Friday, January 21, 2011

Parelli Parade of Preposterousness

 I found this hanging at the barn the other day, and wanted to share. Now I don't know about all of you. I have never had many opinions on Pat Parelli or his methods. Since meeting and attending dressage great Walter Zettl's clinic's a couple of summers ago--as he was on tour with them--I tended to be more of a fan than not, and do still believe some of the things Pat teaches regarding the horse work. But, heck folks, let's be realistic, once you learn what he is doing I, YES ME, could teach you some of those things. It's the way of horses, and heck just sit on a fence post and watch them, and you will figure out quite a bit. He's a showman, and people want a quick fix. An "Ooh" and an "Ahhh". An, "Oh, I wish I could do that with my Stormy, or my Beau!" I am not saying that his methods don't work very well for the dedicated person training in this way. BUT, this little bit I'm about to share with you has un-Parelli'ed me.

This was found on an equestrian forum by an Austrian dressage instructor at my barn:

I am sending this to a couple of different groups as I feel it is important to get the word out to potential Parelli followers. As many of you know, I am currently recovering from a brain injury from a fall from a horse this summer. This was a green horse, but he spooked while I was getting off, something ANY horse could do, and the odds of a serious accident on a horse finally caught up with me. One thing I have noticed is an ad for Pat and Linda Parelli jumping a horse bareback with no helmet. Also, while I was bedridden, I watched a couple of Pat Parelli's episodes, and he had a young person who was physically disabled riding without a helmet, and it was obvious her balance was not good. I sent a letter to the Parelli's asking them to please advocate the use of helmets. This is their reply, which I think is totally STUPID coming from professionals.

~Patti from W.Va

The Parelli Faculty's Response:

Hi Patti,

Thank you for taking the time to write us. We understand your views and concerns. As quoted by the faculty at our ranch:

You are quite right--helmets are fabulous things, and they save many lives. Tragically though, people who ARE wearing helmets also die or suffer serious head injuries with horses.

Our program is intended to address the safety problem at its root--which is behavioral--rather than address the symptoms of it. Our message is about developing the relationship with the horse, and the savvy level of the rider, so that unsafe behavior is addressed long before the rider gets on the horse--rather than allowing the unsafe situations to occur and hope that the helmet, body protector, etc. will protect us from the consequences.

The reason you do not see our people wearing helmets is because we try to teach people that rather than be brave because they are wearing a helmet to protect them, they would be better off not riding until their horse is behaving safely.       

People have called us brave for not wearing helmets, but we say they are a lot braver than we are. We could not get on their horse until we have addressed the issues that cause it to behave in unsafe ways.

We hope this helps,
From the Faculty,
Parelli Centers

In July 2009 The Parelli Savvy Club put out some information on Linda taking a FALL....oh my. A 'misbehaved' horse?!

"Linda was cantering her horse Remmer in a field when he tripped and stumbled approximately twenty feet trying to regain his balance. At the end, he pitched on his nose. Linda was KNOCKED OUT for a few minutes, and under his feet when he tried to get up. She is recovering well at home and has four broken ribs."

I'm willing to wager a head injury too, if she was knocked out for several minutes....uh duh? But, no, that won't be mentioned.

For real? Do I need to expound on this insanity? A well-behaved horse is a very desired and necessary thing. So is a helmet in many (and in my honest opinion, all) instances. Let's see. I've been riding since I was six, and am bringing up my green horse to be a jumper. Last week I went off when he popped a jump set at 2'9 at about 4 feet. I guess my horse is misbehaved, and I'm a bad rider. MY GAWD, I HAVE NO SAVVY!!! I do know one thing. Even if either one of those things is true, my GPA helmet saved my lil' butt. And the butts of more than a couple of friends. Working in a hospital on the pediatric side I have seen more than my share of head injuries in children due to falls and horse accidents, and sadly, heard of some deaths too. Perhaps the U.S.Eventing and Showjumping Teams should stop wearing helmets as well. I mean, they are only jumping giant objects that make my mouth drop open in wonder! I went down to the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, (the USET winter practice grounds) and those jumps will amaze, astound, and yes, frighten the HELL out of you up close. But again, if their horses were trained correctly.....
I have it! We should all train our cars correctly, and stop wearing seat belts! I am SO smart! To me, that is EXACTLY what that reply said. So my Parelli disgust is largely, (OK, completely) due to that PREPOSTEROUS reply!

Meanwhile--My Parelli video is for sale. 'The Seven Games of Parelli Natural Horsemanship' Twenty bucks is the going rate plus s&h of oh...3 bucks? Email me at with the moniker 'Parelli' if you want it.

