Gentle Kindnesses

Night does not call to me – It is the morning rays of the sun that beckon to my soul. Long before the moon finds its rightful full space in the sky I tend to retreat to my nest. Night is a space that overlaps into my life so rarely that I feel as if I'm a foreigner viewing sights for the first time. And sometimes, that is just the change of perspective that one needs to realign and touch the essence of what truly matters.


The owl swooped low overhead startled from its perch as I approached on my way home. A gift of gentle kindness. Its wings, with feathers catching the dim light and outlining their wide span, dug into the air once, twice, three times and then disappeared into the night. A barn owl I supposed as I whispered a word of thanks from a place within me that had been refueled on this night.


She nickered to me in the dark. Having heard my voice as I issued unheeded commands to the young lab to stay she responded with a soft call. I suppose she may have wondered why I was there. I visit so infrequently and after dark in the cold of winter was unheard of. It's a wonder she calls to me at all, so little time has been invested in our relationship since she came to me 18 months prior. 

The light flickers on and I can see her muzzle over the wall, steam billowing from her soft nostrils. Her interest is rewarded with a carrot, then two more at her stall door where she can fully hang her head over and nuzzle me looking for more treats. She's muddy after a day in the pasture. Her eyes are soft and inviting. I breathe into her nose and she responds the same... a greeting horses use with each other. I realize I've never done this with her. 

A candy cane hangs on her door left over from Christmas celebrations. I snap off a piece and offer it to her. She takes it gently from my hand and experiments with the flavor. Her head bobs up and down as she considers the unfamiliar taste. I inhale her scent - horse with a slight hint of peppermint. It is the smell of my childhood. It is the smell of my adulthood. It is the smell of my life that I all too often wash off and pack up and forget about as I go about the business of being busy.

It's cold and I'm late. I'm always late it seems. 

I wait. Spending just a few more moments exhaling the stress of the day. She nuzzles me softly once more - a gentle kindness that centers me into the present moment. Just one more carrot and then I head home.


He's always ready. Even when I would rather he not be. He wants to be with me and whatever I'm doing no matter what. Expectant eyes and a tail that just cannot stop wagging greet me when I open the door. 

Fine. Load up. It's getting late and the errands will keep me out after dark. I'd rather not be alone anyways, although alone time is what I'm craving in this mood. He's a good companion when I'm feeling this way. 

His face looks and feels like velvet. He lays down next to me where I can stroke his massive head. I melt. The walls I’d built this day crumble down with each nudge of his nose. A gentle kindness I needed this night. I do not understand him most of the time - he is a challenge to my abilities and has the energy of a freight train. In the car however, he is a different dog. In the car he is calm, relaxed and soft. It is here where we bond - where he and I are both still in our own way. 

As usual, he's done his job of opening my heart magnificently and my spirit feels uplifted. Errands are done and people are waiting for me but perhaps there is time for just one more stop.

It's been too long since I've said hello to my horse and I cannot remember the last time I've been out after dark.  

A Day In The Life Of Linda Parelli

This interview was conducted Summer 2013 - All photos courtesy of Parelli Natural Horsemanship.

Considering the scope of reach the Parelli Natural Horsemanship organization has acquired over the last 30+ years, a person might assume that Pat & Linda Parelli would be somewhat removed from the day-to-day operations of the business. After all, they have  natural horsemanship centers on 3 continents with students and instructors worldwide spreading their message and making the world a better place for horses.  

I reached out to Linda Parelli to find out exactly what does a day in her life look like these days. As I soon found out, Linda and Pat are still very active in all aspects of PNH and they are as busy as ever spreading the natural horsemanship message, ever improving their own techniques not only as horsemen but also as teachers.

Although we all know that no day is the same as the next, especially when horses are concerned, Linda was kind enough to take  the time to share a bit of what an average day looks like for her.  

Q. Linda, what is your title & what are your general areas of responsibility within the Parelli organization?

A. I am the Director of Education, co-founder of Parelli Natural Horsemanship (with my husband, Pat Parelli).

Q. What time do you generally start your day? What time does your head hit the pillow at night?

A. I start at various times but by the time I get to my barn it's 9am.  And my head hits the pillow at various times too!  Mostly around 11.30pm but tonight I'm up answering these questions and it's almost 1am.  My days tend to be very full!

Q. Wow! Thank you for skipping some of your sleep to give readers a bit of insight to your life!  Considering we are doing this interview remotely... that brings up the question of how much time do you spend on non-horse working?  

