Feb. 6th, 2017

lantairvlea: (lantair look)
I took advantage of a $30 credit and their clearance sale to snag the groundwork set from the Parelli store for $50 including shipping (eight disks, folders and workbooks) so not a bad deal.

I've been watching it while nursing Quentan, otherwise I doubt I'd have gotten through it so quickly!

The set comes with two folders with the disks tucked neatly into the outer covers. The first one goes over the games and levels and has the disks with Pat Parelli demonstrating. The second folder has the student lessons with the task you should be able to do at each level (and don't forget to sign up and submit your video to earn stuff!). It also has little pocket booklets for each level so you can check in if you have a problem while working with your horse or forgot what game you're supposed to be playing next.

The designs are pretty slick and many of the images are pulled from the videos. I reiterate I am not a fan of Parelli, but I do have a healthy amount of respect for what they have managed to build. Their marketing and design people are superb.

The first set of disks is Pat Parelli giving his spiel as he demonstrates each of the levels and their purpose. The disks also had tips and some troubleshooting. I admit I didn't watch much of the tips. They were a bit dull and demonstrated by other Parelli professionals (at least the two I watched before getting disinterested were...). I probably would have been more interested in exploring the extra features if I was intent on doing their program. I don't recall the troubleshooting as I then watched the four student lesson disks which was pretty much hours of troubleshooting.

The demonstration disks are obviously with horses that have done this stuff a lot. There were maybe one or two moments of the horses having a bit of a question, but that's horses. I was wondering why they kept having the little Parelli symbol show up in the corner of the screen and supposedly you could click and it'd jump you to tips or troubleshooting infomation, but I just found it visually annoying.

The student lesson disks featured one horse and handler pair for each level. It was balanced with two ladies and two guys from 20-something to a bit past middle-aged. I imagine they planned it that way and it was an intentional choice to show that the program "works" for all types of people. The horses were lacking in variety. Three stock horses (Quarter Horses and possibly a very minimal Paint) and a Paso Fino. I wish they could have gotten the same variety in their horses as they did the human students. I'll take a moment to note all the horses Pat Parelli worked with in the first set of disks were Quarter Horses too. Chris was laughing and made a few jokes about the tiny horses and how it seems the more advanced your horsemanship skills supposedly get the smaller the horses are (he makes fun of Clinton Anderson with his tiny reining and cutting bred Quarter Horses as well, and let's face it, I make fun of them too).

Tangent aside the student videos were more interesting to me as you saw a lot more problem solving. What I didn't like is that often when Pat Parelli would take over during a difficult moment he would change the game a bit. It made me wonder if they are really setting up this program for people's success or are they withholding juuust enough information to make people feel like they HAVE TO spend a thousand dollars for a week in Colorado with them or they HAVE TO be a member of the Ultra Supreme Savvy Club in order to get all of the secrets to awesome communication with your horse because you're obviously not going to get it just watching the DVDs.

I think what bothered me more wasn't that he was pulling out alternate solutions, but more that he was taking over and doing something sometimes completely different without verbally suggesting it first. Had he just done it once it wouldn't have stuck out so much, but it happened a couple times in each lesson. It also tells me that the people coming into the lesson weren't exactly properly prepared and had gaps in their basic understanding of how the horse operates as they were just applying the formula rather than feeling for what the horse needs and being able to be nimble and adjustable.

The rope-wiggle is probably the biggest example of that. In the third or fourth demonstration disk he mentions that the rope wiggle is something they have at the lower levels as a "don't run me over!" cue. I wish they would mention that when it is introduced rather than waiting for a higher level to say "well we really don't want to be whacking them with the clip under their chin and inverting to back so now we're not doing that so much." This was pretty obvious when he kept having to tell everyone but the first level student to lay off the rope wiggling multiple times. I admit I do occasionally wriggle ropes at horses, but it is exactly in a "Stop crowding me!!" situation when I don't care how they do it so long as they get out of my space. Watching the rope jerk back and forth does get annoying on behalf of the horse and I have made a mental note to be extra aware of my own rope handling.

A few other things I noticed was Pat Parelli has decided that "desensitizing" is a bad thing. He calls it confidence building. Granted, eight years ago he was using the term desensitizing and people are allowed to change their minds and evolve their message I just find it funny that he now thinks it is no good.

He uses a lot of catch-phrases that I now know started with the likes of the Dorrances and Ray Hunt without attribution, which is a little annoying. There is the insinuation that the Parellis are The Source of All Horse Knowledge and their program is the best and will work for anyone (when done correctly). The impression that it sprang from their genius minds with minimal external input reads to me as slightly dishonest, though I am sure it isn't intentionally so.

