Pat Parelli and National Geographic
The scene was reminiscent of the days of yesteryear, when the sounds of "Hi Ho Silver! Away!" and the rumbling of hooves came booming over our television sets.
But this time, some 40 years later, the sound of thundering hooves came from Pat Parelli and his six-person band of Natural Horse-Man-Ship instructors. They were rounding up a group of mustangs from the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, guiding them into pens in the middle of their desert homeland so the horses could be tested as part of a research project.
It was no small feat. "They know this area like the back of their hooves," Pat commented on these sturdy horses. "They can negotiate this territory at just about any speed, and we're on horses that don't know any of it." The Parelli group gathered the herd by galloping along the top of a ridge, jumping gullies and cactus, until they guided the mustangs to the edge of the mesa where the horses could be driven to the pens - off a dramatic precipice, over a steep, rocky trail down to the valley, then traversing miles of desert to a canyon catch-pen. All the while, a helicopter hovered overhead - often spurring the mustangs to places other than where Pat wanted them to go. But all was well - the horses were safe and the cameraman in the helicopter managed to get incredible shots!
Once the herd neared the pens, Pat and one of his mentors, Ronnie Willis, quietly moved the horses around (as in the Squeeze Game Pat teaches in his Partnership Program) until they settled. The Laguna Indians, residents too of this desert land, watched with great interest, as did the crew from National Geographic. The next challenge was to get the horses to calmly accept human presence and partnership - again part of the Parelli Program used for all horses, domestic or wild.
By the third day, many of the mustangs were saddled and ridden without incident. On the fourth day, a veterinarian was able to draw blood on the mustangs - an event he had been dreading. But he was amazed at how quiet the horses were, commenting, "They're calmer than most of my customers' tame horses!" With Pat at the side of each horse, making sure the animal was mentally and emotionally ready for the needle, the veterinarian drew blood to send to the University of Kentucky for DNA testing to determine whether this particular band of horses is genetically linked to the first horses brought to this country from Spain.
The release of the horses was a beautiful, inspiring sight. The mustangs were ridden bareback into the valley in halters, and one by one, turned loose. They lingered for a while, grazing, and then slowly ambled back into the wild of their homeland.
The National Geographic Explorer special featuring these four days aired on November 26 on CNBC at 8 p.m. (EST). Call National Geographic Explorer to find out about repeat performances. For more information on Parelli Natural Horse-Man-Ship, call (800) 642-3335.
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