Saturday, September 13, 2008

Parelli Savvy Conference 2008

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I'm sitting in our room at the Pagosa Inn thinking about everything we’ve experienced so far at the Parelli's International Savvy Center here in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Today will be our last day and then we have the long drive home to Washington.

Once every year, since 1996, the Parellis, and their amazing team, have opened their beautiful learning center to the public. This year it was opened to Savvy Club members and their guests.

The first conference I attended here was in 2002. Just flying into Durango and catching a ride to Pagosa Springs was an adventure! And they took such great care of us here. It was amazing and fun.

Nathan Bowers with Thunder and Lightening! The first horses we see as we walk up to the big Coverall. If you go to his family's website, Nate and his father (who passed away last year) have some excellent DVD's and books on driving.

Savvy Team: Amy Book is riding 2 horses at one time. That was a hoot watching those little guys trotting around the arena. They really gave her buttcheeks a workout! Everyone was roaring. That is Emily, on one of her big half draft horses. They look like brothers although not related. Their names are Ahug and Akiss.

Looking into the covered arena on one of our breaks.

Amy Book and Casper, the only other person Pat has allowed to play with Casper in public.

Kali The Cowgirl playing with her horse and 4 Atwood Ranch Babies. She eventually loaded all 5 horses into a horse trailer to the cheers and standing ovation of the crowd!

Savvy Team - Team Work!

At this conference, on our second night here (after being dazzled by the savvy highlights of the day) we were treated with an incredible meal and the traditional dance with a live band in the huge covered arena. Pat Parelli picked his guitar with the perfect precision of a professional player. (Oh, he’d like that I think!) The Saturday Nite Dance after a great dinner! There must have been at least a couple thousand Parellittes at this conference. (I think basically, the people who are the most critical of PNH, are the ones who know the least about it.)

We learned that there will be many changes in the Parelli organization. For one, this will be the last Savvy Conference held here in Colorado. Starting next year, rather than hosting their annual Savvy Conference here, the Parellis will be organizing 9 Conferences around the world, (7 in the US) and they will no longer be hosting the many tour stops around the country.

The first tour stop I attended was in 2001. It hardly seems possible that Pat Parelli, his family and staff, who have appeared in huge venues all over the world, including performances for the Queen of England, and they were once at the Trails End Arena, in Tumwater, Washington. Caton was a teenager pestering the girls at every opportunity. Now, he’s engaged!

We were also told about all the major changes that are coming to the Parelli program. There is SO MUCH we can expect in the future; I can’t even begin to list it all here! But we’ll be hearing much more by January 2009.

Rich and I attended a tour stop recently in Billings, Montana, Pat shared some of the upcoming changes with the volunteers and one thing he told us was that, instead of the tour stops, they will be sending local Savvy teams to the many local equine expos, and state fairs. I think this is a smart way for them to get their message out to people who might not otherwise attend to a tour stop just to see them, so they might not ever be exposed to the awesome relationship building skills they can learn through Parelli Natural Horsemanship (PNH.)

The rest of us will no longer have to travel as far to attend a Savvy Conference here in Colorado. The closest one to us will be held in Reno and we already have tickets! There is a possibility that we may be able bring our horses and perform auditions for the new patterns programs.

No more levels! Rather than the assessment tests of the past, students will be auditioning their skills in front of Parelli Professionals and they will become certified if they excel in the area they are auditioning for.

It’s sounds unusual, but they’ve given this a great deal of consideration and research and even though the changes mean many of us who have been working on passing our levels will be moving onto something different, but these innovative new changes will help us reach our goals faster and keep our horses being getting dulled by repetition of the 7 games. That happens when students learn only enough to become boring with their horses.

It’s been so emotional watching the amazing riding and equine relationships that Pat and Linda’s young superstars have with their horses. I have to say, this is the first time I’ve seen anyone riding two minis at the same time!

Not many people around the country are privileged enough to see Master Horseman and teacher, Walter Zettl instruct a riding lesson with a master rider, like Linda Parelli.

Walter Zettl encouraging Parelli Course Students.

One of the Play Fields.

Pat, his son Caton and Dave Ellis cutting cattle.

But it was quiet as night, as thousands of us witnessed this dressage master teaching Linda while she rode her Dutch warm blood, Remmer.

He told us that he hasn’t been able to attend dressage events in many years because of what he sees going on in the practice arenas. He said classical dressage training has changed over the years and the torture of the horses that he sees today makes him sick. (However, that same sentiment is true for many other types of training. Winning seems to be everything.)

He was so complimentary of Parelli horses and students. The horses are calm, he said, and will stand still when being mounted. And the students have soft hands.

On another note, my heart was breaking while I watched Remmer move around the arena. On all 4 of his hooves, he was wearing thick pads, wedges and egg bar shoes. I’m guessing that he must be dead lame without all of that on his hooves.