ZE new helmet... When you fall you have to have something to show for it!! ;) Supposed to be the 'safest' you can really get without going titanium, which I so can't afford! I also picked up a Tipperary Sportage in cocoa brown for my trailriding. Yeah, my shoulder hurt so bad the following day, I felt I needed two new helmets! :) (Really, just birthday presents to me-self!)


  1. I can't believe the responce, that's truly awful!

    I wouldn't class myself as "brave" if I got on a horse without my riding hat, I'd class myself as stupid.

    Thank you for posting this, I'll definitely steer away from that name in future!


  2. I always, always, always wear a helmet, and I've been riding for years. "Brave"? Of course people also get injured or even killed when wearing helmets, but I'd like to increase the odds. It really burns me up when trainers set a bad example for riders - particularly kids - by not wearing helmets, and I've heard all the excuses/explanations and none of them are worth a damn (excuse the language).

  3. But one other thing - I try to take the good from any rider/trainer who has something to offer, and leave the bad. Mark Rashid and his wife also don't ride with helmets - most trainers from the Western traditions don't - but that doesn't mean there still isn't value in what they teach. Same goes for the Parellis.

  4. People are going to do what they want to do anyway, but if nothing else, it's irresponsible that they posted such a comment. In our litigious society, there's no big leap from that to a lawsuit.

  5. Guys, I'm a HUGE Chris Cox fan. No helmets either. I have Western buds I ride with that don't wear them. Look at my last post. I'm the only one with a helmet. No problem. It's their risk and decision. That isn't my point so much as the idiocy of the response! People LOOK UP to these people--often to the extreme *just my opinion*-- and if they are not in the know, have a green horse, etc. they think that is how it should be. It's how folks end up dead....

  6. They actually changed their tune a bit after this email came out: A Message about Helmets
    Rather cool to see how the horse community came together and managed to put the pressure on and change things, even if just a little.

  7. Wow. I didn't know horses didn't have minds of their own anymore and they were just programmable robots.

    I have never been too interested in Parelli anything because more often than not that stuff attracts some real WEIRDOS.

  8. Hey fellow Jackson owner (and did you notice they are both part TB?)! I am soooo with you on the whole Parelli thing. We have seen them at Equine Affaire and while I agree their information/technique on ground work is good, it isn't new. They (like Monty Roberts) are great marketers. Which isn't a bad thing if you are getting a good message out. And the helmet thing. Okay, they just lost my vote completely. I suppose Courtney King Dye wasn't brave when she was schooling her very sane youngster who tripped???? Pa-lease! We have two neighbors who have had bad wrecks on horses due to things like coming across a mountain lion on the trail. We don't go ANYWHERE without our helmets. Okay, okay. I'll simmer down - obviously an issue I have a lot of passion behind.

  9. I believe almost everyone has something to offer, but sometimes you gotta sift through the bull**** to find it. The problem is that if you already know what's bull, you probably already have the information.

    I've used the Parelli stuff with at-risk "city" kids and had great results. The Parelli's actually donated everything to us including all the sticks, halters, leads, DVDs, etc.

    The response to the helmet letter was asinine.

  10. Then there's that incident in England last fall with the stallion Catwalk. Pat Parelli used some really rough methods used to "cure" his head-shyness. So much for "passive persistence" ;)

    I think most everyone who has worked with horses has something to offer... the problem comes when the gurus drink their own kool-aid.

    As instructors, not advising people to wear their helmets / advising them not to wear their helmets, is simply unconscionable.

  11. Can I have your old one? Slightly dented is okay. <3 Kathy

  12. Oh wow I cant believe that reply sent back. I for one have had a serious fall from a friends horse. He is a beautiful friesian x and a gorgeous ride but he got a fright and spun on a dime with his feet then shooting out from under him. We crashed to the road and yes my head hit the road pretty hard. With out a helmet I would be dead for sure. I have always ridden with a helmet and believe the risks of riding without one are just too great.

  13. Good post, Mindy! I can't believe the letter from Linda, how stupid coming from a so called professional!!! A horse is a horse, now matter how well trained they do spook, they trip and fall sometimes on you! I know cause Gilly has trip and fallen on me.
    For years I rode western and never wore a helmet, heck when I was a kid back in the early 60's I didn't know anyone who even had one. I have a helmet now, I wear it most of the time. I know I should wear it all the time....I'll try harder! :-)
    Hope you and Jackson are doing well!!!

