California Riding Magazine • July, 2008

The Path to Success
Parelli instructor Margit Deerman
helps build lasting partnerships.

The path to success starts with one small step. It’s a truth that never ceases to amaze three-star Parelli Natural Horsemanship instructor Margit Deerman. Margit is profoundly moved every time she assists a student in taking those first steps, and all the steps that follow, which eventually lead to a happy, successful bond between horse and rider.

“When I first went through the levels I had no real desire to teach Parelli,” explains Margit, who was the Senior Keeper of Carnivores with the San Diego Zoo before becoming a full-time instructor. “I’d been with the zoo for 15 years, and I had a wonderful career. But by the time I was into my third level I was completely absorbed in it, and my desire to do more was huge. In a few years I’d gone from just playing with my horses, to wanting to play with other horses and help people learn. And I’ve found that’s what I really love.”

Margit took her first riding lesson as a teenager, and spent 10 years riding hunters and jumpers. Ironically after a 15 year hiatus from the horse world, in which Margit was busy getting her bachelors degree in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience, Margit rediscovered horses after her husband, Mike, was bitten by the horse bug. She came home from the zoo and Mike had purchased two horses and all the works: equipment, a trailer, tack: even corrals, which he had already installed in their backyard in Valley Center.

Mike had been intrigued by Margit’s horse tales. “Mike had never had horses, and he was always asking about my times with my horse. We had talked about getting horses when we were first married, but I was just starting my career. One day I came home from work and he had two horses. I told him he had no idea how much time it takes to care for horses. It was Mike that first picked up Pat’s book and signed us up to start Level 1.”

While her husband breezed through the early stages, Margit was thrown for a loop. Before she started with Parelli, Margit said she truly believed she knew a lot about horses. But as she got into the program, she realized that she didn’t know anything about how horses think. It was like a swift kick in the chest. She realized how incredibly lucky she’d been growing up, riding a green, off-the-track horse and not getting hurt.

A Horse’s Perspective

Her experience at the zoo working with large predators—bears, large cats, great apes—had given Margit a great deal of insight into fight animals. But with horses—flight animals or prey animals—she was suddenly at a loss. With the help of her mentor, Dave Ellis, a five-star Parelli instructor, Margit was able to move through the levels. As she progressed she gained the skills and knowledge necessary to crawl inside a horse’s head and understand what it’s like to be viewed as a food source, and why horses respond accordingly. She has spent every summer since 2001 with Pat and Linda at the Parelli Center in Colorado earning her three-star accreditation which certifies Margit to teach levels one through three of the Parelli Program.

Using Parelli’s seven games (which mimic herd behavior) Margit is able to build a mutual spirit of trust between horses and people, one step or game at a time. Like well-seasoned dancers, horses respond to Margit’s subtle cues and body language by blinking, chewing and lowering their heads.

“The Parelli philosophy is action must be seen to be believed,” says Margit. “When you understand how a horse thinks, you become aware of all the little things you do and how you can build this relationship with a horse when you suddenly speak his or her language. That is what I do. I help people build a partnership. So many people just have horses for riding, but there is so much more to it than just riding. I can help them achieve a partnership where their horse just wants to be with them.”

For more information on Margit visit or e-mail Margit shares her knowledge through group clinics, private lessons and video coaching, as well as hosting clinics given by other Parelli instructors.