Monday, February 05, 2007

Worshipping At The Temple Of Mammon

Over at Bridlepath is this survey of psychic horses. EoR's favourite is Beautiful Jim Key, a horse that "even gives Bible quotations".

Hans, Lady Wonder and Jim Key exhibited, to an exquisite degree, the innate equine ability to observe and respond to nonverbal behaviour. "Horse whisperers" have built their fortunes on exploiting this ability as if it were a new discovery, ignoring centuries of horse training tradition which say the same thing.

Natural Horsemanship salesmen also exploit every other opportunity to sell their products. EoR recently came across this advertisement for the UK Parelli Conference (click for larger image):

Parelli ad

Two hearts. Two minds. Two days. One vision. Linda and Pat Parelli. Live. Love, Language and Leadership and a revolution in the heart and mind of every Horse Lover.

Apart from an idiosyncratic approach to capitalisation, it's interesting that it's all about a "Vision". The tagline at the bottom conveys a religious fervour in its earnest imprecation:

Where will YOU be?

It's like Pat making his proclamation of his evangelical revivalist World Crusade in the grand tradition of Billy Graham:

Choruses! Dynamic Preaching! Instrumental Numbers! Solos!

Or the harrowing question from fundamentalist true believers who live in constant expectation of the rapture (and if Parelli's showmanship is about anything, it appears to be about engendering "rapture" in his customers while emptying their wallets). Such as ("The most soul searching question that can be asked of a person is: 'Where will you be for all eternity?'"), Sword of the Lord ("Where will you be after the rapture?"), bad poets ("Where will you be, / Will you fall on your knees"), witnesses ("Where Will You Be--When the Lights Go Down?"), and many more.

The conference sounds heavy going:

You will laugh, you will cry, and you will learn

EoR is also amused to see that

International Conferences are unique opportunities to see Linda & Pat Parelli in action

EoR could understand one International Conference being unique, but not a whole series of them.

As further evidence of Parelli's cult-like status, the Parelli homepage offers, amongst other things, the "Master's Secrets Revealed" (only $450 - save $300!). It's like morsels of wisdom being dispensed (for a hefty fee, of course) from the head of millenial cult. The true acolyte, the committed devotee, must own all of the merchandise (the "special" whips (that aren't whips), the "special" halters (that aren't halters), the books, the DVDs, the manuals etc etc), attend all of the events, worship constantly at the feet of the master, or face the fear of not being considered a true follower or maybe even a heretic.

As if that's not enough to make you a super-loving-enlightened-friend-of-all-horses, then you obviously haven't also bought your paving stone in the Parelli World Center Walk of Honor. You can get one of these simply by giving Pat a "gift" of $250, $500 or $1000. Isn't Pat helpful, in even specifying exactly how much your "gift" should be? Unfortunately, that "gift" isn't actually a gift:

Not tax deductable. Please realize you will not get a donation deduction as a result of your gift. This is a true gift - out of the kindness of your heart! Please consult with your tax adviser regarding the need to file a gift tax return.

So, it's a "gift" in the sense that spending your money to buy something useless is a "gift" to the person raking in all the money. $1000 for a paving stone? So, once the bit of stone's paid for, where does the rest of that money go? What for? Who cares, it's a gift!


  1. I'm glad you picked upon that aspect of the article. ;) I keep mulling over an idea for a blog post on the 'straw man' of natural horsemanship, which would probably get me no end of hatred. I'm sick to death of hearing about these gurus and how they're REVOLUTIONINZING horse training. Tom Dorrance (the original 'horse whisperer', though he never called himself that) and others were quietly using these methods for years; it wasn't until the eeevil Monty Roberts decided it was worth marketing that the 'revolution' began. It's not really a revolution, folks; it's just marketing. Drives me crazy. I really like how you've tied the whole movement in with the language of evangelism; it certainly does have that feel and I suspect there's a real overlap in audience. Some trainers, like John Lyons, mix in an explicit Christian message, which is probably fine for some people but doesn't sit well with this overeducated Canadian. ;) Other trainers dress their message up with new age, Oprah-friendly drivel, like GaWaNi Pony Boy and his "Indian" training. Of course, there's a full line of GaWaNi books, CDs, DVDs, saddles, logo clothing...

  2. Yep! Can't be a real natural horseperson without all the ancillary merchandising.

    It's also a bit like Scientology. They get you in and then you spend the rest of your life spending to constantly improve your holiness.

  3. Mmm, 13,000 paving slabs. At a minimum of $250 per slab... Mammon will be well pleased. Though not half as pleased as the Parellis!

  4. Yah Parelli is all about the hype nowadays, putting on a fancy show without actually telling you HOW to get from point A to point B in your training. I used to live near his old ranch in central CA and audited a clinic there, back when he was just a good ol' boy getting started in this thing, and when auditing was free! I bought his "Level 1" pack about 7 years ago and found it extremely difficult to follow, there was practically no instruction in it, i.e what are the exact steps needed to achieve the result?

    I borrowed some Lyons tapes from a friend, of a clinic, fast forwarded through literally hours of blah-blah-blah where he talked philosophy at the audience without giving them any usable info. Speaking of philosophy, yah Dorrance etc were some of the early users of these methods, but did you ever read Dorrance's book True Unity? All airy-fairy philosophy, "make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult", but no actual instructions on HOW to do that!

    Have seen some Monty Roberts on TV and he is the same, saying cutesy things to the audience, again without actually telling them what to do to achieve the results.

    In contrast, Clinton Anderson gives you everything. In his shows on RFD-TV he goes through entire training sessions with different horses, concisely detailing out exactly what you need to do to achieve the training result, including troubleshooting. Sure you can buy his DVDs, he has them for sale too, but if you can record the TV shows, everything is on there. Unlike the other trainers who aren't about to give away anything. Clinton knows he can give away the information because people are still going to buy his DVDs for forever-reference (I'll never resell mine!). He is an excellent communicator and also excels at training PEOPLE how to train their horses.

    And unlike Pat Parelli, he still personally teaches clinics instead of delegating the grunt work to disciples. I'm going to audit a clinic of his next weekend and expect to take many pages of notes.


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