  14. I always have to chuckle when I watch Parelli or Clint Anderson, because I learned most of that before I even knew they existed taking barrel lessons in elementary school! Without majikal sticks and majikal bridles! And I have to chuckle even more when I see Mrs. Parelli jumping the SAME horse (I'd like to see her try a different horse, something she doesn't feel BRAVE on) with less-than-desirable equitation (I give the Grand Prix jumpers a break, it's hold on or die at that stage in the game! But what she is jumping is far from a puissance wall) and NO HELMET!!! GAH!!!

    As for that response: very professional and equally cocky!

    I have always been gaga for Charles Owen helmets. My wallet seems to think the other way, though :( But they are nice, you will love it! Same with the Tipperary's!

  15. Wearing a helmet is not a sign of weakness.

    The notion that one may graduate from needing a helmet is a dangerous line of thinking.

  16. I come from a both of both support and of question, with all training...always. One thing I've learned, is I'm too smart to ride w/o a helmet. So I ride and anyone who rides with me, or on my horse, has a helmet on. That being said, I do a lot of Parelli (or Anderson, etc, etc b/c they are all similar) with my horse. I DO enjoy the 'games' b/c my horse seems to respond and enjoy it and it gives ME something to relay on and learn from, whether good or bad, it gives us options. I dont think Pat is some GOD nor do I think riding w/o a helmet is smart NOR do I think ANY amount of training will ensure that a 1000 + lb animal wont hurt you on accident/purpose whatever. They are thinking animals that allow us to work with them, and ride them, and being we are smaller we need to protect ourselves. I dont think 100% Parelli is the way to go but it has helped a lot of people instead of giving up on their horses, so I'm happy for that. It's all about balance and there is NOT one way to learn, train, etc.

  17. Calm, Forward, Straight-- I know a guy who used to be on the roping rodeo circuit for seven years--worked for Tim McGraw too-- who told me that in the past, Pat's methods were very "rough." Since it is hearsay, I didn't include it in my blog, but it makes you wonder...
    Then Megan has had a good experience with him and donations for her "risk youth" on horseback. Even if it just PR, who cares? Equipment for those programs is needed, and I like that.
    I also take what I want from a trainer and go with it if it works, ditch the rest...
    The video I am selling is actually cool, and I shouldn't have made it seem like it doesn't have "fun" and educational things to use with your horse. I'm just done with it, and it's collecting dust...
    BUT, I wrote this post b/c that letter pissed me off. I'm going to Stormy's link and checking it out. They may have had to change a few things. Pardon my French, but I imagine that their reply brought a "shitstorm" down on Parelli... the PR person needs a lesson in how to word things... :)
    I will stick with Chris Cox and MARK RASHID (love his books, and want his DVD's SOOOOO MUCH) though.....

  18. Dressager-- Yes, quite right. We should have her compete in puissance, and see how she does! lol.... Are they at 8 feet yet?
    Yes, that cocky reply GOT ME!!!!
    The Tipperary is hands down the MOST COMFY helmet evah! Charles Owen not here yet... Gawd. I'll probably crash it!!! ;)

  19. I had my concerns abour Parelli before this post. I have a friend with a more than the average horse skittish gelding and she's doing Parelli with him. It's given her a false sense of control which she's never going to truely have with that horse. I hope she doesn't get seriously injured someday because of it. I think she is not the only one with that false sense of control.

    Putting that aside and proceeding onto helmets, I don't think wearing one or not wearing one makes a trainer competent. I do think the false sense of bravado in their reply does speak volumes however.

  20. There is a business in Germany, I guess you could call it a dealership and they have a horse category called 'Confidence Giver'. In the description of every horse in this category they have this information "*This sport horse has been allocated to the Confidence Giver category as, according to the German Horse Center partner, it is a particularly well behaved and calm horse even in difficult situations. However, please note that all horses may revert to their instinctive behavior as flight animals in certain circumstances." Having had people try to convince me that a horse can be made safe 100% of the time, it's nice to have a quote that's better worded that anything that I could come up with to use.

  21. Great post. I didn't realize the Parelli's had such a dumb stance on helmets, but then again I've never respected them or spent any money on their products.

