Horses Helping Humans: Parelli and Therapeutic Horsemanship

On August 22-24th, I was privileged to attend this event, put on by the Parelli Education Institute, and hosted by Instride, LLC in Nokomis, FL. This was designed to bring together Parelli Professionals interested in contributing to therapeutic horsemanship, and therapeutic horsemanship facilitators who were interested in learning how Parelli Natural Horsemanship could improve the quality of their services. The event was led by Donna Blem, Executive Director of InStride which provides Hippotherapy to the community, and Shannon Knapp of Horse Sense of the Carolinas, which offers Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL). Both of these women set exemplary models of how to combine the values of Parelli Natural Horsemanship with their therapeutic offerings.

The first two days were spent introducing the Parelli Professionals to the different modalities of therapeutic horsemanship. This included Therapeutic Riding, and Hippotherapy, which are both mounted, Trauma Focused EAP, which combines unmounted and mounted, and the EAGALA model, which is unmounted. There is also a branch of therapeutic horsemanship that teaches clients life skills directly through horsemanship. We were able to watch demos of each of these, ask questions, and even try some of them ourselves. Initially, the interest from the Parelli Instructors was to gain knowledge of the industry so that they could best support their local therapeutic institutions with horsemanship instruction. By the end of the two days, almost all of the Parelli Professionals were inspired to learn more about one or more of the modalities and become service providers themselves!

The last two days we were joined by therapeutic facilitators from around the country. We began with a presentation of the principles upon which Parelli is based. As we went through these, which have applications beyond horsemanship, heads were nodding all around the room and stories were shared that highlighted the shared vision of PNH and therapeutic horsemanship. Dawn Roth, 3 Star Parelli Instructor presented the 7 games and Horsenality, which was found to be helpful in selecting horses and in developing volunteer training curriculum. Donna Blem's happy and fit horses really made an impression on the quality that can be achieved when the horse is honored as a true partner in the process. Partnership is an integral part of the Parelli program.

A spirit of camaraderie and support was felt by all in attendance. The Parelli mission is to make the world a better place for horses and humans. I believe that a new depth can be revealed to this mission when the worlds of natural horsemanship and therapeutic horsemanship come together.