Category Archives: Recommendations & Reviews

Emotional Fitness

Pat and I had an awesome weekend in lovely, sunny Sydney – Share Parelli on Saturday and Savvy Summit on Sunday both went superbly! More on that to come, but first I wanted to share some thoughts I wrote down before the show about emotional fitness, such a critical aspect of good horsemanship:

On the flight to Australia, as we flew over Noumea, the air got pretty bumpy… some of the worst turbulence we’ve experienced in the last 20 years of flying all over the world.  Some years ago this would have scared me pretty badly but as I sat there bumping around for a good 30 minutes and more, it suddenly dawned on me that I was fine!

Why was I fine?  How did I suddenly get so emotionally fit in an airplane?  I trained my brain.

It’s all about what you focus on… and I have learned that I have a choice.  I can focus on fear and death, or I can focus on something else!

Because we humans have a frontal lobe on our brain we are capable of reason.  It also means that we can think about the future and can attach feelings to all kinds of things.  Animals are not like this, their brains are reptilian and mammalian.  Horses learn from the past but are 100% present.  Humans are not always “present”. We live in the past, we dream of the future… or to put it less productively, we bring baggage from the past and we scare ourselves by thinking “what if…?” in the future!  The way I cured myself of my flying phobias is that I stopped thinking of what could happen and I found a way to focus one hundred percent in the present… reading something intensely does it for me.

Emotional fitness is so important to our horsemanship.  And this is not just about fear of getting hurt by a horse, it’s about being conscious of how our feelings affect our horse.  Horses are such sentient beings, they are incredibly perceptive, they pick up and respond on feelings which is a large part of how they survive because in a herd they operate almost as if they have one nervous system.  Have you ever noticed how immediately the reaction of one horse spreads to the next, and within nanoseconds the whole herd is in flight?

As our horse’s leader, being in control of our feelings is critical because of the effect it can have.  And you can’t fake it, you really have to get more emotionally self-controlled!  Knowledge is confidence, but there’s a point at which you really have to work on yourself and discover ways to reorganize your own subconscious mind and emotional way of thinking.  There are some brilliant ways to do this and two of my favorites are NLP (Richard Bandler’s work on neuro-linguistic programming, the science of training your own brain) and the work of Anthony Robbins.  No matter what it is you want to change or overcome about how you operate, there is a way to do it and I know these work.

So think about this in terms of your horse.  Your horse will plug in to your emotions and if he is not attached enough to you, he will plug in to the other horse’s emotions… like at a show, a group trail ride, when the vet arrives, when you bring your horse to the Parelli Center… etc. etc!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “my horse is never like this at home!” But what would your horse say?  “My human is never like this at home!  I wonder why they are so keyed up?” ;)

Why don’t you make this next week all about observing your emotional fitness?  Don’t change anything just observe.  Become conscious of the emotional reactions you have to things that go on around you… and think about how that fuels your behavior.  And then please share what you discover.

Yours naturally,


Filed under Horsemanship, Philosophy, Recommendations & Reviews


Dear Friends,

Seeing Cavalia again, for the third time, was every bit as riveting as the first. What an incredible show and organization; it is inspiring on every level.

We were there for Pat’s birthday with his parents, Walter Zettl and his wife Heide, Patrick Handley (my co- creator of the Horsenality-Personality work), Julia Ryman (Parelli Instructor), Amy Book (now Bowers) and her husband Nate. Of course when we there, we met up with other Parelli students – some Savvy Club members and some Externs and Mastery Students. We also met up with Jeremy (one of the dolphin trainers from SeaWorld).

With Pat’s parents, Jack and Doris Parelli

With Pat’s parents, Jack and Doris Parelli

From Left to Right: Cavalia Creator Normand Latourelle, me, Pat, Heide Zettl, Walter Zettl, Benjamins's wife, Benjamin and their baby.

It got even more fun when Benjamin Aillaud, Equestrian Director of Cavalia, and Normand Latourelle, Cavalia’s owner and creator, showed us around the stables and explained all the complexities of the staging. It was just awe inspiring! I hope you get to see Cavalia, and if you’ve already been, you know what I’m talking about!

The highlight again for us was the liberty with nine horses (mostly Arabians) performed by Silvia Zerbini. She’s an eighth generation circus trainer and very, very good. If you want any inspiration for your liberty, you have to see this! During the stable tour she showed us a new black Arabian that she’s developing. Talk about Left-Brain Extrovert! He has a huge play drive and how she talks about teaching him was interesting – she said he is such a fast learner and very exuberant. Hmmmm, how interesting!

Yours Naturally,

Vinny helps Pat drive to Cavalia

Vinny helped us drive there!


Filed under Lifestyle, Recommendations & Reviews, Vinny