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April, 2011

Shall we do handsprings together? Spring has finally, definitely shown its hand here in Minnesota and other northern states. Hooray!! Some of you have been experiencing for several weeks the elixir of softened air, re-emergent colors and sounds, fragrant smells. I have come to love the smell of mud and the sight of the bare, brown ground! The horse hair is flying thick and fast here; shagginess will soon be replaced by shine. The riding/horse-playing season is in full swing where ever you live. I hope you're taking advantage of learning opportunities here and there, whether play days with your buddies, lessons and clinics with Parelli Professionals, or plans for travel to the Parelli Centers in Florida and Colorado. Or all three!


With that in mind, the focus this month is on two things: answering a wonderful question from PJ in Hawaii which relates to a continuation of last month's Can You? and on bringing to life the clinic experience. As I write this from the Detroit airport, between flights from Minneapolis to White Plains, NY I'm especially aware of what instruction from a Parelli Professional can mean to students. Just last week it was a delightful group of women friends in central Florida who were inspiring me with their dedicati��on to learning, love of their horses and each other, and their good humor through-out several days of living outside the comfort zone. As Susan said, "a clinic is very different than just riding with friends or even trail riding. It is a learning environment . . . which includes participation with others who are like-minded, with group discussions that are so helpful. You have your comfort zone pushed for the good of you (mostly) and it gives you tools for future use when [the instructor] is not around, along with all our Parelli DVDs and info. I love a clinic, no phone, no home, just you and your horse with like-minded friends in a learning frame of mind."


As one of my most dedicated students here in Minnesota (whom I've known since she was pre-L1 and who is now an advanced L4 student) often says, "going to a clinic is a huge hurdle to get over for us when we're new to Parelli and don't know what to expect. It's an emotional fitness - and horsemanship - journey and success just to get there!" Indeed it is! I remember vividly my own first Parelli clinic 16 years ago, driving nearly 400 miles to Galena, IL when all I knew about Parelli was Pat's book and what I'd read in AOL's "pet care" chat room! The results and the relationship with her horse I saw the instructor demonstrate sold me on the merits of Parelli within the first few minutes. And, of course, as is true for many of us, my life was changed.


In the spirit of prior and proper preparation, below is a short video showing what my place looks like and what it might feel like to attend a clinic here. I hope you enjoy it. I certainly had fun making it with the help of then 16 year-old L3 student, Mandy Walter. (Thanks, Mandy!)  


Welcome to Nita Jo's Place! 


Nita Jo Rush  Stay Savvy,

  Nita Jo Rush
  4-Star Senior Parelli Professional
Can You?

The challenge this month is a continuation of last month's which was about the Porcupine Game, or "follow a feel." The focus was on "pushing" our horses sideways as lightly and smoothly as it would be to push a toy boat in water. I also included the idea of asking your horse to glide backwards, in the proper position, in response to your energy and finger on the halter.

Emotionally braced and head too high
Ahhh... that's better

Now, can you expand on this and "glide" your horse backwards, in the proper position, with your fingers on her nose? On her chest? If you use the snaffle or Cradle bridle, do you get an equally lovely response with your fingers in the bit rings?  

The How To hints which correspond to this week's Can You? are basically identical to the information about the Porcupine Game provided in last month's newsletter. So, re-read the March issue and you'll have a good idea about how to improve your conversation with your horse about backing up in the proper position. Just keep in mind as you play with this that it's not just about the feet moving backwards; we're after a true intention to back up which is reflected in your horse assuming the shape or position which facilitates backing up. Any horse can back up with his feet while still thinking forward! Does your horse back up in a way and position which telegraphs that she is thinking backwards? Getting this softness and shape on the ground will work wonders on your back up under saddle. 

The better developed your communication and leadership, the better your horse's response. Being light doesn't mean he escapes your feel; it means you go together. If that toy boat goes floats away from your finger you've lost contact. And that brings us to PJ's question about riding with a bit - or not. Here's what she said:

Hi Nita Jo,

I am still unsure about the necessity/wisdom of putting a bit in a horse's mouth.  No matter how you slice it, it seems to me we are intruding in a very sensitive place. Why does "contact" have to be in the mouth?  I'd love to hear your experience and thoughts on this in your next newsletter.



This is such a rich question!

Yes, indeed, contact is not only about the bit in the mouth! Pat talks about "rhythm, relaxation, and contact" in all four savvies. (Rhythm, Relaxation, and Contact are the first 3 "building blocks" in the dressage training pyramid which Walter Zettl and others use.)  

Rhythm Relaxation
Rhythm, Relaxation & Contact

Clearly, then, contact is neither achieved solely with the bit in the mouth nor does it even have to involve physical contact. "Contact" when playing at Liberty, for example, means mental and emotional contact - are you and your horse connected and engaged with each other? Are you having a conversation? Do you have a strong bond and is your horse responsive, obedient, focused, and calm? Is he full of "yes"?  