A. I would say about 40-60% of my time is spent “in office”.   In the last two and a half years I've been lucky enough to ride almost every day (except when traveling).  Up until then it had been 15 years since I'd been able to ride more than once or twice a week! Now I train my horses and coach my team and visiting high level students almost everyday!

Q. How many horses are you currently developing for your personal horsemanship journey?

A. I have four main horses (Jazz, Highland, Allure and Zen).  Then I have two youngsters in the wings (Apollo and Na'Vi).  And of course my old faithful, super horse, now retired.. Remmer.  He's like the barn mascot now.

Q. The last time we talked you spent a significant amount of time teaching in a classroom style setting - is this still the case with your current responsibilities?  If so, how much of your day is dedicated to this type of activity?

A. That's mostly when I'm teaching courses, and nowadays that's only a couple of times a year.  I believe that not everything can be learned while having your horse in hand or under your seat!  Theory and simulations are critical to taking your understanding to deeper levels and being more prepared mentally, emotionally and physically before you go to your horse.

Q. What is the focus of the Parelli organization this year as you continue to focus on your vision of “making the world a better place for horses and humans”? What are you excited about this year?

A. Oh gosh!  There is SO much going on at almost every level!   We are all set for a great 2013 tour; our Parelli Connect membership continues to expand with more and more bells and whistles; the launch of our foundation: the Parelli Institute; a bunch of new educational products and special collaborations with dressage ambassador Christoph Hess, biomechanics specialist Colleen Kelly, Driving with Nate Bowers, and Parelli protege Kalley Krickeberg has a line of DVDs on young horses and liberty.  There is a ton more going on all the time - people can check out our website for all of the latest news and adventures.

Q. I know you have some cute dogs! What are their names / breeds? Do they follow along with you throughout the day?

A. Awwww.  I have two miniature long-haired dachshunds, Moxie and Vinny.  They are not related but they are the best of friends and go everywhere with me.  They ride with me in the mornings and chase squirrels when we're at the barn.  And did I mention how cute they are?  SO cute!  As Pat says, it's like living with a couple of clowns, they always make us laugh.

Q. Do you work alongside Pat on a typical day or are you both running different directions? If you are not together throughout the day, do you have lunch dates or just catch up over dinner?

A. We are mostly in different directions, both going full steam ahead.  Sometimes we have lunch together and mostly we have dinner.  It's quite different compared to how we started out almost 20 years ago, working together 24/7.  But now most of our responsibilities have been taken over by our wonderful team and we do only the things that we are good at!

Q. What are your favorite parts of the day?

A. Playing with my horses, teaching, cooking dinner, snuggling with my husband.

Q. Do you have time for hobbies outside of your horses?

A. Cooking!  I love to cook and I'm actually working on a cookbook too.

Q. Ok - would you be willing to share one of your favorite recipes with our readers?

A. Of course :)  Now, which one?!  Hmm.  Gotta think.  Easy and yummy.  Well, that's all of them!  
Note: See below for recipe!

Q. Would you be so kind as to give us an overview of how you manage all the work you have to get done in a day? What is your usual routine?

A. Sure! First I check emails and urgent messages then head to barn, play with 2 - 4 horses, coach students, and interact with my barn manager (Ryan). Next it’s off to lunch, more emails, articles, phone calls, and meetings. If I’m lucky I have time for more horse play then dinner (often with guests) and finally snuggle with husband and dachshunds and dream of horses.  And all this is when I'm not traveling, touring, etc.
Thank you so much for your time Linda!

Linda Parelli’s
Artichoke Chicken Bake
Chicken and artichoke hearts baked in white wine with potatoes and herbs.  A wonderful one-pot dish.
Chicken thigh fillets, cut in halves or thirds
Artichoke hearts (drained, canned) – whole or halved
Quartered potatoes
Onion – roughly chopped
Garlic – finely chopped with salt (French technique to prevent garlic breath!)
White wine – 1/2 cup or more (depending on amount of chicken)
Cream – half the amount of wine.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chicken, artichokes, potatoes into a baking dish and toss with olive oil – not too much, not too little!  Just enough to coat.
In a frying pan, saut̩ (on med-high) chopped garlic, onions, salt and pepper in a little olive oil for 2 Р3 mins.
Add white wine and cook for another 2 mins.
Then stir in some cream.  Heat through and then pour it over the chicken and potatoes in the baking dish.
Toss together, cover with foil and put in the oven.
Bake at 350 for about 20 mins, then take the cover off.
Bake for another 40 mins – check a couple of times to make sure the sauce has reduced but not dried up.
Serve on warmed plates, with something simple like green beans and / or a green salad.

"Balance is about being passionate
 without being consumed by the flames."

~ Jennifer Woodward