I wonder if the title of my story has gotten your attention, ’cause it sure makes me giggle when I think about it!
I am no gardener, nor do I have a green thumb of any sort, but did you know that it takes around 7 – 10 years for an avocado tree (not grafted) to bear fruit? I remember as a teenager, when we first moved into our new family home, I loved avocados and wanted to plant one so I could enjoy them more often. Then I found out it takes this long to fruit. “Gosh, no way I’m waiting that long… we will have probably moved by then,” I thought to myself.
Well it’s been over 19 years now, and my parents still live in the same house – and no we don’t have an avocado tree! Yet…
Now, you might ask where the colt starting title comes into my story. I am a 4-Star Senior Parelli Instructor; I began studying the program in Australia in 1996 and headed over to study in Colorado in 2004. My goal was to become an instructor, and the instructor program at that time included Colt Starting courses for your progression of star ratings.
Now, insert non-Parelli event, several years earlier. I completed a college course in Business & Equine Studies in Australia where we started a young horse. During one of our early rides, I got bucked off and kicked in the throat (hands didn’t let go of the reins!). You could say my previous colt starting outside of Parelli wasn’t all that confidence-building or successful.
I have now attended four Colt Starts in the USA with 5-Star Master Instructor Rob McAuliffe. So knowing I had to complete a Colt Start, I was a ball of nerves & emotions heading into the class. I had no goals of becoming a colt starter, no goals to train other horses – why would I need to do a Colt Starting course? Wow… little did I know how useful this was to be for me at a personal and business level.
Today, I could tell you a thousand stories from my Colt Starting classes – all great learning experiences. And NOW I can say them with a smile on my face: learning more about the purpose of each game, understanding how a herd operates, reading horses, liberty, saddling dynamics, riding as a passenger and guider, and building impulsion – all with a layer of excellence to develop us as horsemen.
My biggest learning experiences would come from teaching, years later:
- The Colt Starting course gave me a skeleton to help ensure teaching is progressive for the horse, which then in turn helps students feel successful. I learned so many different ways to play and teach the Seven Games.
- Teaching Level 1 On Line to a new student is just like a colt start course. They’re looking for leadership (or sometimes, not so much!), checking out boundaries, being pushy or spooky, etc.
- The Colt Starting course gave me the tools to learn how to set it up for success.
- When introducing Freestyle riding, there’s that “pucker factor” for some students and horses in putting that foot in the stirrup, or riding in a halter for the first time. As an instructor, I learned what to look for in the horse to know that the horse is safe for the student, and that the message you are sharing with the student is truly setting the horse up for success.
- The Colt Starting course gave me a skeleton that helps the horse accept our leadership, riding & our toys.
The Parelli program provides us with the Levels pathway to follow in teaching students. The Colt Starting course gave me the tools to become a better instructor and an increase in my personal horsemanship. Simple things done with excellence. As Pat often says, “the start isn’t something – it’s everything,” and the more we know about the beginning of our horse’s education, the better we will understand the finished product.
So whether your goals are to become a great instructor or move to Level 5 & beyond as a student, I encourage you to take advantage of this great opportunity to participate in a Colt Start with Rob. He knows this inside out and is passionate about colt starting, which is also what makes him an excellent instructor; he is as much thinking about the beginning as he is the end.
I am so excited to see these courses back on the campuses, as they have helped shape me into the Parelli Professional that I am today, which is where I say, “Thank you.”
So don’t delay! Plant your avocado seed this year so that you can start to see your fruit-bearing tree grow in your personal horsemanship and your teaching abilities.