Parelli. She explains, “Had I not owned a horse who brought me to the ‘end of the road,’ I would never have gone to Pat Parelli for advice. But, there I was struggling for two years with a Thoroughbred that I was advised to ‘sell to a man’ or ‘put a bullet in his head.’ I tried all kinds of devices to control him: chambons, martingales, draw reins, nose bands, all different bits. But this horse would still go crazy – bolting, rearing, and freaking out. Are you getting the picture? It was just miserable and dangerous every time I rode.”
Then Linda Parelli – who at the time was Linda Paterson – saw a video of Pat riding bridle-less. Something told her that “this cowboy was my last chance.” So she registered for a Parelli Horse Training Clinic and showed up with a list of problems in her hand.
But she never got to show Pat the list because within five minutes, she had learned that horses were prey animals who lived by their instincts and when they felt threatened, trapped or unsafe, they would do whatever it took to escape. She suddenly understood that her horse was not being “bad” – he was simply following his instincts. Linda says that that Parelli natural horsemanship clinic “changed everything between me and my horse.”
To this day Linda Parelli can ride that horse without a saddle or bridle…and remember, this was a horse who couldn’t be stopped even with $200 worth of gadgets on his head!
Asked why she doesn’t compete anymore, Linda replies:
“It’s just not important to me right now. I’d rather win my horse’s heart and maintain a pure focus on developing my horse savvy and making our Parelli Membership the best natural horsemanship club in the world.
I also dedicate most of my time now to writing down what Pat teaches so that as many people as possible have access to this life-changing information. I’m having more fun with horses and accomplishing more than I ever thought possible, and I want to share that.
I also want people to know that it doesn’t take talent, it doesn’t take bravery and it doesn’t take years to get there. It takes heart, desire and access to a phenomenal teacher who’s willing to share everything he knows in a way that is simple to understand because it builds, step-by-step, to as high a level as you want to take it.
Parelli natural horse training – which isn’t really horse training at all; it’s people training and a journey of relationship and self-discovery, so let’s just call it natural horsemanship rather than horse training – well it changed my life. Literally. And in so many ways. I want to share that journey with as many people and as many horses as possible.
Horseback riding – of whatever kind: Western, English, Dressage, Hunter Jumper, whatever – shouldn’t be stressful for horse or rider. It should be joyous and natural for both.
Here’s to happy horses and happy riders!”
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