A generous sponsor meets incredible talent, heart, and desire. The Parelli Foundation Youth Scholarship Program is under way.
By Shannon South
Watching young people play with horses teaches us about the naturalness and intuitiveness that we slowly lose as we age. It is a time when natural horsemanship is already built into human nature, and communication comes simply and easily. The confidence to simply play, while listening and conversing without the use of spoken words, is the freedom we all seek to find as adults. Children, like horses, are sponges and can absorb learning so effortlessly, so quickly…that it takes far less time than for those of us attempting the same learning as adults.
The Parelli Foundation recognized the need to promote natural horsemanship to the youth in our world. These young people will be the ones to pass on the message of love, language, and leadership to generations beyond where we stand right now. In early 2015, the Parelli Foundation launched a pilot project for its “Future of Horsemanship.” The program’s three phases focus on recognizing and supporting talented and motivated young people, to help them achieve their dreams with horses and, in the process, create cornerstones for the vision of making the world a better place for horses and humans. Youth accepted into the program are paired with a generous scholarship donor, who covers the costs of helping these talented young people achieve Level 4 and beyond in performance and/or in becoming a Parelli Professional.
After an audition process that included a video and written submission, the first youth to enter the program was 11-year-old Anna Workman, from the Bay area of California. Anna began dreaming about horses when she was about seven. Without the financial resources to purchase a horse for Anna, her mother, Wendy, began to search for a local barn that would simply allow Anna to “be” with horses. Anna craved time to just sit and study horses interacting with each other, and to observe horse relationships with humans. It took awhile to find a barn that met her needs, and one where her brother could work to defray the cost of Anna playing with horses. Luckily, Anna ended up at Deb Cooper’s Natural Horsemanship Center in Santa Cruz. With a barn full of PNH-trained horses (many of them rescues), Anna had the best equine teachers available. She began to file away what she saw, and she soon learned to identify the different Horsenalities and differentiate the individual likes and dislikes each horse had for handling, training, and sports.
“At first I was very scared to ride, and felt more comfortable on the ground. My mom kept telling me that I didn’t have to do this, just because I had a dream, but I knew this is where I belonged. She didn’t push me to ride and gave me space. I liked to watch the horse and how its body moved; I was comfortable doing that and couldn’t get enough of it. Sometimes frustrated (by the pressure from other adults), I would sit on the stepping stool and cry under my helmet. “ ~ Anna
Slowly she gained confidence in the horses available to her. With Squiggy and Jade, both PNH-developed horses, she rapidly progressed to bareback and bridleless riding and jumping. Anna’s mother, Wendy, says, “After watching her older videos (2012 and 2013), I can see the horses she was with taught her so much.”
Anna was introduced to Parelli by a feed store that supplied her with a DVD, and she was very quickly determined to become part of a program based on the study of horse behavior. Anna says of Jade, “I trusted him with all my heart, and we started riding together bridleless. He recently passed away; I will never forget him. He taught me so much. I felt like I knew Pat Parelli through this horse. People kept telling me I was too young to join the program.”
In 2014, Anna’s mother, brother, and sister joined together to buy her a horse. Dazzle was a bargain because she had failed her reining training and was difficult to handle. Anna and her horse partner, Dazzling Grace (Dazzle), were selected as the first-ever youth in the pilot of the Future of Horsemanship youth scholarship program! Anna and Dazzle passed the auditions needed to qualify for the program with scores of On Line 2++ and Freestyle 3++.
Anna is a kind, caring, generous spirit with big goals for the future: “I want to start a career helping horses be the best that they can be, and teaching people how to understand the horses. My goal is to eventually compete in all disciplines. There isn’t one I like better than the other; I love them all equally. I have overcome so many obstacles and proven that by not giving up and working hard, dreams do come true. I sometimes get discouraged, and I know that with this education, I will have better tools to help through these times.” ~ Anna
Anna is already impacting the world with her natural relationship with horses. She is the perfect beginning to the Parelli Foundation’s Future of Horsemanship program that is just beginning to make the world a better place for horses and humans!
For more information about the Future of Horsemanship program, go to https://parellifoundation.org//programs/youth-horsemanship/.
Author’s Note: The grace, freedom, and beauty that Anna and her horse Dazzle exhibit together have truly inspired my own journey with horses. Her confidence in her own abilities and the trust she has with her horse is something that many of us struggle to achieve as adults. Anna and youth like her have so much to offer, and will create a world where each of us becomes a better horseman. Thank you, Anna!