Elli Pospischil, Pat Parelli’s Protégée, barn manager and 3* Parelli professional, finds joy in stretching her communication with horses.
A former professional snowboarder, Pospischil encountered the Parelli program through an internship with the Parelli office in her native country of Switzerland. During her first year in the program, she met Pat and Linda Parelli, as well as the European instructors, and she was inspired to become an instructor. The Parelli program drew her not only by what it taught her to do with her horses, but also by the great people she met through the program.
Pospischil began the instructor track in 2008 when she studied on the Parelli Campus in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. She has been on campus since 2011, and she now works as Pat’s Right Hand Woman with the Talent Development Center, Pat’s protégée program for students dedicated to pursuing excellence in horsemanship.
According to Pospischil, the Talent Development Center provides a learning environment where students can learn WWPD (what would Pat do) and WWPW (what would Pat want). Pat sets high expectations for his students, Pospischil says. “It’s a high-pressure environment,” she says. “Every day is an audition for your future, and I like to be challenged and constantly improving.”
Pat stretches his students outside their comfort zones. “It’s naturally going to be uncomfortable, but that’s also where you learn,” Pospischil says. “All of a sudden, what was the learning zone becomes your new comfort zone.”
According to Pospischil, Pat rewards his students when they are doing their best, asking questions and trying to improve. She appreciates that Pat is generous with not only his time but also with his horses. “He sure rewards very often and very generously,” she says. Being able to ride any and all of Pat’s horses has provided Pospischil with the valuable opportunity to develop in her horsemanship.
Pospischil says that students who aim to study with Pat can never fully prepare for the experience, but being a Level 4 Parelli graduate, having experience with a variety of instructors who have spent considerable amounts of time with Pat, and being open to learning in a hands-on environment will set students up for success.
Pospischil emphasizes the importance of having a goal in mind when playing with horses. For students who aim to progress to higher levels of communication, such as achieving Level 4 with their horses, Pospischil reminds them to value their principles with their horses. “Take it easy,” she says. “Don’t ever sacrifice the relationship you’ve got with your horse for any kind of goals you want to reach.”
She also highlights the importance of doing the simple things with excellence and not allowing goals take precedence over the relationship. Excellence in the simple things, such as haltering, saddling and mounting, make a more significant impression on Pat than extravagant, complicated maneuvers, such as teaching a horse to lie down.
Pospischil explains that even the most complicated maneuvers boil down to the first three of the Seven Games, the Friendly Game, the Porcupine Game and the Driving Game. Building upon those basic ingredients and developing them into higher levels of refinement allows for more success in reaching one’s goals. “If you have a goal or a picture in mind of what you want it to look like, then you can do less sooner to actually get there,” Pospischil says.
Pospischil values the communication, connection and partnership possible with horses and humans accomplishing goals together. For this reason, the sport of cutting fascinates her. “There’s so many brains involved and so much energy,” she says. “It’s you and your horse and there’s the one cow and the whole herd of cows behind you and all your helpers, so it’s fascinating how much coordination and synchronicity and harmony there needs to be for it to work out for everybody.”
Pospischil attests to the intrigue involved in figuring out how to motivate horses to perform at high levels while still being able to put her arm around them and know that the session was as good for them as it was for her.
“If you look into a horse’s eye, I know it sounds cheesy, but you can not only see the horse’s soul, but you see your own soul, too,” Pospischil says.