Center That Believes in Youth and Natural Horsemanship
by Joan Reinbott
A Parelli Foundation donation of halters, Level 1 kits, and $500 delighted the Heritage Community, a residential treatment center for adolescents in Provo, Utah. Former Licensed Parelli Professional and Utah resident Lillan Roquet brought six staff members up to Level 2 in all-day clinics with their therapy horses. The scholarship even allowed instructors to submit audition videos to Parelli Natural Horsemanship to mark their progress.
“It has been great to see their interest and understanding of the Parelli program take off, and now I see how much they are appreciating the program,” said Chelsea Best, Equestrian Manager and avid attendee of annual Savvy Summits in Colorado. “We have noticed that our horses have been happier, more curious, and better at puzzle solving. Our students have also become very interested in learning how to work with their favorite horses on the ground and are continuing to improve their horsemanship skills and, more importantly, their relationship with their horses.”
Some students have a history of abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, difficulty building healthy relationships, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or mood disorders, and others are on the autism spectrum. “It is amazing to see how much they benefit from working with horses,” Best said. “Seeing our kids learn about how their horses feel and trying to build positive, healthy relationships with their horses is incredibly rewarding. As the kids start to see positive changes and responses in their horses, their confidence grows, their relationships deepen, they develop and better understand what it means to trust, their attitudes soften, and they become proud of their horses and the things they have accomplished. It is inspiring to see. The Parelli program has helped to empower many of our students. Kids who struggle to make it through each day come out to our barn and thrive. They love the feelings they get when they spend time with our horses, and that helps them get through their day and do better in their therapy programs all around.”
For example, one boy arrived frustrated and angry. He was born abroad, spent time in an orphanage, and suffered trauma. Best explained: “He had never had the opportunity to be around horses, but when given the opportunity at Heritage, he decided to try. It wasn’t long after that he started to truly appreciate and enjoy his time working with the horses. He felt drawn to one of the horses in our program that was a lot like him.” That Paint gelding, Scout, was fearful and untrusting of people.
“I started to teach this student the Parelli program, and we talked about how he needed to become a leader for his horse,” said Best. “He needed to help his horse feel safe and trust him so that they could accomplish important tasks together. Throughout his stay at Heritage, this student developed a great relationship with Scout and was able to help him accomplish huge tasks—like going over a jump, touching a tarp, and squeezing through barrels. It took a lot of patience and understanding, but in the end, this student was able to figure out things about himself, his own past trauma, and how he wanted to move forward with his life. It truly was a beautiful thing to behold, and the horse and human were both better because of it.”
The well-being of Scout and his herd mates was emphasized early on by Roquet. In response, Best said: “I feel like this has definitely been the case. Therapy horses do a lot of hard work! The use of the Parelli program has helped my staff to better understand and connect with our horses, and it has made life more fun and interesting for our horses. We want to prevent burnout and feel that this program is definitely helping to make our barn a happy, safe place for our equine partners. It feels like a very healthy program for our barn.”
As the experience winds down, Best reflected: “We will be sad to have it end, as it has been a tremendous source of happiness and learning for us! We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and grow in the Parelli program this year. What an awesome grant! We feel so lucky!”
Well worth your time of about 3 minutes is a video of the above in action: