Pat Parelli became a "horse-man" the hard way.
"A horse kicked some sense into me," he says, matter-of-factly. Like most people who work with horses, Parelli failed when he approached the task as a human."The problem is, people think like people. It's like that line in the movie `A River Runs Through It' where one of the character says , `In three years, I think I'll be able to think like a fish.' The problem is, most people can't think like that species," he said.
So, Parelli, the 1972 Bareback Rookie of the Year, went about learning to think like a horse. He believes the basic misunderstanding boils down to this: Humans are predators and horses are prey. Predators, Parelli espouses, respond to praise, recognition, food or punishment.
"With horses, it's entirely different. What horses want is to have absolute security in their survival. They want to be comfortable," he said.
But few humans recognize that distinction, Parelli says. Instead, they employ tools, such as bigger bits, twitches or chains. Some resort to drugging horses to force them to comply.
As a result, most people get mediocre results from their horses, said Parelli. He was in Salt Lake City Wednesday to promote his new book, "Natural Horse-Man-Ship," at an appearance at the Western apparel store A.A. Callister.
The appearance kicks off Parelli's U.S. tour, starting with a workshop to be conducted Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden. The workshop teaches the principles of Parelli's "Natural Horse-Man-Ship."
"It's so old it's new again," he said, referring to man's age-old relationship with horses. "The system is so simple even adults can do it."
The workshop begins with a two-hour video presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday. Beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, Parelli will demonstrate his techniques with an intermediate and advanced horse. Sunday, participants may bring their horses for hands-on training by Parelli. Sunday's session also begins at 9 a.m.
Parelli said he will challenge the participants to vote on the most unruly horse in the area and he will tame it before their eyes.
Parelli's 16-year-old horse Salty Doc is an example of his work. At their first encounter, the horse bared his teeth and bit Parelli's ankle on their maiden ride. "He wouldn't let go for five minutes."
But Parelli, who uses no mechanical or artificial means to force an animal to perform, eventually earned Salty Doc's trust.
Wednesday during a visit at the Utah State Fairpark, the horse quietly backed out of a horse trailer, hopped over a low-lying cable fence and followed Parelli to a field. There the now-docile horse assumed a most unnatural position for a horse, sitting like a dog.
"Salty had been trashed by three other trainers. This horse taught Pat a lot about being polite," said Linda Patterson, Parelli's partner.
For more information on the workshops, call 1-800-642-3335.