In 1975 I went to Reno, Nevada to watch the Snaffle Bit Futurity, I was totally blown away by what I saw. There were young horses that were doing lead changes, slide stops, spins, were able to work a single cow down the fence at high speed and out of the herd. I got totally inspired to do more with horses than be just a colt starter.
The next day I talked a friend into letting me enter his colt that I had just started for next year’s SBF. This is where my journey began to become a better horseman. Little did I know how little I knew. I thought it would be easy because I was a cowboy and a dang good colt starter.
As the months went on this filly was not making much progress and in fact, was getting worse in some ways. I was living in Clovis, California at the time and was surrounded by several past winners and contenders of this event, so I started asking for help. Boy did I ever find that there are all kinds of advice out there! I started to find out that there were a lot of horse trainers and not many horsemen.
Since most of the help I was getting was unprincipled, it was the only model I had and I went down that path doing whatever it took to make this filly who I called Red, slide, spin, and work cows. It was a wreck.
I found myself with a lot of ambition but no patience or principles. I also found out once I got to the show that the trainers showed their real colors in the warm-up arena, this is where I found out that birds of a feather flock together. I soon started calling the warm-up arena the torture pit and I was in there doing the same things.
About 2 weeks before the event I was hoping that my horse would get sick or go lame so I wouldn’t have to go. I didn’t think I would do any good and I was not proud of my process. I was already starting to think about how I would do it the next time. This was probably the best part of this story because I started thinking about how I could accomplish this and still become a horseman.
I did a lot better at the show than I thought I would. Red was a natural down the fence, there is a picture of her in my book “Raise Your Hand if you Love Horses” this is where I ran into some real horsemen that were also competitive like Greg Ward and Troy Henry. Greg helped me some and Troy took me under his wing, this is where everything that I have been trying to share with you started. This is where I learned that ambition, principles, patience, and sequence were the magic formula, not just technique. I also started thinking there ought to be a school where this could be taught.
30 years later and millions of miles, and thousands of demos and clinics all over the world, we finally have the facilities and students to share all of this, including starting 3 competition teams where the relationship with the horse comes first, foundation before specialization, and never-ending self-improvement lead the way!
We have started an English Performance Team and a Western Performance Team.
The levels program that we have set up goes like this:
- Level 1 is about safety
- Level 2 is about having fun
- Level 3 is about excellence
- Level 4 is about the fundamentals of performance – Note: this is as far as Troy Henry mentored me, then he graduated to horseman’s heaven.
- Levels 5, 6, and 7 are about taking this program to purpose, performance, and professional levels.
- Levels 8, 9, and 10 are a sovereign journey to take what we have learned as far as we can and inspire as many people as we can, however, we can.
It’s not about winning it’s about modeling the way, even in the warm-up arenas. It’s about showing that Parelli people are nice, friendly, and helpful no matter where we are. In other words principles before purpose no matter what, and even achieve high-level results like Lauren Barwick has been doing in dressage even at the Para Olympics in China, winning Silver and Gold medals.
So it’s not about winning, it’s about helping to make the world a better place for horses and humans!