The Truth About Parelli - By Don Jessop

The Truth About Parelli - By Don Jessop

August 28, 2018 18 Comments

There's a big question that has surfaced in the world of social media and here it is: Did Pat Parelli ever abuse horses? 

Answer:

Well... it's complicated. 

In one way, yes. In another way, he's done more for the horse industry as a whole, than any other trainer in history. Please allow me to expand on both sides of this coin.

Even though I have created my own mastery program, with a deeper focus on performance and balance, and no longer teach the Parelli methods, read why I left Parelli if you want more on that, I can't deny the positive growth spurt I experienced in the fifteen years I spend in Pat and Linda Parelli's back pocket. The amount of energy, charisma, and passion this dynamic duo has for the horse industry has, without any doubt, shaped the way people think of horsemanship on a global scale. Not everyone has heard of Parelli, but most have heard of natural horsemanship. And this is definitely, in some indirect way, linked to what Pat and Linda have done for the industry. 

Currently, however, the detrimental whispers of "abuse" and "mistreatment," have surfaced among some members of the horse community. I wonder, what would it mean to the horse industry, if one of its heroes struck out in anger toward another human or horse. Would it wreak havoc on people's trust? Should it wreak havoc on people's trust? Here's what I think...

"Let those without any sin, cast the first stone."

I've seen Pat Parelli mistreat horses in a moment of anger, but I've also seen myself in moments of anger and even ignorance, and I don't like what I remember. I've also seen thousands of students in moments of anger. Including women and men of all ages. We never shine in our moments of anger, confusion, or frustration. But I've seen the moments where we do shine bright, as well. I've seen the good side in people. I've seen Pat slow down, and reach deep inside a horses psychology to prove that life will be OK. That humans are good. I've seen him love more, and care more deeply than most people are capable of. What recent circumstances tell us, is something we all should have figured out a long time ago. That Pat is a human being. Not a hero. Not a God.  He's just like you. He has weaknesses just like the rest of us. So in the case of horse mistreatment... I give him an imperfect, but passable score. Understand, I don't condone mistreatment, I never have and never will, but I also believe in seeing bigger pictures and not getting stuck in the forest looking at one single instance of anger or misunderstanding.

There are those who think any kind of firmness, is mistreatment. There are those who think, riding is considered mistreatment. But those thoughts can quickly be corrected by understanding the truth that even locking a horse inside a fenced area is a form of abuse and mistreatment. So, in order to move forward, beyond the single trees, and begin to see the whole forest, we have to understand the balance of horse/human interactions in our world to get the whole picture. In short, for horses in captivity, Pat has done more good than harm. 

And... that doesn't leave him faultless. Nor, any of us. We are still humans who make mistakes. Let's instead, work together to make life better for horses and humans, rather than find ways to destroy each other. 

In the case of human mistreatment, I've seen both side of this coin too. I've seen Pat withhold love and affection, and pour condemnation down upon the individuals around him. Often, those closest too him. I've seen him abandon the people he loves, for the human instinct to "have more." But I've also experienced what he's willing to share. I've worked side by side with him and watched as he shared his home and private life, and decades worth of expertise with thousands of people. I wish people could hold it all together. I wish people could truly be heroes without being trapped in the human condition. But I've never seen it. Whenever I've been fortunate enough to get closer to the source of inspiration, and the passion that these brilliant people hold, I've experienced their raw human side too. I've seen this in people like Pat and Linda, Monty Roberts, Clinton Anderson, and people outside the horse industry, including Tony Robbins, Steve Jobs, and other brilliant business leaders, both men and women. We are all human!

So... what does that mean to you? What will you do if you see the forest, instead of the single trees? What will you do, if your hero dies, and the human emerges? For years, I've watched as Parelli students pick out a single good idea in Parelli, and blindly follow him to the end of the world. Then one day, a single bad tree is presented and they blindly turn away from the whole program. I understand, that at a deep, instinctual human level, we all have this short-sighted understanding of what we experience, and the balance of what's good and bad can be tipped in either direction quickly. What I hope for my readers to understand, is that when we focus our efforts, we can begin to see beyond the single trees or instances of negative behavior. We can be less judgmental of others, and more judgmental about ourselves in an effort to make progress. We can learn to see where we fall short, and try to shore up those faults, even if it doesn't happen over night. We desperately need to see the current circumstances for what they are and not turn a blind eye, but we also need to see, and not ignore, the whole picture. If we're going to take the horse industry forward, let's do it together, without reverting to blame and judgement. 

Let's use what good and wonderful things that have been presented to us, and leave behind the bad. Let's take charge of what we learn next, without the intent of putting the heroic identity on the creators of those good things. Let's use our better judgement and walk a more flexible path, in the way we think about others.

Comment below. 



18 Responses

Isabelle Farmer
Isabelle Farmer

October 04, 2018

Pat Parelli created a great program and promoted it well, but lacked true leadership skills. The fact that so many people were a part of the Parelli community knowing how flawed Pat is only points to the flaws in all of us.

As long as people are willing to “look the other way” in order to “belong” or seek their own advantage over others, then the abuse you speak of will be perpetuated.

