Earlier this month I had the great pleasure of attending the 2016 Parelli Savvy Summit ( http://www.parelli.com/-2016parellisavvysummit.html), and celebrating their 20th anniversary of this amazing event at the Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs, Colorado—the land of milk and honey. For some reason, I have always referred to the Parelli Ranch as “the land of milk and honey”, and I recently asked myself why? The first image that popped into my mind was A.A. Milne’s, Winnie the Pooh—a beautiful series of books my father read to me almost every night as a child— and the loveable bear’s search for “hunny” in the Hundred Acre Wood. Winnie the Pooh was never happier than when he was scooping honey out of a honey tree, or had his nose stuck in a pot of the sticky gooey stuff.
Unable to fully reconcile my connection with the ranch to Winnie the Pooh, I decided to look up the phrase land of milk and honey on the Internet. My favorite definition that came up was from the website Culinary Lore (www.culinarylore.com/food-history). It explains: Land of milk and honey is a literary expression that comes from one of the greatest works of literature ever written, the Bible. In Exodus, when God instructs Moses to lead his people, the oppressed Hebrew slaves of Egypt, out of bondage and into freedom. He promises them their own land. He does not tell them exactly what land, but describes it as a land flowing with milk and honey.
Again, maybe a stretch on the connection with the ranch, but upon further introspection, perhaps not so much. The key word in this phrase to me is “freedom.” Pat Parelli often refers to the ranch as “The Eagle’s Nest.” The eagle represents freedom and liberty, doesn’t it?
As Linda Parelli often says, “How interesting!”
Now, it makes complete sense to me. In my mind and experience, the Parelli Ranch IS the land of milk and honey, because there, I have learned to break free of my previous “assumptions” about horses and how to work and play with them. Most importantly, I have learned to break free from the assumptions I have made about myself. Horses have the ability and power to transform lives. By studying them, so can we. If we tune into our “natural” selves, and appreciate the natural power of horses and working in natural partnership with them, we can free ourselves from our preconceived notions and beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world around us.
One of the most inspiring demonstrations at the Summit this year was the spotlight session with Caton Parelli, Pat’s son. Thirty-three years ago, Caton was born with hydrocephalus—fluid on the brain, and the condition left him with extremely limited body function. The doctors told Pat and his former wife, Caton’s mother, that it would be best if they institutionalized Caton. Pat refused. Not only did he refuse to sequester his child from the world, he decided to put him on a horse. Pat strapped Caton to the saddle with a seatbelt of sorts. While mounted and holding the lead rope of Caton’s horse (a term called pony-ing) Pat and Caton took to the fields and mountains, riding and herding cattle. Unfortunately, when Caton was 12 years old, he suffered a stroke caused by his condition. A blood clot had traveled from his lungs to his brain, rendering the left side of his body completely immobile. Again, Pat and Caton remained undeterred, and Caton continued to ride and play with horses, activities that eventually helped him to regain his mobility. Since then, he has competed in branding, reining, roping and cutting competitions.
During the Summit Spotlight, Caton and his mount cut a cow from the herd. Pat challenged Caton to run alongside the cow and lean down and touch her between the ears. Sounds easy, right? As Caton and his horse sped around the arena chasing down the cow, the crowd cheered with abandon. After several adrenaline rushing laps, Caton was able to reach down and touch the cow on its hind quarters. He didn’t touch the cow’s head, but no one cared. In those moments, we all not only saw, but lived through, the difficulty of the challenge—a tough one even for a perfectly abled-bodied person. The moment Caton’s fingers finally touched that cow, the crowd roared and rose to its feet in thunderous applause. Once the ovation subsided, Pat said to the crowd, face beaming, something to the effect of, “I don’t have a handicapped child. He’s a horseman.”
Horses can heal, and this was one of the highlights of the event this year.
Caton is but one of the many examples of the healing power of horses you will find anywhere in the world. In the last two articles in my blog, “The True Measure of a Champion is What is in Her Heart”(https://karibovee.com/2016/09/07/the-true-measure-of-a-champion-is-what-is-in-her-heart/) and “Para-Equestrian Dressage Begins at the Paralympic Games” (https://karibovee.com/2016/09/10/usa-para-equestrian-dressage-team/) about Para-Equestrian Olympians, I highlighted five amazing athletes with major physical challenges who competed in the top equestrian sport in the world, the Para-Equestrian Dressage competition during the Paralympic Games. Each one of these athletes has had to overcome many incredible physical challenges, and they have done it with the partnership and love of their respective horses.
Come to think of it, perhaps Winnie the Pooh does have a connection to the land of milk and honey, or rather the Parelli Ranch. Pooh lived a pretty carefree and simple life in the Hundred Acre Wood, free from preconceived notions and assumptions about things. Through his characters, A.A. Milne approached common human problems in life with a philosophy built on nature, purity of heart, and simplicity. His characters were all animals that facilitated lessons and experiences for Christopher Robin, their human, just like the horse does for many who use equine therapy to learn and heal.