(Linda on Remmer. This is when I noticed the eggbar shoes, wedges and pads. He was toe stabbing with nearly ever step, not landing heel first and his gait seemed a bit stilted. )

While in one of the “shopping” tents, I noticed a booth with a DVD about fluid movement and thought perhaps the man attending it was an equine chiropractor, but after we chatted long enough for him to admit he was a farrier, and I divulged my profession, he said he had a real problem with the title, Natural Hoof Care Practitioner because there was nothing “natural” about using nippers and rasps on hooves.

I didn’t correct him by saying that it was not the process that was natural, but our end product was much more natural than his.

(Remmers hooves. I couldn't get a real clear shot. )

After hearing his side of the issue out, I mentioned that someone needed to fix poor Remmer’s feet. His response was that there was no longer anything wrong with Remmer. Remmer's “done been fixed!”

Not without a bit of skepticism in my voice, I said, “He's fixed...?”
He replied, “Yes Ma’am! He is fixed!”

I locked onto his eyes at that point, and felt him lose a bit of his confidence, but then I was distracted by a couple southern ladies who were using my 6’5” husband as a sweatshirt model to see if they could find a shirt that would fit a gal back home. (If she is the same size a Rich, she must be a force to be reckoned with!)

Well, I guess horse shoer’s logic means a hoof with a bunch of crap nailed onto the bottom of it means “He’s done been fixed!”

I’ve heard shoers make that stupid announcement more than once. They watch a foundered horse trot off in the most hidious horseshoe contraptions, and just because the horse isn't limping, they proudly proclaim, “That horse is sound! Look at that!“

That horse is not sound! It’s still a foundered horse! It just doesn’t know it when the hooves have been locked into and numbed by the shoes. But if he’s ridden in that situation, he’s only going to get worse, not better. It’s kind like going on your daily run with a cast on your broken leg. Your leg is supported by the cast, but it’s still a broken leg and running on it WILL make it worse.

In my opinion, if a horse cannot move soundly barefoot, he is not sound. No matter what you nail to the bottoms of his feet, HE IS NOT SOUND!

Pat Parelli says that it makes his heart bleed when he sees what horses are put through by professional predators and others who prescribe to cruel traditional methods of training.

I wanted to tell him that it makes my heart bleed to see what they are doing to nearly all their horses feet. The babies aren't even given a chance to prove what they can do barefoot. The damage shoes cause begins as soon as the young ones are started under saddle.

Pasture (horse shoer’s) trims perpetuate the need for shoes and shoes perpetuate the need for more drastic shoeing measures. It’s an endless cycle that can easily be prevented.

Pat is critical of others who go out and buy bigger bits to get control of their horses. Yet, has nothing to say about farriers applying more drastic (and devastating) shoeing methods to cover up the damage previously done to the hooves by shoes. Bigger bits, just like bigger corrective shoes, don’t fix the problem…just temporarily covers it up.

Get the horse out of the shoes, transition him to barefoot and you have a healthier, more naturally moving horse. Even if you feel the need to have the shoes tacked on for riding. At least you are shoeing a healthy hoof and not a hoof that can no longer function.

That’s were bare hoof practitioners and farriers differ. We feel that a sound barefoot horse IS “fixed.” A horse with all kinds of crutch material attach to his hooves in order to keep him from limping, is not a “fixed” horse. Bandaging a cut, doesn’t mean the cut is healed. It just means you’ve attached something to catch the blood.

While watching Linda perform an extended trot, I could see in my minds-eye how incredibly he could extend if his hooves were not so restricted that he feels nothing but numbness to the pain. If he not as obese and his hooves were sound barefoot, he’d be more than a wonderful mover, he’d be amazing!

Linda seemed to be thrilled with his performance however and brought her farrier out in front of the crowd to thank him. “Way more than shoeing!” She chimed out to the audience.

My heart was bleeding for her horse and I wondered if he would be lame the next morning.

How would I have fixed a horse like him? First off, I would change his diet. I would educate the owners about understand the impact that sugar has on the lamina of the hoof. Sugar weakens the lamina and causes it to break down, laminitis and pain. Pretty simple.

Some people add molasses to their horses’ drinking water at home and when traveling. They offer their horses the best “sweet” feeds money can buy. With no regard to what they’re doing to their horse’s hooves.

So diet causes a problem that is later addressed with shoes. Diet, farrier pasture trims and shoes! One leads to the other and shoes perpetuate the need for more drastic shoeing methods.

Sunday 9pm:

We just got back from a late dinner after our last day at the Parelli Ranch. It was an amazing day! I love it all, but my favorite part was watching Pat’s talented niece, Amy, playing with his stallion, Casper. She is someone we are going to seeing a lot of in the future.

During the conference, the new Patterns programs were introduced. Yes, I got them!

At the end of the day, Pat, and his business manager, Mark, sat down in the middle of the arena and asked the audience for their thoughts on what they would like to see in the future for PNH.

Despite having to listen to a couple whiners complain about issues the Parellis had no control over, like “I haave Die-Lup. So how kin you’ll maake it ez-er fer maee ta down lood stuff fraum yer weB siTe?

