I am currently a Parelli Protege, Four Star Senior Instructor, and Game of Contact Specialist.
I am currently based on the Parelli campus working every day with Linda Parelli and the Parelli team.
I am one of the instructors teaching courses at the Parelli campuses.
My long term goal is to specialize in English Sport Horse Development, particularly Dressage horses. I love the intricacy of developing a horse gymnastically as well as having to it in a way that the horse feels free within the boundaries of some of the exercises.
The Parelli Program has changed how I view "problems" with my horses. The program has given me systems and filters to sort through things that used to be frustrating. This is much more then a "horse training" program, the program empowers you to see the world from the horse's perspective.
The back story...
Growing up in the country in a small town in Georgia, horses were not a part of my family. I had an experience where suddenly I felt I needed a horse. Just like any young kid, I did the “I want a pony” thing to my parents and was constantly rejected. Finally one day my parents decided to negotiate the idea. They said if I could volunteer at a local Therapeutic Riding Center for six months, we’d talk about it. I think they figured this would be a phase and turn out like every other hamster, guiene pig, turtle, and other small pet and eventually become old news and their responsibility.
When I was 11 I started volunteering at Jacobs’ Ladder Therapeutic Riding Center. I was too young to assist any of the riding or horse handling so I was tasked with filling water troughs, cleaning stalls, all the chores that would be a reflection of the daily responsibility of owning your own horse. To fast forward this progressed from a once a week privilege to twice a week, then three times a week and so on. Two years later I was still getting home from school and would hike across the field to the barn. It was about this time I was able to convince my parents I was serious about this whole horse thing. With the amazing support of my parents, we decided to start looking for my first horse. We built a pasture, a little shed, and I’ll never forget buying the water trough and thinking, “wow, this is really happening.”
We ended up buying two horses, because we couldn’t have one by itself. Later my dad got tired of walking my sister and I on trail rides, so he got one for himself, so within a short while of starting our horse journey we had three horses in the yard! I think for the first while it all felt surreal, but quickly I think owning my own horse became more then chores and responsibility but a way of life. Throughout this time I continued to volunteer several times a week and to take riding lessons. The longer I stayed volunteering at the Therapeutic Riding Center the more responsibility I earned with supporting the sessions to exercising horses.
One night in 2004 I was watching RFD-TV and saw Parelli Natural Horsemanship for the first time. I’ll never forget the episode, it was Linda teaching a rider “jumping with confidence” from on of the Savvy Conferences. For Christmas that year I got tickets to attend a 2005 tour stop and I haven’t looked back. When I started the Parelli Program I didn’t have any “problems.” I was just a kid that was riding horses for pleasure and wanted the best relationship with my horse. At that time I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I just knew I wanted to be really good.
I continued studying the Parelli Home Study Program over the next couple of years. At that time there wasn’t very many people doing “Parelli” in my area so it was just me and my dad trying to figure it out and have fun on our trail rides. I vividly remember day dreaming about Pat and Linda and being able to canter bareback and jump a jump and maybe even one day ride bridless and maybe one day even get to go on tour with them. This all sounds silly to think about when I reflect back. It was not always pleasant having different interests then many of the other kids in school. Being a young person that was choosing to hug his horse or to give up your time to help people that young people at the time would refer to as “retards” and not socialize because I only cared to read books about horses invited teasing and bullying. I think in the end this only made my drive to be myself that much stronger because I learned I didn’t need anyone else to tell me who I was or what should be important to me.
When I was 15 I started to want to learn from a Parelli instructor. After researching instructors and auditing a few sessions I signed up for my first Parelli Clinic. I don’t know if I could have ever known how powerful that weekend would be for me. After the clinic with Dan and Gretchen Thompson, they extended and invitation for me to assist them at any clinics I could get to. The only problem was, I wasn’t quite old enough to drive! Fast forward a little bit and I was driving to any clinic I could to help and learn, all the while still volunteering almost daily at the Therapeutic Riding Center.
Fast forward just a little bit more and when I was 18 I had the opportunity to perform a “spotlight” and one of the local Parelli Tour Stops. The spotlight was a new concept where Pat wanted to start hosting Parelli Games where those interested in Natural Horsemanship could compete and have fun in a way that was just as much fun for the horses. I had the opportunity to ride my Saddlebred horse, Valentino, in front of Pat, Linda, Walter Zettl, my instructors and 800 other people. Keep in mind my poor horse has never been in an environment like this, this was like the country kids visits the city, so this would the big time for us. I was able to put my scared, spooky, hot horse first in the arena and by the end of our three songs I could ride him around by only using the Carrot Stick. Pat said some very nice things and said that I was the type of person that he would like to see in his Mastery Program.
I was 18 at the time but I didn’t know if it was possible to actually join the Parelli Team. I couldn’t afford the courses necessary to join the “Mastery Program.” I am extremely fortunate for the support of my parents, they went above and beyond to help me and we did what we could. My dad and I volunteered at I don’t know how many Parelli Tour Stops to earn credit vouchers for equipment and courses. I did get to attend a course and I scored high enough to enter the Professionals Pathway and take the next series of courses to achieve the dream of becoming a Parelli Instructor. As much as I wanted to do this, we simply couldn’t afford it. You always hear the saying “where there is a will there is a way” and you think “yeah but” your Right Brain that wants something so badly fights with your logical Left Brain that brings all the obstacles that could be in your way to light.
As it turned out at the time Parelli had a working student program. I was selected to become a working student, so I packed up and headed to the Parelli Center. I remember driving down the interstate on January 7th, 2011 scared to death because I had no answers or no real security or confirmation as to what was going to happen next. I was showing up to work to hopefully have enough money to a course. In reality I think I would have to had worked a full year in order to take the course I needed.
I turned up and joined the facility crew and did everything but touch a horse, however I didn’t know how much this experience would grow me as a person. I ended up gaining so much life experience that first year that I am so grateful for that experience. It seemed so far from my wish of taking a course or becoming an instructor but I think it was more fulfilling to feel progress in yourself in becoming calmer, braver, stronger, more athletic, just like Pat says about how we want our horses.
Let’s cut to the chase and now I am 24 and I am Linda Parelli’s Barn Manger and Protege. I have so many extraordinary experiences and have checked off so many boxes off my wish list. I have completed my Level 4 in the Parelli Program, I am a Parelli Protege, I am a Parelli Employee I have a wonderful horse that was gifted to me, and I am helping more people by riding in Parelli Events and teaching courses.
Honestly the thought of reaching this level in Parelli Program seemed totally impossible. I had so much reverence for the people at the top of the ladder and I didn’t believe I had the goods to ever get there. Wether the goods were time, money, talent, the right horse, in my case it was quite a bit of those. At the end of the growth isn’t from having all those things and soaring in and riding off into the sunset, but rather growing from the experience of achieving those things. Pat says everyone has a disability some more then others but I really appreciate this expression because every person is disabled by something in their life, we all have a harness. We can be harnessed by our time constraints, money, ability, skill, etc. I think the art of living your dream is learning and being confident to move freely within your harness.
I remember being 16 and telling my Parelli Instructor, Gretchen Thompson, the hardest thing is to dream big enough. I can “do” all the things I’ve wanted. My horse runs to me, I could ride bridless, I could do flying changes, I could play a Liberty, I could ride bareback and jump, all the things I day dreamed about was slowly being checked off the list. I still struggle with this idea of dreaming big enough. I know that if I keep following my passion of helping horses and people, I’ll end up right where I am meant to be. I am forever grateful to my friends, family, instructors, Pat and Linda for the support and the opportunity to continue growing.