  22. I have always thought they are pretty amazingly... superior horsemen? arrogant? dumb? lucky? with their stance on helmets.
    One friend did a clinic there a few years back and was sneered at for wearing his helmet. He wore his helmet cuz he fell off and cracked his head open one day at home when he WASN'T wearing his helmet. A neighbor found him laying in the street. so he put up with the harrassment and wore his helmet on the Parelli property.
    in my book, savvy is recognizing that a horse is A HORSE, because they act like HORSES no matter how well you think you have trained them or how well you think you can control them, that's why they are called HORSES. Not to mention a friend of mine, one of the top endurance riders in the world, somehow fell off (horse stumbled? nobody knows) and she almost died and would be dead if she hadn't worn her helmet.
    Of course, it's a free world, and you can do as you like, or be peer pressured into doing as someone else likes... but I'll just keep wear my helmet, thankyouverymuch.
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  23. Hey just found your blog!!

    totally with you on the parrelli thing, hes is just a new selling face onplain old good horsemanship(although not evey thing he does i would call good hormanship).

    i how ever am a huge fan of walter zettl!

    interestingly i have read a differant blog about a differant person writing a letter to pat parrelli the letter they got in return was letter for letter exactly the same.

    anyway check out my blog to

  24. Man....that was a dumb response. I enjoy the Parelli methods as you know, but sometimes I don't understand their elitist view on safety. They made fun of someone in Oregon at the last tour stop for using a head bumper on their horse in the trailer. That actually made me mad because I use shipping boots and a head bumper, not because Maddy is crazy in the trailer, but I want her protected it anything should happen, including a wreck. They made me feel like protecting my horse, implies a lack of training like they imply wearing a helmet is for fear of falling off. Ridiculous.

  25. I am absolutely shocked by the response that you received. As a therapeutic riding instructor I must say that safety is number one when working with persons with disabilities. Horses are still animal and can be unpredictable so a helmet is an absolute must. As a dressage rider I always wear a helmet (unless in the show ring) and advocate to always wear a helmet no matter what discipline of riding you enjoy.

  26. I really haven't read much of Parelli himself but I do have a natural horsemanship trainer at the barn where my horse is boarded and I find him amazing... but he doesn't wear a helmet. I don't like too, BUT my husband sees terrible accidents from not wearing seat belts in cars to no helmets on the head. Just the other day, a woman fell from her horse - broke bones and is in the hospital... but her helmet most likely saved her head from injury. I am a follower of yours now. :)

  27. Interesting post. All I can say is I've had two riding accidents. Both times I hit my head. My horse was not misbehaving either time. Accident's happen all the time that have nothing to do with the horses behavior. I am thankful I was wearing a helmet and I will never ride without one.

  28. I heard a lot of good things about Parelli techniques. Though I haven't really tried to focus about it. I make practical horsemanship. It's more of traditional since it is natural. It's more of building rapport through communication. Yet natural things seem effective.

  29. I have had two of the most devastating falls due to NO fault of my horse. Do people also forget that humans make mistakes too? Take, for example, the mistake I made at a show one time when it was 102 degrees and I did not have enough to eat or drink??? I rode my horse in a C/T test and passed out after the finish line from exhaustion. Fell off my horse and hit my head so hard I lost my memory for four hours. But, I was wearing a helmet and didn't sustain further injury.

    Then, there was the time my horse was cantering, nice and balanced, and tripped and fell to his knees ... just because he was not a perfect robot. My horse was not acting remotely dangerously that day, and we came to find out later that week he was developing a neurologic illness.

    My biggest issue with the Parellis is the cult-type behavior they create, the disparaging remarks about other methods they use to deter people from joining any other type of horse training (Pat frequently terms traditional trainers ... even if they are gentle ... as "gunsels" or "professional predators"), and the fact they attract a lot of people that have no business owning a horse into overhorsing themselves because they figure they spent enough money on the program they ought to be able to fix any problems.

    "Natural" horsemanship is no more "natural" than most other forms of training. I admit there are types that go too far and misunderstand the horse. Those are to be avoided as well. But, all horse training is ... is pressure and release, good timing, and an understanding of the animal and the individual.

    I find the response to your letter disgusting. That is the most ridiculous reasoning I have EVER heard for not wearing a helmet ...

  30. There is no quick-fix in Equines. It's all trail-and-error, and patience. If you are looking for quick-fixes, maybe you shouldn't own an equine...

  31. I broke my neck 7 yrs ago...the only reason I am still here & not crippled is because I had on a helmet. I went straight into a fence post. The helmet was cracked instead of my head. There is no such thing as a bomb-proof horse...when the tiger goes tiger there is not always a reason...I still have the horse. The Parellis also support horse slaughter....they are fair weather horse lovers. Thanks for standing up to this couple.


Please leave your comments here! I am always happy to hear from all of you in the form of advice, encouragement or questions!
~Slainte' Mhath!