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Parelli Natural Horsemanship

Parelli Natural Horse-Man-Ship is a program of natural horsemanship. It is also known as Parelli or PNH. It was created by Pat Parelli.


The Program

Parelli Natural Horse-man-ship is a program that uses a natural approach to communicating with horses, based on natural Equine behaviors, to achieve trust and respect in the horse/human relationship. PNH methods are mentally, emotionally and physically similar to the ways that horses act with one another within a herd.

PNH allows for thresholds, boundaries and fears for both horse and human, and encourages issues to be worked through, using mutual communication, leadership and love. Key components in this are attitude, knowledge, tools, techniques, time and imagination. In the program, it is recognized that both the horse and human have responsibilities in the partnership.

One aim of the program is to preserve the dignity of the horse by continuously watching for subtle cues in the horses posture, movements and facial expressions. Building on the idea of "Horsenalities", or horse personalities, it encourages Horsemen and women to take the horse's individual characteristics into account. The program teaches people to interact with horses through communication consisting of the seven types of interactions that horses have with one another. These are referred to as the "7 games".

The Parellis (Pat and Linda) developed a home-study program composed of progressive levels of knowledge and skill. The program defines four areas of skills: on the ground On Line, at Liberty; freestyle riding with little or no contact to the horse's head or mouth, and finesse riding with close head/mouth contact.

Level One

The first Parelli Natural Horsemanship level, Level 1, covers safety, basic skills, partnership and mental fitness. Level 1 teaches students how to gain an understanding of their horse and their horse of them on the ground first. As this work begins to progress the horse and human develop a stronger level of trust and understanding. The purpose of the activities in Level One is said to be to give the human a basic set of communication tools, much like single words to a child learning to talk. As these words become clearer between human and horse they can be used to create more complex communication. The higher level courses build on these activities. The riding portion of this level focuses on techniques that are said to put the rider more in tune with the horse. This consists of riding the horse without giving directional cues to the horse, instead students are encouraged to "go with" the horse in larger and larger spaces as the human's confidence grows in his ability to stay balanced and connected with the horse under various conditions.

Level Two

Level Two is focused on moving from using simple communication signals, "Baby Talk", to more complex requests through the use of various aids. There is a focus on riding with the whole body and not relying on reins for balance. This level also focuses on building confidence in horse and rider. Through ground work on and around obstacles, such as tarps and pedestals, the horse is prepared for the varied terrain that would be encountered on the trail or in the field.

Level Three

Level Three builds on the skills gained in Levels One and Two. Called the Refinement Level, it helps the human learn how to use nearly-invisible cues of focus and energy to communicate movements to the horse. It challenges both horse and human to become even more calm, smart, brave and athletic. At this level, horses are ridden with full equipment or none at all; they are confident with a wide variety of tasks and tools. Their humans are well-versed in what makes them tick and can, perhaps with help, sort out most of the issues that come up in their joint ventures. Pat urges horse people to master Level Three before choosing a particular equine discipline (or equine sport) and competition in that discipline.

Several icons of the mainstream equine industry, such as Craig Johnson (reining)[1], Leon Harrel (cutting)[2], Walter Zettl (dressage), Louis Lucio (dressage), Luca Moneta (Jumping), and Karen and David O'Connor (eventing, dressage)[2], have utilized similar methods in their own horsemanship and voiced support for Parelli's methods. Dr. Robert M. Miller, a veterinarian, speaker and author, has been a supporter of Pat Parelli for decades[3]. This method of human interaction with horses purports to work with the horses instinct and herd mentality.

Parelli HorsenalityTM

The Program uses the concept of "Horsenality" [4]. The tool is said to assist students of the Parelli Program with the challenge of "reading" their horses accurately during their working sessions with them. Through the use of a trait identification system (both positive and negative traits or behaviors) the Horsenality index provides a picture of the innate characteristics of the student's horse. Along with the identification of the Horsenality come recommended strategies for managing behaviors and strategies for achieving success.

This system borrows heavily from parallel concepts in human psychology derived from Analytical psychology, Personality psychology, the concepts of Four Temperaments, and the more modern Keirsey Temperament Sorter. There are no independent clinical studies that either verify or disprove this theory as applied to horses.


There has been criticism against the Parellis by the mainstream equestrian world. This is partly due to his dramatic performances and demonstrations with some of his own horses, his marketing programs to sell his personalized products, the general commercialization of his technique, and the cost of his programs.[5] The Parellis have also been known to make negative comments about other riding disciplines, including dressage.

Parelli supporters speculate that this criticism is partly due to the boldness of his demonstrations with some of his own horses, and possibly in part to the fact that he charges a premium price for his materials.[6]

By highly successful marketing of horsemanship information that, according to critics of Parelli's tactics, is widely available and has been passed down for generations and considered to be common sense by those knowledgeable of the horse, many competitors to Parelli consider his methods to be inappropriately described as exclusive to the Parelli system, particularly when re-named by Parelli.[citation needed] In contrast Parelli openly credits his mentors.[7]

Finally, because some training techniques result in horses that do not respond to traditional horse-handling commands, when the horse is sold it may require either retraining of the horse or the new owner may need to learn (for a price) Parelli methods.[citation needed] The program, in fact, encourages sellers to sell their horses only to other Parelli users.[citation needed]

Training Video Controversy

In March 2010, a video entitled "Natural Horsemanship the Parelli way!!!!!!!!!!!!!" was uploaded to YouTube, showing founder Linda Parelli striking a horse repeatedly with a rope, pulling hard on its halter, slapping it several times in the face with the palm of her hand and generally handling it in an ostensibly rough manner.[8]

The video was composed of edited excerpts from a video originally featured in the Parelli "Level 1" Pack.

Linda Parelli responded to the video by posting a statement on the Parelli website addressing criticisms of her technique and included a letter from the horse's owner stating that her training was effective.[9]


External links


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