"A horse is like a mirror, and it's reflecting what and who you are."

This is just a little diary of my horse life. I teach natural horsemanship and dressage. I am currently working on getting back to L4 Parelli after a car accident and surgery.

I suffered from a fear of failure, as things had not gone according to planned after my time off from my injuries. It had been an paralyzing disability (fear) but my healing is coming along nicely, and I hope to pass my level 4 before the end of 2011.

I don't know where I am going, but I am NOT lost!

I am now reviewing dvd's and books, and blogging my reviews. The link on the left in the categories (DVD Clinician Reviews)will take you straight to it. You will find links to the websites of all dvd clinicians I review and they are located on the left hand side bottom of page of the page. None of the clinicians or trainers I am reviewing, sponsor, endorse or authorize this site. For more info about them please click on thier link.

I hope you enjoy!

Savvy On,

I will be giving Savvy Star Ratings based soley on my opinion of it's value to a parelli student as such

***** Must own

**** Must watch

*** Worth watching, but you won't die without it

** Eh' take it with a grain of salt, you will have to filter alot

* OK, but there is better stuff out there to spend your time and money on

0 stars....skip it, it just isn't worth your time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Who's your Master?

Over the years, there is often discussion on forums asking "Who is a Horseman?"  Generally, the discussion that follows includes a VERY short list.  Less than a handfull of public figures make it to the list.  And the top 3 are Tom and Bill Dorrance and Ray Hunt.  A recent discussion I am involved in regarding the Road to the Horse competition, has sparked some ideas and I just wanted to share my thoughts on this.......

I have had these ideas/concepts swirling around in my head for some time now….the more I explore, the more ideas that get crammed in there. I can see them swirling around, and as I play with my horses, I try to reach out and touch them, but they are hard to grasp, because I have yet to put them into a cohesive string of thought. I am able to achieve glimpses of what is to become of them. I think some of the difficulty lies in my aimless ambling after my partial break from Parelli, but the reality is……becoming a good, well rounded horseman takes a lifetime. You can try to force it, but that will only get you so far.

One of the things that is coming to the forefront of my mind at the moment, is that most of the so called ‘horsemen’ are western. And I am not. While I believe that does not effect the initial learning of thinking like a horse, or a colts basic foundation, per se, it can, and all to often does effect the end product that I am seeking, and am thinking this is the result of technique, not concept or philosophy. The reason these types of horseman use the techniques they do, is for the end result they are looking for. A COW horse. So in the beginning their techniques are the initial step, to a more advanced technique that will be helpful and useful to working with cows and/or colt starting. They may or may not be useful, and may or may not be harmful, in the end, to say an upper level dressage horse, jumper etc. This is one of the reasons that PNH was so inviting to me, because Linda was ‘English’ and could understand things from my perspective, and help to translate this into the end goal that I was/am seeking.

I am doing research for a book.  On my quest I am far less concerned with ‘opinions’ of a method. (not saying anyone else is concerned with opinions) What I have been looking for, is the concepts and philosophies that the masters have in common. I am looking at common techniques or similarities as well, and matching them up to those philosophies/concepts. Techniques are just a way to put the concepts and philosophies into application. The end result you are seeking, will determine which techniques you should use to facilitate that end goal. What I have found on this journey very enlightening. And the cohesiveness that I am searching for, to these thoughts, is just over the horizon. But it seems at times, the more I learn, the farther away the horizon gets.

I personally think that putting just a few people on the pedestal of ‘horseman’, in an all encompassing way, is again, limiting ourselves from the possibilities that await us. It closes the door that can take us to another level. I believe that we are ALL horsemen. I prefer the terms master and student.

I use Master as it is defined in this context:

a : a worker or artisan qualified to teach apprentices b(1) : an artist, performer, or player of consummate skill (2) : a great figure of the past (as in science or art) whose work serves as a model or ideal

We are ALL students, and will always BE students. And what ultimately defines us as a master horseman, is the ability to master our selves. The ability to become one with our art form. When one is a master of something, it not only appears to become effortless, it actually does become effortless. It becomes second nature, and those watching it, will not see its intricacies. It will often appear mystical. To a master living with the confines of this definition, horsemanship is an art form. Otherwise we are a master in the other sense, and horsemanship is merely a means to an end….it is utilitarian, to get a job done, and can lose all sense of beauty and art as you have enslaved your subject…..the horse….and are now his master.