I do find it amusing that their groundwork progression goes from using lines and having connection to "progressing" to liberty work and on the riding side they go from droopy loose reins and "progress" to more contact.

There was very little verbal communication with the horse. For someone who supposedly wants to promote the softest cues possible why not use the voice? There wasn't even much in the way of verbal praise to let the horse know it did the right thing, just the rope no longer whipping under the horse's chin. I couldn't help but think "If you just said "whoa" the horse might get the idea you want it to stop there a bit quicker..." or "if you said "walk" you wouldn't have to jiggle the rope so much or constantly disengage the hindquarters to slow down..." I guess I'm a bit wordy. Moreso now as I've come into driving where the voice takes the place of your weight aids. I just don't see why you would ignore the chance to be even lighter with your horse by using your voice instead of a physical cue.

I did start to get a little cynical about Parelli's desire that the horse "act like a partner." Especially as he or the student stands there, seemingly disengaged from the horse and expecting it to circle around them endlessly at the trot or the canter. I told Chris I was reminded of watching road workers where one guy is in the hole digging and another one (or two) standing there "supervising" doing absolutely nothing. I don't know about you, but that really doesn't look or sound like a partnership to me. It feels more likea show-off trick than something that really serves a purpose in the horse's training.

With all of the circling I wonder how Pat Parelli managed with mules when he was into them as I know mules quickly determine that endless circles are pointless. Also for someone who supposedly believes that lungeing in endless circles is pointless or lungeing to wear a horse out is as well, he does a whole lot of circling without changing pace or direction to engage the horse's brain.

In Level Four they introduced their "feather lines" for ground driving, which are very thin rope, maybe a quarter inch thick, about the same as the string on the training sticks and about 22' long. They don't use a surcingle at all, which could be problematic and results in a lot of hands-above-the-head maneuvering from the handler, including Pat Parelli himself because without a surcingle to help hold up the lines you have to keep your hands high to be sure the horse doesn't step on or over them (*gasp!* Parelli not taking advantage of possibly selling people more stuff! I'm sure they could make a wonderful, expensive surcingle). I love driving, but I don't think this sets up most people to be very successful with it and their horse.

The first thing he did in the first demonstration video was show where the halter should sit and how to properly tie the knot, however he didn't enforce this with the students. He did correct the fit on one, but that was after at least 45 minutes of the horse being worked and he sort of mumbled as he adjusted it up without any fanfare or emphasis about why he was adjusting it. Another one had the halter nose just above the horse's nostrils and the jaw strap was almost completely in front of the horse's cheek muscle with no correction that I can recall. I am picky about halter fit because the halter functions best when it is on properly. If you have it too loose several things can happen, namely excessive poll pressure, excessive pressure over the free floating portion of the nasal bone, and the halter possibly slipping off the nose. Some horses will react strongly to excessive poll pressure. When the jaw (jowel, throat, the part that should fit behind the cheek) strap is across the cheek rather than behind it, engaging the lead applies pressure almost exclusively to the poll, which many horses will thrown their heads up in response to. When the halter is properly fitted the pressure gets distributed behind the ears as well as behind the jaw giving the head a sort of "hug" to encourage the horse to step forward.

For someone to proposes to be particular, checking your one piece of equipment for fit seems like it should be a no-brainer. He also noted he tries to find the biggest issue a pair is having and focus on that. For me that would be an equipment check first and then addressing the handler's issues. You can't expect the horse to perform its best if the tack isn't in a position to communicate your desires to the horse clearly!

If I want to be snarky I can say his math is off. He says each rope doubles the distance, but 12' is more than half of 22' and 22' is less than half of 45' I'm pretty sure!

In short, after watching all of the On Line Parelli DVDs I can say it hasn't really changed my opinion of the Parelli Program and, perhaps, made me slightly more incredulous. If someone were to tell me they were a Parelli professional or were hoping to be one I would be skeptical of their actual skill and the depth of their equestrian knowledge. Was it worth the money to satisfy my curiosity? Yeah. Would I ever pay full price? Not in a million years! It was nothing groundbreaking. The biggest thing for me was seeing the progression towards not needing lines. I am a little put off by leaving the lines all over the ground because someone is going to step on all that and get tangled like the Level Four horse did with the lariat.

Now I want to see some videos about working the horse in-hand ala classical dressage with the same funding behind it as the Parellis can put into theirs!

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