Parelli Central

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The Practical Advice in Parelli-isms

I stood leaning against the round pen railing at the Parelli Campus in Pagosa Springs, looking at the little paint mare at the end of my lead rope. My focus during our session had been on getting her confident, and she had indeed calmed down from her frantic “I have to move my feet!” state. I wanted her to be confident in herself, in me as a leader, and in the environment; although she was standing still, it was obvious she was all but calm.

Nina Shukin, one of our Fast Track coaches, came to my rescue. I said to her, “She doesn’t seem to be able to make her butterflies (i.e. emotions) land.” I am not sure whether I, at this stage of the course, had yet been taught by Kristi Smith – our lead instructor – to ask questions rather than just make helpless statements. If I had, I might have added: “How can I cause her to be calm?”

“The Parelli way is all about love, language, and leadership,” Nina said. “I see language and leadership in this picture; you are clearly relaxed by the rail and you lead rope has plenty of slack. But where is the love?” “But… I feel love for her,” I said sheepishly. And I did; it was just that my way of expressing that love was by leaving her alone, the way my Left-Brain Introvert mare at home had taught me she wanted love expressed. That clearly did not suit Babe, the Right-Brain Extrovert in front of me. Nina allowed me some time to find the answer. So, I offered Babe a horseman’s handshake, put my hand on her withers and gave her a gentle scratch. Instantly, every muscle in her tense body relaxed and she started breathing again. Wow, what an effect! 

Babe and I at the Fast Track.
Babe and I at the Fast Track. 

Later in our full class get-together, when we were asked what we had learned during the day, I raised my hand and said, “A little love doesn’t hurt!” The lesson that Babe and Nina taught me that day was however a lot bigger. From that day, whenever I run into a problem, I ask myself: “What is missing in this picture: love, language, or leadership?” If that does not lead me to an answer, I go on in my search, for example to the Seven Keys to Success. What Nina taught me was to look for answers and solutions in Pat Parelli’s multitude of proverbs and sayings, even the ones that we see, hear, and say so often we are blind to them. Nina and Babe helped me put principle to practice.

When coming back home to Sweden, I painted the words Love, Language, and Leadership above the entrance of my horse’s stable. The words serve as a quiet and constant reminder in my quest of becoming a horseman. Thank you, Nina and Babe, for opening my eyes to the vast number of ways that Pat’s phrases can be put to use in my daily practice.