Huh? “Duh, I don’t know…Try getting a new ISP perhaps.

But one lady said she’d like to see a Senior Savvy Club! That one got cheers!

The three days were filled with mind-blowing performances, educational sessions, standing ovations, laughter and lots and lots of tears. It was so worth the trip.

Casanova, Son of Nova aka Bossynova. He looks a lot like Neenah, only bigger!

This is what we were treated to outside our hotel window just before we left for the long drive home!

Monday and we are homeward bound.

Riding in the back seat of a Subaru Outback. We are about 70 miles from Twin Falls, Idaho. We’ll spend the night there. On the way home, we’ll be stopping in Battle Ground, Washington to help out a foundered pony.

This is really the life!


Mrs Mom said...

While I am not a fan of Parelli, I have to agree with you 10000% about his ignorance (willfull ignorance IMO) when it comes to hoof care. Always blows my mind how many "horsemen" out there dont bother to learn and understand the hoof....

To be honest, seeing something like that on Linda's horse would have been enough for me to pack up and head on home. But that is just me. (Honestly, with that many people around, youwould not have been able to get me there to start with...)

Great report, and I am glad that you were able to get so much out of it.

Pat said...

The tickets cost $250...EACH! There was no way I would have packed up and headed home because of their hoof care mindset! LOL!

But I must say, if Pat said the word natural once, he said it 50, or better, times. Yet, all I could think about was how unnatural all the horse's hooves were. And what bothered me the most was how the babies go right into shoes at the same time a saddle goes onto their backs for the first time. It doesn't matter whether there is any need for a shoe or not. It just is something traditional horse people do.

Pat says, look at what everyone else is doing and do the opposite and you'll be right. He needs to take his own advice when it comes to his horse shoers! He needs to dump them! JMO!:0)

cilla said...

dear pat,

what a brilliant well written informative but disturbing post!
i saw linda and remmer here in the uk and he seemed very comfortable on his feet. things may have changed eh?

i am sure you observations are correct you being so in tune with hooves.
it pains me to read criticism about the parellis as its not common. but, as we are often reminded, nobody is perfect.
ther has been some criticism on the savvy club forum about remmers feet and it wasnt pretty.
oh dear.....
i get the impression the parelli's are moving on and making time for themselves at last after a lifetime of work. good for them.
it wont be the same somehow but perhaps the ones that take over pat and linda's roles will be just as charismatic.
nice to have you back in the bloggosphere!

kiwigal said...

Hi Pat
Your descriptions of Remmer made me cringe. I can only imagine his gaits, however I can see 'that' look in his stance from the head-on picture. Head out as far as he can to remove as much weight from his hooves, but stiff like someone has kicked him in the guts. Oh dear.

Pat said...

Please don't get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for Linda and Pat Parelli and what they have accomplished with horses and owners all over the world. I learned to sit a canter correctly from Linda!
And I've heard that they did try barefoot trims once years ago and their horses didn't do well with that trimmer so they never went back. There are different methods of barefoot trimming and some are to be avoided at all costs.
So I understand their position, but I really wish they would reconsider and do more research and not just turn a blind eye to how horses in Remmer's situation really can be "fixed."

lytha said...

I found it heartening that September's Equus magazine has an article about building stronger hooves, and the article quotes Ramey. I hope that Equus can move further from this very conservative article, which emphasizes that horses should be left barefoot until maturity, to a broader view. They did quote Ramey saying, "The only reason you might need shoes is if you want calks for jumping, or if you're a reiner."

Most of my life, when I saw a barefoot horse, I assumed the owner was neglecting the horse. I thought that if they cared more, the horse would have shoes on. This mindset has to change, and it will, as more of us discover natural hoof care.

I'm in Germany, where the barefoot movement is way behind the US. I look forward to seeing this change.


Duncurlin said...

I have only just read this stuff and whilst I have seen Parelli stuff which showed Remmer to be rather overweight, I cannot imagine that Linda would allow her horse to suffer.

The problem with barefoot trimming is that it has had some VERY bad publicity.

No matter whether you support barefoot trimming or traditional farriery, the former will not receive recognition as a bona fide craft until it organises itself into proper training and recognised qualifications administered by Univerities and Colleges.

I know of some "barefoot trimmers" at work in my area who have taken a two-day study course before setting up stall as qualified hoof trimmers.

My 5th generation farrier in the Uk did outstanding work with my horses - no lost shoes and never lame in 25 years. My young french farrier also does excellent work and the only time any horse of mine has been lame is when he or she has been unshod.

Why did the original poster not approach Linda herself and pose a question? I am sure that any of the Instructors present would have relayed such a question to the Parellis who would have had the chance to answer the charge.

Pat said...

You're right about the bad publicity. Much of that comes from people who don't really under stand natural hoofcare.

If one of my horses was lame when it was unshod (natural feet) I would want to know why before I let someone just tack shoes onto the hoof covering up the problem.

That's kind of like knowing there is something wrong with your car when you hear it making a new clunking noise, and fixing tbe problem by turning up the radio...