“My first week at the Parelli centre in Florida has hurtled by. We started with a series of tests designed around what we know already – and what we don’t! At the end we’ll take the same tests. The idea in the meantime is to get all the information, and then practice what we need to improve our results. I found it a really different and interesting way of doing things.
For me, the tests were a perfect opportunity to get to know my lease horse, Lucette. I had seen some of the things she is capable of at home, but this was our time to find out how we would do together. We began with a theory test, followed the next morning by a tools test, and then testing with our horses in four different areas of learning – on the ground ‘Online’ (with a rope attached) and at ‘Liberty’ (no ropes!) and then ridden tests in ‘Freestyle’ (riding with a casual rein) and ‘Finesse’ (riding with contact). I had different results in each area, as expected, and I now have a much better idea of what areas and ingredients I need to focus on over the next three weeks. Towards the end of the week the teaching began with classroom sessions, demonstrations with the coaches’ horses, practical tool skills sessions, and plenty of time with my horse.
On Monday we were invited to go and support Pat Parelli at the Ocala Equestrian Center where he was taking part in a charity fundraising event for the Make A Wish Foundation. The competitors were in teams of two – one a Western reining rider and the other a show jumper. The Western rider had to complete a round of jumps against the clock on the show jumper’s horse, and the show jumper had to do a reining pattern and then do a cow horse reining pattern on his partner’s horse. It was a really fun test of horsemanship. Pat was partnered with US Olympic gold medal winner David O’Connor (who is also is also the president of the USEF - United States Equestrian Federation) – what a team!
On Wednesday we got to be in the audience for the first live tele-seminar to all Parelli Connect members around the world. Nearly 300 students were logged on and watching the live streaming, as Pat and Linda answered questions submitted by chat. We live in a truly connected world.
On Friday I was invited to watch the media crew do some filming. Linda played with her chestnut gelding West Point at Liberty, followed by Pat playing with his black stallion Casper, still looking amazing at 20 years old. He then played with another stallion, Peppy – what a power house! – ,and ended with Vision, another stunning horse from the Atwood Ranch, while Linda rode West Point in the background. It was a real treat to watch them both in action at such close quarters, as well as see what goes on as part of the media production process.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly fit anything more in, on Saturday the centre opened its doors to a morning of Parelli Games. People from outside came with their horses and joined some of us ‘Fast Track-ers’ to take part in a series of fun tournament-style challenges, either Online, at Liberty or Freestyle. I chose to try out the first two sets of challenges, and ended up volunteering to do a ‘Savvy Spotlight’ at the end where I got to show off a little of what Lucette and I have been able to achieve so far at Liberty. I’d love to be part of a demo team one day so this was my first toe in the water of what it’s like to do something in front of an audience. It was great fun and Lucette was a star. Dinner with new friends on Saturday night finished the week perfectly!”