Contact in Motion
Contact in Motion

Liberty clarifies more than any other savvy the mental and emotional contact which needs to be present to have a conversation between partners. And Freestyle clarifies more than Finesse the mental and emotional contact necessary to have a good seat connection with your horse. Can you "talk" to her with you focus, energy, seat and legs? This means, can you canter, trot, walk, halt, back-up, and turn without relying on the reins?

Jet's inside ear indicates his mental contact is with me in the center of the round pen

In addition, there's nothing in Parelli which says we must ride with a bit. Often, once students learn to ride with the natural hackamore and develop a good partnership with their horses from the saddle, or learn to ride with one or two Carrot Sticks, not even using reins, they have so much fun and are able to do so many things that there is no particular need or desire to ride with the snaffle bridle. You can study and become competent in the first 3 savvies (Online, Liberty, and Freestyle Riding) all the way through Level 4 without ever using a bit!  Riding bareback and bridleless, for example, has its own finesse and is a thrilling thing to do and witness! (Conversely, it's also okay to use the snaffle bit for your Freestyle riding.)

How To ... so why use a bit? 

It depends on your horsemanship goals. It's precisely because the horse's mouth is sensitive that we can have an intimate "conversation" with him about shape, about precision, about the most athletic, balletic movements, about dance, about the specific kind of dance, you want to do. This isn't just about dressage; cowboys dance with their horses when running a beautiful reining pattern full of amazing athletic feats, when riding a talented cutting horse whose athleticism is as astounding and beautiful as that of any Grand Prix dressage horse. The final savvy in Level 4 - Finesse - is about our beginning to learn to ride with contact and precision, maintaining rhythm and relaxation, in order to round out our foundational education as horsemen and to round out our horses' education as horses with a solid foundation. It's a precursor (for those who wish) to specializing in a sport, discipline, or competition specialty. As Pat has often said (about the former Level 3, now replaced by Level 4), it's when we've got a good foundation that we're finally ready to learn.  

What happens to us and our horses when we are learning how to ride with rhythm, relaxation, contact, and to begin to develop elements of collection, is that we make mistakes which cause imbalance and tension for our horses. Or, we're not yet able to be aware of and help them with their own lack of balance - which allows tension to continue or build. In addition, riding with contact tends to trigger a horse's innate claustrophobia if he feels at all blocked. This is one reason teaching your horse to respond in the proper position to a soft feel when you ask for a back up from the ground, much less from the saddle, is so helpful. All varieties of Porcupine Game (which is a game of contact) are vital. And, the critical importance of mental and emotional contact gained through the first three savvies is immediately apparent.  

The sensitivity of the horse's mouth magnifies our problems and mistakes - which is why putting the bit in that mouth should indeed give us pause.  As Linda Parelli has said, it's actually more difficult to ride well with a saddle and bit (with contact) than bareback and bridleless. Fortunately, through Parelli we learn to solve control issues, learn to be partners and leaders from the saddle, and develop our and our horses' responsibilities before we do much riding with contact with a bit. This saves us from making even more mistakes! And, just as fortunately, most horses are incredibly forgiving.  

So, it turns out that riding with a bit - or not - is a choice. It's a fairly personal choice at that. Once you have developed rhythm, relaxation, and contact in the Online, Freestyle, and Liberty savvies, and have developed partnership and leadership in the saddle, then you're ready to choose. It's a choice I've made because I'm fascinated by the subject and have seen the benefits for my horse. I'm feel like I'm finally beginning to get the hang of it and the learning challenges will last a lifetime.


Volume 2        Issue: 4   

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Parelli Connect 
Parelli Connect is the Parelli Natural Horsemanship program's digital campus where
you'll find everything you need to help direct your horse's foundation training for horsemanship foundation Levels 1 through 4.

Parelli Connect is designed to make it easy for you to find new friends within the program with which to share not only your own wall updates but also that of your horse via your horses' own wall too!


$999 for Liberty or Finesse Lesson Series or $1,599 for both! 

Liberty & Finesse Lesson Series  


* It's Not Too Late - Sign up Today! *


6 monthly lessons, 3 hours each, 6 students maximum with focus for Level 3 and Level 4 students on Liberty and Finesse. No, wait!  It's seven lessons - the 7th is FREE!    


Each date is a Saturday: Lesson times are 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. for Liberty and 2:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. for Finesse. These are two separate groups and you are welcome to sign up for either or both.


Students are welcome to audit the half-day in which they do not participate. Beverages and water, as well as picnic space, will be provided.  


