What Is Parelli Natural HorseManShip (PNH)?

      teaching Ten to kneel As Pat says,"Natural Horse-Man-Ship is relating to horses through communication, understanding, and psychology rather than mechanics, fear, and intimidation." Natural Horsemanship is so old, it's new again. Over 2000 years ago one of the first great riding masters, a man named Xenopon, said that communication is the key to horsemanship. Pat Parelli brought this concept into the 21st Century by creating his "Savvy Systems". Over two decades have gone into Pat's defining and refining the exact behaviors we humans need to learn in order to communicate with our horses in a way that our horse naturally understands. A few great horsemen have been born. These gifted individuals innately understood the way to communicate with horses. Most of us, however, were not so endowed. It was not until Pat's "Savvy Systems" (Level 1 Partnership, Level 2 Harmony, Level 3 Refinement) that the information which held the key to equine communication was available to all of us.

To be Natural with a horse Pat wants us to stop thinking like a human (predator) and lean how to think and perceive situations like a horse (prey animal). He wants us to understand exactly what motivates a horse. Motivation, for a horse, doesn't come from a gold or silver belt buckle, or a blue ribbon, or money, or the horses name at the top of the list or any other accolade that humans think are important. What motivates the horse and what the horse thinks is important are:
  1. Safety
  2. Comfort
  3. Play
Safety: Horses first and foremost care about their own safety. It's the survival instinct inherent in all living creatures. If a horse does not feel SAFE in a given situation, he is going to do what he can do to get away from the perceived danger and get safe. Who can blame him? We (humans) would do exactly the same thing if we felt our lives were threatened. But many times when the horse gets fearful, he gets punished. The pain inflicted in this punishment only serves to convince the horse he was right in his initial response to flee the situation so the horse tries harder to flee. The "normal" human response to this situation is to increase the punishment on the horse. Finally the horse has had enough and breaks away from the human (thus getting relief and reward) and the human blames the horse for being "nuts".

Jennifer is picking up Kahn's offside hind foot (Level 1 Friendly Game tasks)

Comfort: It is comfort that motivates a horse to learn. The horse doesn't care about praise, recognition, or material things. Mostly the horse just wants to be left alone to graze, be in his herd, and just stand. Pat utilizes this natural occurring mind-set in the horse to reward learning. When we ask our horse to do a particular activity and he complies we stop asking. We give the horse relief and release when he is correct. One of the key tenants of Natural Horsemanship is that "It's the Release That Teaches". It is the comfort at the end of the request that motivates the horse to comply with what we have asked.

Devvy haltering Mick from her knees (Level 2)

Play: If we watch a herd of horses, after they have satisfied their appetite (comfort) the other activity they do besides stand still (comfort), is play with each other. Sometimes they run, romp, jump, and buck just for fun. Additionally, these games are necessary to establish social structure and herd hierarchy. These games are repeated as needs arise or when there are new horses presented to the herd. Within this herd "social hierarchy" the horse finds security and comfort.

Jenny comfortably riding with one Carrot Stick (Level 2)

      & Luke enjoying a good Partnership Stick-To-Me Game Most riding schools focus on just that...riding. But in the world of a Horseman, this is only one-forth of the skills and knowledge we need to become safe and skillful with horses. Horses are more than just a riding animal. They are an attitude on four feet. They also have instincts, thoughts, and emotions about people. This determines how they will respond or react, positively or negatively. Unconsciously, people can trigger survival instincts in a horse and the consequences are great. A horse will do anything to escape if he perceives that his survival is threatened, and because we aren't traditionally taught how a horse thinks, the bolting, rearing, striking, bucking, kicking and biting are labeled as vices, when in fact it's a sure sign of self-defense, or of domination and disrespect.

Ten and
      some of his partners Horses are herd animals that have a strong need for social order. They will do battle to find out who is the strongest, fastest, quickest, and bravest. And once the alpha horse has been established, the dominance games go on until the pecking order is established all the way down the line. And don't think it stops there. Once the horse gets over his fear, he will play these same dominance games with people. Understanding horse physiology is the big key to becoming skillful. When you understand that safety, comfort, and play are important to horses (in that order), and you learn to read their body language, understand their games and needs and play those games with them, you get to enter a very special zone. The Horseman's zone. It's a level of Savvy which is so rare in the horse world, but unmistakable in students of Parelli Natural Horse Man Ship.

In the Parelli program, Pat teaches us (humans) how to understand how horses think, play, act, and feel so that our horse sees us (humans) as a partner in stead of a predator. Pat's alliteration puts it succinctly:

"Pat Parelli proudly presents his provocative, progressive, and positive program with the proclamation that prior and proper preparation prevents "P" poor performance particularly when polite and passive persistence is practiced in the proper position. This perspective takes patience, from process to product, from principle to purpose and the principle that Pat plans to prove is that practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. And isn't it peculiar how these prey animals perceive people as predators and not partners."

Anyone interested in seeing a comprehensive overview of the nature of Parelli Natural HorseManShip can order a free DVD from www.parelli.com