Foundation Before Specialization or, Walk before you Run
From his days studying martial arts, Parelli recognized that there are levels of proficiency in any endeavor, including Natural Horsemanship, with different skillsets developed at each level. Parelli utilizes this concept to set up his horsemanship program into levels as well. Over the years, the Parelli™ organization has created several sets of the Parelli Levels curriculum, all of which I enjoy, as I like to see the development and progressive distillation of the ideas. The first level package I trained with in 1999 included a VCR tape, pocket guides and an audio CD, which I still watch and listen to today. I am particularly a fan of the “red” Level 1 materials from 2004 and the “blue” Level 2 materials from 2005. These particular sets contain a wealth of theory and other information contributing to the learning process, material I reference often when working with new Equine Specialists or mental health professionals. The newest version is a combination of the Level 1 and 2 pack (2009) The Parelli™ home study material evolved over the years. Any of these packs, old or new, can improve your knowledge skills and effectiveness as a horseperson.
Parelli’s Level 1 material focuses on basic safety with horses and deconstructs traditional beliefs and approaches to horsemanship. Level 2 focuses on developing confidence with horses, and reworks and reframes basic principles, marrying it to deeper, more intangible theory before bringing knowledge back to wholeness. As students finish the more definitive skills in Level 1 and enter the more theory-based aspects of Level 2, the adult-learner information provided by Dr. Stephanie Burns in the 2004-2005 versions explains the different ways people access and assimilate information, from beginning to middle to end. Dr. Burns’ learning theory helps students anticipate and survive this critical “middle” portion of the learning cycle.
Key ideas addressed in the Parelli/Burns system, such as supporting the learner in the “beginning, middle, and end” of the learning process, and “crossing the ‘silly’ bridge” (getting past how inept we appear during our learning phases and our accompanying self-consciousness), were missing from other Natural Horsemanship programs. Not only is there a plan to help students progress, there’s also an integration of deep thought into Parelli™ instructors, videos, written materials and live events help people through the learning process. Other practitioners have started outing these same kinds of levels, systems and processes into place for their methods, but they seem to lack this deeper awareness of the adult learner and the potential impacts of varied learning styles.
From transforming concepts and theory into memorable material, i.e., the Seven Games™, the Eight Principles, and Horsenality™, to providing this material in a way that supports various learning styles --- auditory, visual, or tactile--- Parelli™ sets people up for success in a manner that has not been accomplishes by anyone else.