California Riding Magazine • July, 2008

SoCal Savvy
Susan Nelson and Maurice Thibault
spread the Parelli system.

As the popularity of Parelli Natural Horsemanship continues to sweep the country, its disciples are getting busier and busier. That is certainly the case for 3-Star Licensed Parelli Professionals Susan Nelson and Maurice Thibault, partners in SoCal Savvy. Based at their private ranch in the Northern Los Angeles area’s Santa Clarita Valley, the couple is seeing the demand for Pat and Linda Parelli’s Savvy System grow every day and across all disciplines. “Natural horsemanship is not discipline oriented,” Maurice explains. “It doesn’t matter at all what type of riding you do.”

Its appeal does not seem to have any geographic limitations either. Susan has been traveling extensively giving clinics and Maurice has been a frequent flier to the East Coast and the South over the years. He estimates that 60 percent of their business is from out of the area, and the rest is relatively local. Their appearance at the Chatsworth Day Of The Horse festivities last month, for example, was a big hit, Maurice notes.

Susan and Maurice share their Parelli expertise in a variety of formats. They offer clinics and lessons at their ranch, and more frequently travel to give clinics to small groups. The couple also provides assessments, in person or by video.

Susan credits a 3-year-old Morgan gelding named Dusty with bringing her to the Parelli program. She bought the youngster in 1994, thinking he would be as “push button” as her previous horse. “But I soon found myself boarding Dusty out and putting him into ‘training’ to ‘fix’ him,” she reflects. “Little did I know that I was the one that needed fixing.”

“Pat believes strongly in teaching the human first,” notes Maurice. “The first three levels of his program are geared toward teaching the human. Levels 4-7 are when you teach the horse.”

The system, of course, is based on interacting with the horse in its own language. “It comes from Pat’s observations of horses in herds,” Maurice continues. “It’s based on you just acting like another horse. In the horse world, you are either dominant or subservient. We seek that 51/49 percent balance of power. Anything else is unsafe.”

The system appeals to horse people, in particular women, because it is not based on fear or intimidation, Maurice notes. “It is based on psychology and leadership.”

It’s a ton of fun, too, Susan adds. “Once I got started with my Level 2 Harmony Program, there was no turning back. I was having more fun with Dusty than I had ever had in the 12 years that I competed.” In the summer of 2000, Susan studied with Pat at the Parelli’s International Study Center in Pagosa Springs, CO, and she passed her Level 3 certification the following fall.

Maurice began his Parelli training around the same time and neither has ever waivered from that path. Susan has used her training to take an emotional Arab/Appy cross from a “run away gymkana horse” to a mount that she now rides bridleless. She has returned to Florida to further and refine her training and now has a long list of horses and students who have benefited from her growing knowledge and experience. Last year, she earned her 3-Star status as a Licensed Parelli Professional.

The Parellis are not Susan and Maurice’s only teachers as they consider the horses they’ve worked with to be their best instructors.
Susan and Maurice have an eclectic group of horses that they improve their horsemanship with on a daily basis. They have everything from Quarter Horses, Aztecas, Morgans and Warmbloods in their personal herd.

As demand for their services grows, Maurice says he and Susan’s goal is simply to spread Pat’s word. “We do not want to teach more and more people and bigger groups to the point where we lose the personal touch,” he explains. They will balance that with the reality that the “more horses we are exposed to the more we gain and can refine our teaching and communication.”

For info on Maurice, visit
For info on Susan, visit
For info on Parelli Natural Horsemanship, visit