I believe, just as in college degrees, one can be a master of one or a few things, but the likely hood of anyone mastering it all, is slim to none. Horses are no different in my opinion. And who so thinks they get to be the one to decide which art forms are credible endeavors, exclusive to creating a master. Just because someone’s desired end result is different than western cow horse, does not mean they are not, or cannot become, a master. If they have mastered their own goals and art form, they too are a master. Just because their goal seems silly to you, does not mean they are not a master of horsemanship, or that they are ridiculous in any fashion.

Here is MY masters ‘list’…of course I have yet to meet anyone and everyone on the planet, so this is a work in progress, that will never be complete. And, I am only listing a few public figures for examples sake, because lets all face it, there are many unknown masters, to whom their only audience IS the horse. Please feel free to share an area of study that you feel one of these masters has mastered, and/or, Add a master of your own…a public figure that people can relate to. I have also listed my level of study, so that people know why I may not have listed much, or listed a lot, NOT that I have learned all that there is to learn from them. I am far from a Master of anything.

Pat Parelli- Master of: Putting the relationship first. Making NH approachable, fun, social, easy to understand and most importantly ‘mainstream’. Taking the message of “putting the horse first” world wide like no other horseman has before or likely ever will. Exposing back yard owners to the possibilities. Master at inspiration. (Graduate)

Linda Parelli- Master of taking knowledge and making it understandable and learnable for the lay person.

Sally Swift- Master at using imagery to teach balance and symmetry in the rider. (graduate)

Mary Wanless- Master at teaching rider biomechanics and how intricate it can be to effectively effect the biomechanics of the horse while riding. (undergrad)

Carolyn Resnick- Master at understanding and teaching herd culture and needs, and how to effectively emulate the herd leader, to gain a true bond with your horse. Master of teaching horses at liberty. (Current area of study)

Cynthia Royal- Master at herd culture and using it to create a spectacular show of entertainment. Master of liberty and bridleless riding. (current area of study)

Klaus F Hempfling- Master at the way he presents himself to the horse from the first second he sees it, before he ever approaches. Master at being in tune with nature as a whole, the universe and ones inner self and the way we are all connected. Basically a master of higher consciousness. He is the master of knowing and using the horse as a mirror, and honestly acknowledging the image it portrays. Master of knowing that our horses behavior is a direct correlation to our inner energy. (current area of study)

Mark Rashid- Master educator thru the art of story telling. Master of gaining strength thru softness. Master of quietly leading. Master of ‘recognizing the try’ (current area of study)

Reiner Klimke-Master of lightness, straightness, suppleness, strength and power, developing a horse from start to finish, adhering to principles and philosophy of dressage as an art, despite dominating the competition ring, for decades. Master of elegance and grace and humbleness. (forever area of study)

Chris Cox- Master of the release and retreat. Master minimalist. Well rounded humble student of the horse. (next area of study)

Buck Brannaman-Master of being technically correct in bridle horse training, and teaching this style to students. (need to learn more about)

Ray Hunt- Master at getting thru to hardened cowboys, getting one to THINK for themselves, teaching to think from the horses point of view, being a humble student of the horse. (still learning about)

Clinton Anderson-Master at teaching being CLEAR in your communication to the horse, teaching to make your request black and white. Teaching each and every nuance of a technique. (drop out-seen all I need to see)

I think a list like this is more helpful than hero worship, because when you need guidance in a certain area, if you have already identified who has mastered that area of study, you are more willing to seek guidance from them, than if you are held to an allegiance to one or maybe two ‘horsemen’ or ‘masters’.

Being a master teacher, one also needs to be a master of communication and people skills. It is very important in my book, because if you are so offensive to people, what does it matter what all you know about horses? What does it matter….what you have mastered within the realm of horsemanship? If few can stand to be around you long enough to learn anything from you, to whom will your uniqueness in your art form pass on to?

This saying was originally said by Pat in regards to horses, but I think it applies to humans as well…..we don’t care how much you know until we know how much you care…..about us. I think this is another reason that the Parelli’s have had monumental global success.

At the end of the day, the truth remains, I ain’t no cowboy, and never will be. So I will take the concepts and philosophies that align with what I agree with, and then use what ever techniques will best fit within those concepts and best facilitate my chosen end goal. What ever the hell THAT will end up being, it will always start, and end, with being my horses friend.....something I don’t need a masters degree in.....to be.

Savvy On


  1. Amen Sista!!!! Michelle, you have a way with words. I am definately in tune with your thoughts.

  2. Thanks, that means alot to me. This one was hard to write, but even harder to publish. I think it is a touchy subject in some circles. I jumped out of the hero worship pan, and did not want to jump into the hero worship fire, as some people have. Doing the dvd reviews has definately helped me to see more that there are 'horseman' around us every where, if we are willing to open our eyes and see them for who they are.


I know I am not perfect.....so be nice!