By Craig Allen, Hooper, UT
Hi! My name is Craig and I have been practicing Parelli Natural Horse-man-ship™ for 3 years. I am in level 2. I am also an active member of Back Country Horsemen of Utah. I lead trail rides and pack trips for my chapter. My levels horse, Chief, is a Missouri Fox-trotter whose innate characteristics carry him along the trail at a pace well above the 2-3 mph favored by my mules and my fellow chapter members who are predominately mounted upon non-gaited horses. This mismatch has been bothering me for some time, as I really hate to ask Chief to go against his nature on practically every ride.
Thus, I found myself in the horse acquisition mode. What a frustrating experience! I soon came to realize that any horse I bought would have to be a ‘project’ and that each one would have to begin at level one. I also realized that I would never know all the history that had been written on the horse’s mind or what taught and learned behavior would be revealed at exactly the wrong time.
With these thoughts in mind, I attended the Parelli Tour Stop in Salt Lake City. As usual, Pat and Linda blew our socks off! At one point the local and tour professionals came out to show how ordinary people can get extraordinary results from their horses. One of the professionals was Kalley, who was playing with a baby. It struck me that the yearling was pretty much doing all the games on the ground just like the other adult horses. Then, Pat announced that Kalley was playing with a yearling from Atwood Ranch and he explained a new initiative to take well bred horses, send them to Parelli Pre-School and offer them to Parelli practitioners at an affordable cost. “This is the new way to buy and sell horses,” he said.
A bell went off in my head. Here was the chance to have a ‘project ‘ horse with a perfect start!
So long story made short, I went out back to take a look. I was immediately struck by the fact that Catherine was sincerely interested in telling us about the program and about what I needed in a horse. She told me about Atwood Ranch and I was already making plans to take a trip. I looked at the 10 babies on their way to be showcased at the Savvy Conference the next week. I asked Catherine if one of them suited my needs? If one of their horsenalities seemed to be a fit. She thought about it and said there was one she would recommend, but that it would be best to speak to Kalley. Catherine showed me a pretty bay filly named Boots. Then, she introduced me to Kalley.
Kalley also talked to me about how I wanted to use my horse and I am sure she sized me up as well. Then she went down the line of babies and said, ‘I think Boots would be a match for you.’
Well, that is when I was assailed by doubts. This little filly was looking at me with eyes filled with trust. She was calm, confident, curious and accepting and I suddenly realized the awesome responsibility I would be taking on for her future. Did I have the time? Did I have the savvy?
I left, I came back, I left again. I returned.
Someone else was asking Kalley to take Boots out and play with her. I watched as she played the 7 games with purpose. Then, I took the first step. I asked Kalley if I could play with Boots. She said yes and when she transferred the lead line from her hands to mine I was more nervous then when I was assessing for level one.
Boots was a sweetheart, she sensed my nervousness and tried hard to make sense of my first hesitant attempts at the friendly game. We got the communication established and, with Kalley’s coaching and encouragement, we played for the first time. I brought Boots back to the rail, dropped her lead rope and picked up her feet. She accepted me. Kalley was proud of her student and I was equally impressed.
I asked the lady who was watching ‘ Which one of us is buying her?’ She said ‘I guess you are.’
I looked at Kalley and said ‘ Consider her sold!’ We shook hands and there were smiles all around. Then, I turned and looked at Boots. She was calmly standing, taking it all in. While my friends were congregating around her, a small girl came up to her noseto pet her. She lowered her head to accept the pet.
Totally calm. Totally trusting. Totally awesome!