Born in California’s Bay Area, Pat Parelli was obsessed with horses at an early age. When Pat was just 13, a horseman and trapper named Freddie Ferrera of Livermore, California, recognized Pat’s talents with horses and took him under his wing. During the summers he would teach him valuable lessons about how to be more natural with horses, dogs, cattle, and nature itself.
Pat’s horse career began with working in stables at age 9. If there were horses, Pat would be there, enthusiastically helping with whatever he could, ears open for every drop of information. He even started to develop his own ideas about raising foals and training horses, an unusual thing for a young boy.
At the age of 17, Pat Parelli launched himself into rodeos, his favorite event being the bareback riding. A natural, with a good coach in John Hawkins, Pat won the Bareback Rookie of the Year title in 1972, his buck-off average just 4%. Watching many rodeo athletes trying to move on, Pat was determined to find life after rodeo.
A career in training horses seemed logical and he started a business that concentrated on starting colts. However, like many trainers before him, it wasn’t long before the pattern of equine and financial frustration set in and Pat found himself on the verge of getting out of horses altogether. He also resisted the idea that horse training should treat horses like inanimate objects.
Then three significant events changed his life:
Through Tony Ernst, Pat learned about inner power and the Kung Fu principles of discipline, body control, and mind-body mastery. Troy Henry opened up a whole new world to Pat by helping him understand horses’ mental and emotional processes as prey animals as well as the true dynamics of horsemanship and how they applied to performance horses.
The mules taught Pat the importance of reverse psychology, the principle of safety and comfort as the only real incentives, and developed in him more savvy on how to get a prey animal to “want” to perform. They also taught him about patience! In 1980, Pat founded The American Mule Association.
Being an intense student of horses and horsemanship, Pat had begun to develop his own style of teaching and expanding these principles. He also became interested in showing reined cow horses and was successful in reining and cutting events with both horses and mules.
One of the greatest frustrations Pat experienced in training horses was handing them back to their owners who often had a noticeable lack of skill and understanding. He found that if the rider didn’t have enough savvy, the horses would regress. After much soul searching he finally decided that he couldn’t go on just training horses, he had to find a way to help people become more savvy with horses.
Pat discovered that he had a natural talent in finding the right words to explain what he understood about horses. So he turned his attention to helping people instead of horse training. He began to give “lessons” but had no idea that one day he would be able to help people on a much larger scale.
In 1983, while performing bridleless at the California Livestock Symposium, Pat met three men who significantly contributed to his horsemanship knowledge: Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Ronnie Willis – all masters who became Pat’s mentors.
A few years later the world’s leading equine behaviorist, Dr R. M. Miller, observed one of Pat’s bridleless demonstrations and recognized that Pat’s concepts aligned strongly with his own philosophies on influencing the horse’s mind and on foal imprinting. He predicted that by the time Pat Parelli reached age 40, he would have become one of the best horsemen and teachers the world had known.
When we look at Pat’s life now – with Parelli Natural Horsemanship centers on three continents and hundreds of thousands of students the world over – we see that Linda and Pat Parelli are fulfilling the Parelli goal of inspiring the world of horse training for horses and the people who love them.
Dreams Do Come True!