I am thankful to the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program for all it has taught me. Thank you to Pat and Linda Parelli and the Parelli organization for teaching me and horse lovers across the world to value our relationships with our horses, to hold fast to horsemanship principles, to put our foundation before specialization and to be willing to take the time it takes to reach excellence.
If you are interested in joining the Parelli horsemanship community, here are some resources for you!
The Parelli Savvy Club provides countless resources and a fabulous community for people who want to get started with natural horsemanship. The video and other resources available to Parelli members are incredible, and much of what I have learned from Parelli has come from the program’s member videos.
If you are interested in getting one-on-one help with horsemanship, then
the Parelli instructors are helpful and knowledgeable. I highly recommend them. I spend the summer of 2016 studying with 4* Instructor Nita Jo Rush, who enriched my knowledge and skills by giving me invaluable insights into the principles of natural horsemanship. 2* Instructor Bryna Helle has also been a fantastic teacher to me, and Savanna and I have learned countless lessons from her.
Here are some foundations of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program:
The Eight Principles of Horsemanship
The principles are the lifeblood of the horseman. Horsemen have these principles written on the inside of their eyelids, and they lives out these principles in every interaction they have with horses.
- Horsemanship is natural
- Don’t make or teach assumptions
- Communication is two or more individuals sharing and understanding an idea.
- Horses and humans have mutual responsibilities:
- Act like a partner, not a predator
- Have an independent seat
- Think like a horse
- Have the natural power of focus
- Act like a partner, not a prey animal
- Maintain gait
- Maintain direction
- Look where you are going
- The attitude of justice is effective
- Body language is the universal language
- Humans teach horses and horses teach humans
- Principles, purpose, and time are the tools of teaching
The Seven Games
The Seven Games are our communication language with horses mirrored after the way horses communicate within nature. These seven categories of games are the alphabet through which we can have conversations with our horses. We begin teaching horses the seven games on the ground, and the communication transfers to the saddle.
- Friendly Game: All about confidence. We focus on developing the horse’s trust in us as a leader. We also want our horses to trust our tools and the environment so they can be in a thinking and learning frame of mind.
- Porcupine Game: All about feel. We want our horse to respect communication through steady pressure. The porcupine game consists of four successive phases (1. pressing the horse’s hair, 2. pressing the horse’s skin, 3. pressing the horse’s skin, and 4. pressing the horse’s bone). We begin with the lightest possible feel and incrementally move through the four phases of pressure until the moment the horse decides to respond correctly. Rather than forcing our horse to move, we want to cause the undesirable response to be difficult, so the horse chooses to seek comfort by following our suggestions.
- Driving Game: All about intention. We want the horse to respond to our rhythmic pressure. When we apply rhythmic pressure, we begin with a small request. For example, if we ask our horse to back up, we begin with wiggling our finger, and three seconds later, our wrist, then our forearm, then our whole arm (phases 1-4). We move through the phases until the moment the horse decides to move backward one step. This game builds to the horse understanding our intention without needing to add rhythm. Conversations eventually take place entirely at phase 1.
- Yo-Yo Game: All about impulsion. The yo-yo game is the fulcrum game between the three foundational games (1-3) and the final three games (5-7). The yo-yo game focuses on gaining balance between forward and backward and go and whoa. We want the horse to have emotional fitness and we want him put equal effort and energy into responding to our requests of forward and backward movement.
- Circling Game: All about responsibility. The circling game teaches the horse to understand his job of maintaining gait, maintaining direction and looking where he is going. Whether he is trotting on a 12′ line, standing in a 50′ round corral or cantering while riding in an arena, the horse is in charge of maintaining his gait until we initiate a change.
- Sideways Game: All about balance. We want to equalize the two sides of the horse so he can physically, mentally, and emotionally perform lateral movements. The sideways game builds to lateral movements such as the leg-yield, the half-pass and the flying lead change. In the words of Pat Parelli, the better a horse moves sideways and backward, the better he will do everything else.
- Squeeze Game: All about thresholds. This game focuses on developing confidence with moving over, under and through obstacles. Horses are claustrophobic by nature, so the squeeze game teaches them to relax within boundaries. The squeeze game includes confidence such things as going into horse trailers, over jumps, through water crossings, and between our reins.
The Ten Qualities of a Horseman
The Ten Qualities of a Horseman are the characteristics necessary for a mutual horse and human relationship.
- Heart and desire
The Seven Keys to Success
These are the values and strengths of people who attain excellence in any discipline.