Lesson dates are:  

April 23, May 21, June 11, July 9, August 13 & September 3    


BONUS: free lesson day for both groups combined on October 1, 2011 (10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.)


Buy Now 

Liberty or Finesse Lesson Series $999


Buy Now 


BOTH Liberty and Finesse Lesson Series for only $1,599!


 Can't do all 6 lessons?  

Contact Nita Jo to sign up for 'a la carte' options!

$266.50 per date for both liberty AND finesse lessons - that's about $45/hour for a small class with lots of individual attention! 

Nita Jo's
2011 Teaching
& Training Schedule
April 23

Nita Jo's Place, Bowlus, Minnesota

Liberty & Finesse Lesson Series with Nita Jo  

Registration is still open!  Contact Nita Jo Rush at 612-581-0240 or [email protected] for more information or to register.


April 29 - May 1

Minnesota Horse Expo, St. Paul, Minnesota

Minnesota State Fairgrounds

Note: Pat Parelli will be there Saturday, April 30th to give a demo! 


May 13 - 15

Corrales, New Mexico   

Friday, May 13th - Lesson Day ~ Levels 1-4, all 4 Savvies: Level 1 'Focus on Fundamentals' ~ Level 4 'Focus on Finesse' 

May 14 - 15: 2-day Level 2+ Advancing/Level 4  Clinic for those who are eager to  dig into Level 3 and Level 4, whether that means learning to be more provocative in your Online play, to advance your understanding of Liberty, to get a great seat connection in Freestyle, or  to  refine your riding with contact.  Hone your skills, deepen your partnership, and broaden your leadership with your horse while you develop his mental, emotional, and physical fitness even further!

Contact: Steve Komadina at 505-328-4696 or [email protected]  for more information on clinic or lesson day, or to register.  Click here to register for clinic via PayPal.  Contact Steve Komadina about lesson day.
Clinic Fee: $430


May 26 - 29

Nita Jo's Place, Bowlus, Minnesota

4-day Level 1A/Beginning Level 2 - Let's Get On - Let's Ride Clinic for those who are ready to improve their 7 Games online and move into playing with L2 Patterns on the 22' rope, as well as preparing to ride by learning more about: saddle fit and saddling, Pat's "pre-flight" checks, safety and control under saddle, and rein positions.  This is for you and the horse you can and do ride at home; no first rides for horses or humans!

Contact: Nita Jo Rush at 612-581-0240 or [email protected] for more information or click here to register via PayPal.
Clinic Fee: $880


May 30 - June 14

Opening for horse in training.  Email [email protected] for more information.

June 22 - 26

Nita Jo's Place, Bowlus, Minnesota

5-day Level 2/Level 2A - Getting Going: Let's Go - and Whoa! 

Contact: Nita Jo Rush at 612-581-0240 or

[email protected] for more information or click here to register via PayPal.

Clinic Fee: $1,100

July 1 - 3

Nita Jo's Place, Bowlus, Minnesota

3-day Eddo Hoekstra Dressage Clinic

Contact: Nita Jo Rush at 612-581-0240 or [email protected] for more information or to register.


July 13 - 17

Nita Jo's Place, Bowlus, Minnesota

5-day Refinement Level 3/Level 3A - Getting Good: Let's Get Our "Good". . .Better!

Contact: Nita Jo Rush at 612-581-0240 or [email protected] for more information or click here to register via PayPal.
Clinic Fee: $1,100


July 23 - 24

Nita Jo's Place, Bowlus, Minnesota

2-day Craig Johnson FUNdamentals of Reining Clinic

Contact: Nita Jo Rush at 612-581-0240 or [email protected] for more information or to register.


August 3 - 7

Nita Jo's Place, Bowlus, Minnesota

5-day Level 4 - Getting Great: Let's Get Our Better. . .Best!

Contact: Nita Jo Rush at 612-581-0240 or [email protected] for more information or click here to register via PayPal.

Clinic Fee: $1,100 

August 19 - 21

Nita Jo's Place, Bowlus, Minnesota

3-day Eddo Hoekstra Dressage Clinic

Contact: Nita Jo Rush at 612-581-0240 or [email protected] for more information or to register.


August 23 - September 5

Opening for horse in training.  Email [email protected] for more information.

September 16 - 18
Magnificat Farm,
Clinton Corners, New York
Advancing Refinement (Level 3A)/Fundamentals of Performance (Level 4) Clinics

Contact: Barbara Appolonia at 845-594-9915 or [email protected] for more information or to register.


Clinics in October and November to be announced later.


* Dates are subject to change depending on the Parelli tour schedule in 2011 and any other unforeseen events. *

  ~ Auditors Welcome ~   
Click on PayPal button below to buy your auditor passes ~ $35/day 

(Select the number of days you want to audit in the Quantity box.)

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