The methods of horse trainer Pat Parelli align with the central training principles espoused by the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES), British researchers report.
A pilot study conducted in Britain compared a selection of Parelli’s latest videos and written training materials with the society’s First Principles of Horse Training, which the organisation considers are essential for optimal welfare and training efficiency.
The society was set up to improve the science behind horse-human interactions. Its principles are widely recognized as being evidence-based and representing the essential elements for ethical equitation.
Parelli Natural Horsemanship was founded by Pat and Linda Parelli. The program focuses on equine psychology and communication skills.
The findings of the pilot study conducted by University of Nottingham researcher Dr Steve North and his colleagues were presented at the recent ISES Conference in Saumur, France.
The study team used two methods to check for compliance with the ISES principles in the Parelli materials.
First, video clips were watched by four observers, two of whom had knowledge of the Parelli system and two equitation scientists. Frequency counts were logged for observed examples of each ISES principle.
Second, the actual language used in the Parelli teaching materials, both written and video, was analyzed using a linguistic method applied in fields such as medicine and politics.
Both approaches found the Parelli teaching materials to be in line with ISES training principles.
Measured agreement between the video observers was excellent, at 88%. The overall outcome was that, in 82% of the observations focusing just on behaviours addressed by the ISES Principles, Parelli was in alignment with the 10 principles, with no individual principle scoring less than 60% compliance.
North, a computer science researcher, is interested in the interactions between horses, humans and technology.
“Agreeing that there are common principles of good horse training across many systems, irrespective of whether the students wear jeans or jodhpurs, is big step towards identifying and protecting shared values. This can only benefit the horse,” he said.
Co-author Dr Andrew McLean, a noted international expert on horse training and equitation science, sat on the panel that drew the ISES Principles together.
McLean, a founder and current honorary fellow of ISES, said in a recent interview: “The Parelli methodology does very much align with the [ISES] principles… a very strong alignment.
He continued: “I hope that this innovative step for Parelli Natural Horsemanship provides an incentive for other methods and equestrian federations to do the same.”
The language analysis expertise in the study was provided by Professor Ann Hemingway and Dr Caroline Ellis-Hill, both from Bournemouth University.
The pilot study used a method that could be used for further analysis of the Parelli system as well as other horsemanship approaches, including comparisons. Increasing both the amount of data analysed and the number of individuals rating the material would increase the robustness, the researchers said.
The ISES work will be republished in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. The authors are currently working on a more detailed paper for journal publication.
Steve North, Ann Hemingway, Andrew McLean, Harriet Laurie and Caroline Ellis-Hill. 2016. Evaluating a natural horsemanship program in relation to the ISES first principles of horse training. In proceedings of The 12th International Society for Equitation Science Conference (ISES2016). June 23-25. IFCE (Institut Français du Cheval et de L’équitation), Saumur, France.