By Nancy Slater, Level 6 student and a 2 star licensed Parelli Professional
Once upon a time, there was a stubborn mule named Josh. He came into my life to see what kind of human I was. Humans were either too harsh, too soft, or just right. What am I?
Josh the mule was not an easy going trail animal, he would spook, bolt and buck. I tried to make him behave, but really needed help! I studied the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Program, but I got stuck and he kept running away. Learning real Parelli Natural Horsemanship was a lot like the old children’s fairy tale, “Goldilocks and the 3 Bears”. The little girl found the beds were either too hard, too soft, or just right!
At first, I thought Parelli was trick training because of the “Games”. I struggled with the concepts of “Allow” and “Cause”. I had a hard time applying appropriate amounts of pressure and release. Like in the story, Goldilocks finds the porridge (oatmeal) too hot, too cold, or just right. My cues were too much, too little, but sometimes, just right.
I knew this stuff worked because I had seen it with my own eyes. But I was missing something and wanted more help, so… I signed up for courses on the Florida Parelli Campus. I took coaching lessons from Licensed Parelli Professional Instructors. And later, was coached by Linda and Pat Parelli themselves. Things turned out just right!
The huge turnaround of that mule’s behavior, when I got it right, got me excited. I was so excited, in fact, I wanted to share what I had learned so people could have more fun and safety with THEIR horses.
My husband said to me, “You have to stop talking about it and go back to competition to prove it works.” My shoulders slumped. I didn’t want to go back to competition, I just wanted to show horse people this great stuff I had discovered. But I knew he was right.
I bought the first 2 year old I went to look at. She was a wide eyed, little QH filly that had never been haltered or handled. I remember my husband whispering in my ear, “Don’t you want to look around?”
Shaman was very sensitive with a high spirit, and I had to go carefully with her to keep her mentally connected with me. Using the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Program, our relationship grew. Her training went faster as I took my time. She saw that I was her friend, and calmly followed my directions. I was careful to get it just right!
When I first started riding her, my plan was to do reining competition. She was very quick, and she was really moving well. But when I took her to an AQHA obstacle trail competition at age 3, she finished 1st out of 18 in the QH Division! I said aloud, “I think we’ve found our thing!”
It felt so right, I decided to ride Shaman in the pro division against trainers and seasoned competitive riders that year. Judges told me they had never seen a horse work on a loose rein like Shaman did. She knew her job and performed perfectly.
Half way through the season, one of the other competitors asked me,”Did you know you and your horse are in first place in the Nation?”. We finished that year as National Champions in the pro division!
I proudly rubbed my girl’s neck, retiring her from competition at age 5. We had done it in just one year. We had accomplished our goal – Parelli done just right, wins!