The goal of the Parelli Program, at its very core, is empowering people to have horse savvy. Now, "savvy" means knowing when to be, where to be, why to be, what to do when you get there, and when to quit doing what you're doing. Eventually it becomes second nature; it's a logic you use to solve horsemanship puzzles.
A lot of times, I'm asked "What do you
"What do you do to trailer load a horse?" "What do you do with a horse that bucks?" "What do you do with a horse that runs off?" All of these questions are tests of the rider's savvy. Once you become truly savvy, you understand how to turn these questions into games.
There are two types of games in the world – finite games and infinite games. Finite games are those with a beginning, middle and end. You always know what the score is, where you stand, when it ends, and that's that. Infinite games are things like horsemanship. It's not only something that's infinite for each of us as individuals; it's also infinite in the global sense, in that we're learning from what Tom Dorrance shared with us, and he learned from what others shared with him, and so on. It's a series of wisdoms, a series of decisions about which philosophy to follow. Once you've made those decisions, then it's up to you to become a great puzzle-solver.
In this sense, becoming "savvy" means becoming a great puzzle-solver.
Now, once we understand that, we move on to learning the inner workings, the components, of becoming a great puzzle-solver. The first component to this is understanding that there are seven elemental games in each of the Savvys. It's important to understand that, no matter what level you are, no matter which Savvy you're focusing on, the Seven Games always apply.
The second component is learning how to make a game out of everything. For example: if your horse doesn't like to be caught or haltered, how do you cause your idea to become his idea? How do you get him to want to do those things with you? In a sense, there are not only the seven elemental games, there are many, many other, more specific games. There's the Catching Game, the Lead Change Game, the Follow the Rail Game, the Trailer Loading Game. You can't limit yourself; be creative. All these games use love, language and leadership in equal doses; in the end, you win his respect, and he wins a leader.
The next major component is understanding Horsenalities™. If we understand that we've got the seven elemental games, as well as the ability to make a game out of any objective we have, we then need to understand that we have to keep the horse's Horsenality™ in mind. Your approach to playing the Follow the Rail Game with a Right-Brain Extrovert needs to be very different than your approach with a Left-Brain Introvert.
Next is the Game of Contact. Now, a lot of people are under the assumption that the Game of Contact only applies to one Savvy: Finesse. But that's not the case. When you look at what the Game of Contact is really about, it's all about getting your horse's attention. No matter if it's the first time you walk into your corral or the 1000th time, you're trying to get your horse's attention. It's a game – a game of mental contact. Every time you pick up the reins, you're getting his attention, you're making contact.
When you think about it, something as commonplace as shaking hands is a game of contact. Some people know how to play the game, how to adjust their handshakes based on who they're meeting, the situation and the circumstances. Other people don't know how to play the game well, and they're pretty easy to pick out: they're the people who will either crush your hand or give you a soft, weak handshake. They don't have a sense of subtlety or situation.
When you begin to recognize these things, you'll realize that there's always a game of contact. Even social media is a game of contact – that's why Parelli Connect is so popular; it offers a place to connect and make contact with fellow horsemen around the world.
So we've got 1) the seven elemental games, 2) turning objectives into games, 3) recognizing Horsenalities™, and 4) the Game of Contact. Once you understand and can utilize those four components, I believe you can become an effective puzzle-solver. You become empowered with this thing we call "savvy."
Now, savvy just happens to be the hardest thing in the world to teach people. This is because there's nothing dogmatic about it; there are no pat answers (pun fully intended). But once you truly have a grasp on these components, you'll become horse savvy, and you'll know when to be, where to be, why to be, what to do when you get there, and when to quit doing what you're doing.
This is why Parelli Level 4 has become the most empowering thing I've ever seen. When people get to Level 4 in all Four Savvys, that's when their savvy really starts to kick in. Oftentimes, everything before Level 4 is frustrating, but everything after Level 4 is fascinating – especially if you buy into the concept of the Infinite Game: Horsemanship.
Pat Parelli, coiner of the term "natural horsemanship", founded his program based on a foundation of love, language and leadership. Parelli Natural Horsemanship allows horse owners at all levels of experience to achieve success with their at-home educational program. Together with his wife Linda, Pat has spread PNH across the globe with campuses in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Launched in 2011, parelliconnect.com provides an online social forum packed with training tools, step-by-step to do lists, videos and more. Log on today for your FREE 30-day trial at
Pat and Linda Parelli's Horse & Soul Tour comes to City of Industry May 5-6. For more information, visit www.parellinaturalhorsetraining.com.