Despite still waiting for my official recognition, I feel great and excited. I guess I'd better reevaluate my schedule and find more sustained horse time again...remember I planned on getting through most of level 3 this year? It is mid-August and the snow flies early here, lol.
Anyhow, back to the article. Regina Perciado of California wrote a lovely article called, The Last Lonely Barn. It is all about how students feel and what they do when asked about PNH. I was interviewed via email back in June by Regina. Now that the article has come out, I decided to share my complete Q&A...enjoy.
Question: How do we encourage newbies and get them started without stepping over the line into instruction?
Answer: I believe that how you define instruction certainly is key. What I do is to lead by example. This is not only when I an interacting with horses (whether mine or someone else's) but, when I talk about horsemanship, when I write about it, and so forth. As an academic librarian (and director), I have a tendency to always back up what I am saying and doing with citations to resources. I try to point people in the direction of the learning materials and tools (Levels packs, Savvy Club Website, Parelli's Website, etc.) that will help them better understand Parelli Natural Horsemanship. This is not something that could be taught overnight and to me is a life-long journey of learning and discovery. If a newbie asks for a demonstration with my horses, I am willing to show people how I play with my horses and will describe what I am doing, if asked. I point them to the resources as noted before to learn more, and encourage them to join the Savvy Club. Ive been asked by many, many people to train their horses and to train them. I don't do it because I believe it is a learning process that they must be willing to dedicate themselves to (mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially) and me doing to for them wastes my horse time and helps no one (including the horse). That said, I'll play with someone else's horse and talk about my experience with them but, I don't believe this is instruction.
Question: When you had a Parelli study group, did you find that people in higher levels tried to coach the lower levels? How well did people follow Linda's request that students not teach students?
Answer: The Parelli groups that I ran primarily had pre-level 1, level 1, and level 2 people (as well as some just interested in natural horsemanship but not necessarily Parelli---although the groups' missions were Parelli-centric). I tended to be the person with the most experience, dedication, and resources as well as the creator of the group and leader. I did set up play dates and the like to encourage us to play and study together. However, I stuck to my principle that they must learn and do for themselves as this is not a passive sport. I believe that people need to be engaged and invested in their own educations. Overall, students would try to help each other but more often than not, they were doing this through group study and exploration using Pat and Linda's instructional materials and tools as the primary aids.
Question: At what level are we ready to give a basic lesson to someone brand-new to natural horsemanship or new to Parelli? What about a demo at a local horse event or a normal barn?
Answer: This is a difficult question to answer. First, I have to say that not everyone is a good teacher, no matter what they know (or think they know). And to me, a good teacher needs to also be a good leader (another trait not innate to all). I think that we can share what we are studying to anyone should we choose but, if it is for the purpose of a demo, instruction, or other formal program, a student should be able to show those things that are one level below them with the clear and announced caveat that they are students and that if the spectators want to know more and really learn, they need to invest the time and energy to actually go out and learn, join the Savvy Club, purchase the appropriate tools and educational materials, and make a commitment.
Question: Is it okay for a PNH student to show a newbie how you play the 7 games with your own horse and describe each game? Why or why not?
Answer: If a PNH student has passed level 1, the should be able to show and talk about the 7 games but I am not convinced that all could properly do so. Once again, everyone is not a good teacher and despite good intentions, may not be the best ambassador to spread the PNH message. That said, most people cannot afford to travel to attend sessions on how to teach (myself included, I have a full-time career and many financial obligations that preclude me from many PNH events despite my level of interest and Savvy Club Gold member perks). I think that there should be a home-study course and test that people could take to enable them to teach at certain levels of the program. This would help make things more consistent (because we all know people are doing it anyway).
Question: What is an effective answer to "can you show me how to do that?" and "how do I do that with my horse?"
Answer: To me, an effective answer is to point them in the direction of the resources. I direct people to the Parelli website and levels packs as I believe those are the best tools for learning. I discuss the need to be engaged with their learning and the time and dedication it would take should the choose to go down this path. I don't show people how to do things because more often than not, they don't have the prerequisites to even begin to understand what I am talking about and most don't have to drive to follow-though. To me, a person is better served when lead to the source of information and knowledge. They don't need to know how to perform one task, they need to learn the philosophy, the psychology, and the techniques, they need a holistic approach which I believe Parelli offers.
Question: What arrows do we as new, excited Parelli students need to have in our quivers for those times at normal barns, shows, trails, etc. when someone asks us to teach them? Especially when we know that person is just asking and isn't necessarily ready to unlearn everything they already do and dedicate their lives to natural horsemanship -- when they are looking for a training technique and not a lifestyle.
Answer: The best answer to this is to not concern yourself with others and only worry about you and your horse. Lead by example, and be prepared to point someone in the direction of educational resources and tools. You cannot fix the world and cannot fix every horse and owner. Give them the path but make them walk it.