Natural horsemanship, in particular Parelli Natural Horsemanship, is a program by which people learn to communicate with their equine partners in a manner that the horse understands – their own language. Parelli Natural Horsemanship is not a horse training program, but a people-training program.  We find that once the human learns to ask the horse to do something in a way that the horse understands, suddenly the horse that was considered “bad” or “disrespectful” is more than willing to do what we ask.  Through the use of proper body language and positioning, we are able to get out of the horses’ way and allow them to do what we are asking of them.  Allowing the horse to perform the requested task, rather than demanding, is a very powerful aspect of this program.  It is also very helpful for me, as an equine massage therapist, to utilize these principles when approaching and touching a horse.  I find that horses are more willing to stand still for me if I let them move their feet a little bit when they are unsure.  And when utilizing the principles of approach and retreat can eventually work in an area of the horse’s body that he normally would not let someone touch.

This program also allows the human, as well as the horse, to have fun!  By utilizing the horses’ natural curiosity and play drive, we unlock the potential of these wonderful creatures.  By making our daily activities stimulating, both mentally and physically, horses that were once considered “dull” or “lazy” become animated and playful.  And through this utilization of playful camaraderie, we can develop a meaningful relationship with our horses. Through the study of Linda Parelli’s Fluidity concepts, we can learn how to collect the horse naturally, without any harsh mechanical contraptions.  We learn to get out of the horses’ way so they can do what we ask of them.  Through the use of simulations, we learn what our horses feel when we use certain cues and how our body posture can contribute to our horses willingness to do what we are asking.  Many times, a horse that is resistant, simply cannot do what we ask because we are blocking them with our bodies.  Our horses can be soft and willing under saddle, if we ask in an appropriate way that the horse can understand and then allow them to do it.

Poor saddle fit can cause huge problems for horses.  Horses that buck, rear, have no impulsion, too much impulsion, limited extension of the limbs, are bracey or stiff, etc., often times are simply reacting in the only way they can to convey their discomfort and/or pain caused by ill-fitting tack.  A major part of Linda Parelli’s fluidity concepts involves learning how to properly fit tack.  Learning how the horse’s body moves under the saddle and what can interfere with their movement is crucial to achieving optimum performance from the horse.  As an equine massage therapist studying these principles, through observation of the horse and rider, I can utilize what I have learned to help determine whether or not the source of a horse’s recurring problem might be ill-fitting equipment, or possibly an unbalanced rider.

I have found the study of natural horsemanship to be invaluable in my work as an equine massage therapist and very rewarding.  When an extremely introverted horse suddenly reaches out to me and nuzzles me with his nose or a mouthy horse with a tendency to bite has second thoughts about it while I’m performing a massage, is worth its weight in gold!  Gaining the trust and respect of these wonderful creatures leaves me with the feeling at the end of the day that I have done something worthwhile and hopefully helped a horse realize there is hope for us humans after all.

For more information on Parelli Natural Horsemanship, contact Christi Rains, 4-Star Parelli Natural Horsemanship Senior Instructor at  Or visit the Parelli website at