Quiet Riding

Equestrian Book Reviews

Book Review

Natural Horse–Man–Ship

Daisy, the horse.
Horse–Man–Ship is three words linked together. It's a horse and a human going willingly together. Horse–Man–Ship is for horses as well as humans, and the horse comes first.

That's how Pat Parelli explains the form of the word “horsemanship” used in the title of his book. Regrettably, he uses that spelling throughout the text making it more difficult to read. Also adding to the difficulty of reading this book are extended instances of alliteration. In one paragraph, the author uses 41 words that begin with the letter “P”. Thankfully, such usage is limited.

Another distraction is Parelli's habit of breaking things into arbitrary groups of numbering, some of them obviously forced. Finally, the reader must work at grasping the writer's re–definition of various terms.

All this being said, Parelli does have some good things to say. And, as attested by the popularity of the clinics given by Parelli and his disciples, his methods can be effective. Most of these techniques are not unique though many are not widely followed.

Perhaps the best example of this regards the training of young horses. It is popular these days to push two– and three–year–old horses to excel giving no thought to what they will be like in ten, fifteen, or twenty years.

Parelli does not advise leaving these horses alone until they are five or six years old. Instead, he suggests giving the young horses limited, basic training interspersed with long periods of simply letting them develop naturally. Then:

When your horse is a 4–year–old, he is physically more capable than when he was a 2– and 3–year–old. Mentally, he is still flexible and capable of learning things.

At four, Parelli advises putting in about 200 hours of time with the horse during the Spring and Summer. Finally, at five, Parelli says, “have at him.” He states:

With this slow, but progressive program, your horse, when he is 15 to 20 years old, will not only be sound, he'll be a better horse than when he was 7 years old.

While Parelli's methods may appear very structured, he points out that “the principals are more important than the purpose…adjusting to fit the situation is more important than the rules.”

Time is a major factor in working with horses. Trying to rush things can have an adverse effect. Parelli states:

If you take the time it takes, it takes less time. Most people don't have the time to do it right, but they always have the time to do it over and over.

“The horse is a natural follower; he is looking for a natural leader…” A natural leader is neither a wimp nor a dictator. Parelli advises: “Be as firm as necessary without getting mean or mad; be as gentle as you can without being a sissy.” This goes along with his advice to “…do things for the horse and with the horse rather than to the horse.”

Parelli seems to have a concerned, balanced approach when it comes to working with hoses. It is regrettable when the marketing techniques he uses to make a living put the emphasis on him more than on the horse.

Buy Natural Horse-Man-Ship: Six Keys to a Natural Horse-Human Relationship (A Western Horseman Book)