Who I Lost Because of Parelli

Little did I know that when I began the Parelli Program I would lose someone very close to me because of it.  Slowly, as the months wore on and I became further immersed in the Parelli culture, the distance between us increased.  She said she didn’t know me anymore, didn’t like my day to day choices.  I said I didn’t know her anymore either, I couldn’t understand her weakness and close minded attitude.  When all was said and done, I didn’t lose her to illness or death or from a move to another state.  I lost her because I decided to grow and she didn’t.  I lost her because of Parelli.  The person that I lost… was me.

I’ve had a lot of first experiences this year that have put me outside of my comfort zone (like really far!) and, at times, I was downright terrified, fearing for my life.  I’ve been in uncomfortable situations where although my mortality wasn’t on the line, my self-confidence or my ego was.  I recently wrote a blog called Leadership, Rock Climbing, and Horses in which I talk about a climb that I was very, very scared to do.  In that moment, instead of quitting, I assured myself that the discomfort I was experiencing was good for my emotional fitness and that I should keep going.  Following that statement, I immediately credited Parelli for giving me that tool; the ability to have the insight to know when I was doing something outside of my comfort zone that would ultimately propel me into self-development and personal growth (usually followed by a very good night’s sleep!).  The me that I lost all those years ago would have never even gone rock climbing. And if she had decided to go climbing in a moment of madness or confusion, would have certainly given up in the face of paralyzing fear and lowered herself back to earth, never to rock climb again.  
The me that I lost all those years ago would not have been brave enough to embrace her role as learner and to seize the opportunity when it came time to ride in front of Pat Parelli.  She would have doubted her skills, her worthiness to exist with a horse in front of a horseman of that caliber.  She would have found an excuse not to go, silently regretting it, and wishing she was a better, braver girl.

The me that I lost all those years ago would have never gotten back into horses after having a bad accident on a colt where she lost all confidence and in its place pain and fear grew rampant.
I am sure you can see why I had to let her go, why we went our separate ways.  The old me was only committed to things that felt safe and weren’t too scary or uncomfortable.  The old me didn’t push her personal boundaries.  It’s important you know though that the old me wasn’t a quitter, because you can’t quit something when you refuse to even try!

Horses are herd animals and with that comes a natural born need for an established hierarchy.  Horses are looking for a leader; a horse with a plan that is smarter, braver, more athletic, and savvier than they are.  They vote every day to see which horse has earned the right to be responsible for the entire herd’s survival and well being.  As humans we have it a bit tougher than that.  First, we must prove that while we are predators, we won’t act like one.  Second, we must then earn our horse’s vote for alpha by showing them our worth to their survival and basic needs of safety, comfort, and play.  I can tell you right now that the old me was not leadership material.  Leaders need to have self-confidence, a plan, an unwavering belief in what they’re doing and what they’re asking their horse to do.  I had none of those… but as I journeyed through the Parelli Program, Level by Level, I began to transform.

The greatest gift Parelli has given me has been the ability to diagnose a situation that I am in, whether with my horse or with other people.  Once you know what’s really happening you have the power to shape what’s going on, to change things for the better.  As I learned to master the art of diagnosis I could make faster, more powerful changes for my horse, but I also gained the insight to realize when something simply wasn’t about me (after all, one of Parelli’s core values is don’t take things personal), or that I may be uncomfortable in the short term but would gain personal growth in the long term.  I began to look at life and start asking questions:  Is my horse disrespectful or fearful?  Is that person angry at me or upset by something else?  Am I really going to die on this rock wall or is this a fear that is not actually real?  Once you have an understanding of what is really going on you are in control of your situation.

Yes, that's Pat Parelli behind me! / photo: Coco

Last night, at our employee lesson with Pat, he hosted a mini Parelli Games event for us.  He set up two courses, Liberty and FreeStyle.  Liberty is my best Savvy with Aspen while FreeStyle is our most challenging.  I regret to say that we didn’t seize the moment with a “go big or go home!” attitude; we went the safe route with Liberty.  We had a great time, Aspen was spectacular, and we left feeling very good and happy.  But as I sat in bed last night I began to feel a little disappointed in myself.  Why hadn’t I stepped out of my comfort zone and attempted the FreeStyle course?  What had held me back?  Why hadn’t I embraced my role as learner in that environment and tried something I believed would be a challenge?  I regretted letting my worry about my competency in front of Pat Parelli, fellow instructors, students, and co-workers get in the way.  So rather than worry about it for a moment longer I decided to make a change!  

Because of my diagnostic skills gained from Parelli, as well as the development of my emotional and mental fitness, I was quickly able to assess the situation and improve upon it, embracing my experience and deciding how to make it better for next time.  So, you can count on seeing Aspen and I riding FreeStyle in the Parelli Games the very next time the opportunity presents itself.  

Our group with Pat Parelli after we finished the Parelli Games. / photo: Coco

The old me, had she had the guts to bring her horse out in front of Pat at all, would have certainly sweated at the thought of even trying out her best Savvy in front of him, thanked the Lord when it was over, and the thought would have never crossed her mind to try her worst Savvy the next time.  Thank goodness the old me and I parted ways, she clearly did not have my best interest in mind.    

So, I credit Parelli with the loss of my old self.  The part of me that was afraid to try new things, afraid to try anything because she feared she might fail.  I’m so glad she’s gone and in her place stands a proactive me that takes ownership for my life story and how it unfolds.  May it be a good one, an adventurous one, one full of growth and learning!