An Interview with Horseman, Pat Parelli

Falling in Love with Horses All Over Again 

“There’s 22 million horse owners in the world and I’ve only had 200,000 as students so I’m gearing up to catch the rest,” says Pat Parelli.

Pat Parelli is a sought after, busy man. Between his extensive travel schedule, talks, expo appearances and meetings he is also a hard man to pin down. In my 10 years of interviewing high profile equestrian celebrities he was the first to be so kind with working around his schedule sorting time to chat with me. This was something new, I thought, and once we finally connected, his intense, genuine desire to share his knowledge and love of horses was overly apparent. The more I spoke with him, the more I found myself falling in love with horses all over again just like it was my first time. Pat is a charismatic and inspiring person to speak with who’s illustrious career has spanned more than three decades and, from the sound of it, he’s not slowing down anytime soon.


You have said, “It’s one thing to learn how to train a horse. It’s another thing to teach people how to train a horse. This has been my quest.” How has your quest evolved over your career?

This is an addiction of mine is to learn because I’m a learn-aholic but I’m also a share-aholic. As my career has progressed, I’ve tried to find more innovative ways to share my knowledge and now with today’s technology it has given me the ability to use it as my friend and to really be able to help the world become a better place for horses and humans no matter where they live or what they can afford.


You mention technology so I’ll just dive right in. The Parelli Savvy Club has been recently re-thought with advancements in technology. What was your original inspiration in the first iteration development of the Parelli Savvy Club?

My original inspiration… I was in Australian in the late 80s and I saw children in the outback on what they called ‘school of the air’ and I thought wouldn’t that be great if we could have students all over the world taking horsemanship lessons in the same way. Today now we all have the same technology. We can use webinars. We can use the web itself to download instead of sending somebody a video tape or DVD. Now we can even send it right to them through streaming.


If you could explain what you do in a single word what would that be?

I would say I use psychology. That would be the one word.


You’re already a living legend. What is your proudest achievement at this time?

It’s been building a legacy of knowledge that will be able to be share into perpetuity.


I heard you’ve worked with many of the greats like Troy Henry, Ray Hunt, Dr. Robert Miller & Tom Dorrance plus you have been a mentor to many hundred of thousands of people, is there one particular person who you have taken most of your mentorship from?

It is important to understand that each person has made great contributions to me but Troy Henry was the first person that got me to understand there is a difference between a horse trainer and a horseman.


People bandy about the word horseman and horsemanship so much these day but you guys are the grass roots for the real movement. What is your definition of horsemanship?

My definition of horsemanship? It’s the perpetual and progressive series of habits and skills that both horses and humans needs to become partners. Training is then the sport specific or endeavor specifics needed to specialize.


I am a dressage rider yet I find after navigating the Parelli Savvy Club there’s just nugget after nugget of useful information in a great framework where one can learn at their own pace. What else makes Parelli Savvy Club different than other online educational and social tools for horse lovers?

First of all, it’s the original and authentic pedagogical approach. We’re the first ones to put that together for non-professional horse owners. I think the dressage society was the first one to put it together for professional riders hundreds of years ago.

So you guys are the groundwork?..

The foundation work, and I like to think of our program as the hand to the glove of dressage. It’s not what’s the difference between natural horsemanship and dressage is, it is how does it fit? It’s the relationship. The cake and icing. It fits perfectly. 


I’ve heard so many people say that Parelli is a program that someone with no horse knowledge can go through Levels or the Success Series or the Parelli Savvy Club and come out the other side with a wealth of knowledge and confidence. Is that what you had in mind with the development of the programs?

Well the answer is yes but there’s an explanation and that is, our goal has always been to help horse lovers no matter where they live or what they can afford. What I’d like for people to understand is that as I’ve studied several different disciplines from race track to dressage, from ranch work to reining cow horses, from barrel racing to polo, from draft horses to endurance racing. There’s all these different things that I’ve liked and have done what Bruce Lee did. Bruce Lee took all of the martial arts included boxing, roman Greco wrestling and took all disciplines of martial arts and found the very best 20% of each and made a completely new study. He called his Jeet Kune Do. So that’s what I’ve done is taken all the best things from every discipline that I’ve been able to study and included them in one program. That’s why it works so well universally as you’re taking the best of everything.


I have a fan question from a Fly Predator customer for you. She’s a very big fan of yours in North Carolina. She wants to know, what can I do to increase my confidence in my horse and her trust and confidence in me?

That’s pretty simple. Everything we do with horses, I always tell people, it takes ounces in the hands, pounds in the legs, and a ton of willpower and with that willpower we just need a plan. With a plan we then have the horse built for leadership. What the Parelli program is, is that plan. Start your plan on the ground, not the saddle.


I heard you’re starting PAT talks. What are they and where can we watch them?

Yes, we’ve already started the PAT talks. It stands for Progressive Alterative Training and those are available on the Parelli Savvy Club. They are 15 minute lessons on Progressive Subjects.


I was chatting with some of the folks at Spalding and I understand you really like Bye Bye Odor.

Absolutely. I hate things that stink. [Pat says laughing]

What’s your favorite use for Bye Bye Odor?

Well, I use it in the 3 main areas. One in the RV for the septic. Two is in the stalls and in the horse trailer and three is in stinky rooms. I also use it in my pick up truck.


What does the next 10 years hold for Pat Parelli? Where do you see this legacy you’ve built expanding to?

Well I think we’re just getting started now. There’s 22 million horse owners in the world and I’ve only had 200,000 as students so I’m gearing up to catch the rest.


Ounces in the hands, pounds in the legs, and a ton of willpower. Pat Parelli epitomizes that willpower and then some! I could hear Pat’s enthusiasm smiling through his last reply and I believed him. He is just getting started and we are certain to see his legacy of knowledge through his educational programs continue to touch the lives of many more.

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