Thursday, 5 April 2012

Parelli and the Learning Theory

As part of my behaviour module I have been asked to look further into Parelli and the learning theory behind it along with the habituation of the horse. I thought I would write a blog post into this as I research it!

Parelli is a type of training developed by Pat Parelli. It is a form of natural horsemanship and on their website it says "The Parelli approach is not to train horses, but to teach each horse owner to become his or her own horse trainer, and to succeed by building a relationship of trust with each horse". It seven different "games" that you carry out with your horse whilst training them. A long stick is often used during the training process.  I have never tried to use Parelli but it does look like an interesting way of training horses. Click here to go to their website.

Below is a video of what Parelli is like. This shows some of the in hand work along with a horse being ridden without a bridle and saddle (this is how they are often ridden in Parelli).

Learning theories look at how information is absorbed, processed and retained. Positive reinforcement is when a reward is given when the horse gives the desired response, giving a treat is an example of this. Negative reinforcement is when a negative stimuli such as pressure is removed when the horse gives the desired response. An example of this would be applying pressure to the hind quarters of a horse in order to move them around then releasing the pressure as they move around. Negative reinforcement is often used when training horses to be ridden. Punishment may also be given as feedback in some cases in order to try to prevent a horse performing that behaviour again.

Habituation is when there is a decrease in a behaviour that is seen as a response to a repeated encounter with a stimulus. Therefore this is the horse "getting used to" things such as wearing a head collar or becoming less spooked by objects it sees on the yard on a day to day basis.

When applying these things to how Parelli works the following things can be noted;

  • Parelli say that the do not use reward or punishment. They do however say they use positive and negative reinforcement. Their positive reinforcement is rubbing the horse and their negative reinforcement is applying pressure. There seems to be a fine line between positive reinforcement and reward. On the Parelli website it states that a reward comes after the event whereas positive reinforcement is more immediate.
  • Parelli uses habituation a lot, for example, game 1 is the friendly game and during this, the stick is used to stroke all over the horse so they become used to being touched all over their body. 

Have any of you any experience with Parelli and would you recommend it?

Love Laura


HammersArk said...

My mother taught me if I don't have anything nice to say to say nothing at all. So all I will say is that the theories are basically sound but you can get a more real view of natural horsemanship by following a different training program that isn't focused on just selling you as much crap as is possible. I personally prefer John Lyons.

Laura said...

Lol, yes they do seem to try and make as money as possible out of it all!

Louisa Valentina; said...

Hmm.. really interesting post! I've never really looked into Parelli, because I feel like so many people (including myself, at times) know about his concepts in a light, heard-through-the-grapevine way, and dismiss them early on. I do agree with HammersArk though, that Parelli seems to be all about the money in a lot of ways. It would be SO COOL to sit down in class and actually study the theories more in-depth - super jealous of you.

What is your take on the Parelli method - yay, or nay, or inbetween?

Clancy said...

I haven't used Parelli but did start with an Australian based program that seems to use many of the same techniques, and lots of emphasis on pressure-release and becoming the alpha. I have seen other people and horses do ok with it, but my gelding and I did not. He is one of those spooky stick in the mud horses who tend to give you the pressure back if you go a smidgeon too hard. I have had fantastic success with him using a program that uses positive rewards and almost no pressure and aims to develop a relationship based on peer attachment (horse buddies) rather than being the alpha (Friendship Training). We are still in the early stages of it but are developing a deep trust, and are both much more confident with each other.

Miranda said...

I guess I like some of what Parelli says and some of it just doesn't seem like it would work. And some of the Parelli people who following his teachings like its a way of life or death drive me crazy. My friend got verbally attacked by a Parelli rider bc during a jumper course he slapped him mare on the rear with his hand when she flat out refused a 18" jump and she clears 3'. She straight up told him it was abuse and that he was doing it wrong on a Facebook video. I have noticed many Parelli people are like this. I really like the idea of positive and negative reinforcement right away tho then rewarding after everything is done. Sorry for this if book I wrote.

Laura said...

I do like the natural horsemanship way of training (although I don't use it myself). I am on the fence with Parelli, it is hard to comment because I have never tried it but it seems there are a lot of gadgets involved when it could be much more simple. It has been really interesting reading everyone's comments though as it does seem most people have a negative view of it.

Laura said...

That sounds like a good way of training.I can't imagine Trooper would like the sort of training with becoming the alpha and using pressure. He is quite a strong character and would prefer to play! Friendship training sounds really nice!

Laura said...

Aww that's really bad. The amount of times I have had to give Trooper a slap for refusing jumps at a competition that he would have jumped fine at home (and often getting me eliminated at the first jump!). People shouldn't try to impose their way of training on others!

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