There will be other people who immergé in leadership positions who will take advantage of our own blind spots. Will we learn from the Parelli experience, or continue to make the same mistakes?

I personally want to help change the unfortunate and widely held disdain for “natural” horsemanship in the horse industry today, That is going to take time and immense, consistent effort. Those of us who feel as I do will have to hold our own egos in check for the greater good. I can only control my own thoughts and actions, providing a good example. I find strength in being with people who feel and behave in the best interest of their horses, but also knowing that no one is perfect. It’s on us to lift one another up in this daily endeavor!

Karen Leber
Karen Leber

October 03, 2018

Great, Heartfelt article, Don!

karen parelli hagen
karen parelli hagen

September 24, 2018

interesting perspectives.
I have seen it all of Pat. If he could just turn loose of some old stuff and ideas, he could be free. and so would my son…(our)

Sharon
Sharon

September 18, 2018

Another thoughtful well written article. Thank you.

Bob Hennig
Bob Hennig

September 06, 2018

Don that article was great and timing was perfect. Well done. It looks as though God has blessed me again by allowing me to beat my brain Cancer. What a blessing. Please keep up your great. Thank Yoy.

Darlene Judd
Darlene Judd

August 31, 2018

Thank you for posting. Even for those of us who continue our journey in the Parelli program, this was a very thoughtful post. I spent a week riding with Pat last year and was disappointed to say the least. I didn’t feel I got my money’s worth and I can’t afford to ride with him again. He just wasn’t present that week…and yes, he’s human. I also rode with Linda and it was a wonderful experience…but I would love the opportunity to ride with Pat again if it was possible.

Linda
Linda

August 31, 2018

Your candor and insight at its best. I’m still pretty banged up by the Parelli organization. But, there is special place in my heart for the benefits I enjoy from the experience. I will be forever grateful for the time and attention and support from you Don. Thank you, my friend. Love you, Don.

Bob Workman
Bob Workman

August 30, 2018

I was Parelli’s personal assistant for 18 months ‘04 – ’05. Saw lots of questionable things with horses and those close people: abuse, lies, etc. My wife saved us from the corporate and Parelli cult after we had sold our own business. But then, I wouldn’t be where I am today without those rough months for myself, my son abused in Fl ranch during 5 hurricanes, and the decade it took us to recover financially. Thank God another wiser horseman stepped forward in my life.

Laina
Laina

August 29, 2018

Don, This probably needed to be said and you have said it well. Thank you.

Terri Barney
Terri Barney

August 29, 2018

Well done.

Lyla spencer
Lyla spencer

August 29, 2018

Wow, Wow, Wow Don, there is no way I can honestly add to what has been written above!! Wonderful, fair and well thought out article!! I too have learned so much from the Parelli program but at my age, I am ready to move forward with more love and understanding with my wonderful equine partners and human family. The phase keeps resonating in my soul, “We ARE all human” not a perfect species!!!

Traceylynn Hommel
Traceylynn Hommel

August 29, 2018

Very well put Don! I appreciated that you cared enough to have balance with your intentions of having understanding and moving forward with the next of what we learn. Thank you!

Sharlee Mayer
Sharlee Mayer

August 29, 2018

So well said. It is unfortunate that we are all human and make mistakes. It’s what we do with those mistakes, lets learn from them and go forward.
I have learned a lot from the Parelli Program as well as other “Natural Trainers”. I’d like to think I’m a better person from that. I look back on my years (50+) of horse ownership and shake my head at some of those experiences. I wish I would of know then, what I know now. Thank you Don & Rachel for the great articles you share.

Mandy Misner
Mandy Misner

August 29, 2018

Love this, it went straight to my heart. Thanks!

Patty
Patty

August 29, 2018

Wow wow wow!! What a GREAT article!! And perfect timing for me today!! At times you have to just let go and move forward, even if their forest is full of bad!!

Mary Jo Devlin
Mary Jo Devlin

August 29, 2018

Excellent post. The Parelli instructors in my area (Ohio) have a cult following because they tell the tack box sitters what they want to hear. My last and final clinic was a terrible experience The instructor spent most of the 2 days and my $$ raving about himself and his accomplishments. I think some of Pat’s ego rubbed off on him. After that and the Game of Contact shenanigans I was done. Yet, when I go to clinics, horse shows, trail rides, any place that horse people gather, I watch the non-Parelli people struggle with their horses, living in the question, and the answer never comes. I am forever grateful to the Parelli Program for giving me a safe foundation, a place to start, and probably keeping me alive

Nancy
Nancy

August 29, 2018

Thanks Don~ well said. In the end~ we all need to find our middle…..called “balance.”
Think right~ live right! AND~ agree strongly…. we can’t make our heroes into GOD! We all fall down…. more importantly, get back up! Then thank GOD and be grateful for the people in our lives trying to make the world a better place! Embrace the good and move forward~ period.

Neil A Kremer
Neil A Kremer

August 29, 2018

Thank You Don & Rachel for a fair and well written article I hope that it reaches and brings a greater fairness and balance…
and Kindness to all that it contacts…
“May the Horse be with you!” as they say and hopefully with us all….
Neil & Linda, Shosone & Nick & Dusty and even grumpy old Bijou our 33 year old I’m sure they all thank you all!!!

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