Parelli and Puissance: Natural Horsemanship Soars to New Heights

Luca Moneta used Parelli methods with amazing results in last year’s Olympia Puissance class. Will he best his 7’2″ record this year?

Italian showjumper Luca Moneta has an unusual nickname. His fans call him “The Carrot Man”–most famously because at last year’s Olympia Horse Show in London he fed his 7’2″ Puissance winner a carrot after each round to motivate her. And this unusual tactic wasn’t just to win over the crowd–it’s an integral part of his training.

Inspired by a photo he saw in a newspaper of a rider jumping a horse over a barrel sans bridle or saddle, Moneta became interested in learning how to train horses in a way that resembled a conversation, rather than a one-way command. He discovered Parelli and ethology (the study of behavior and social organization from a biological perspective), and found that those methods really worked for him, even with horses that other trainers had given up on.

On his website, Moneta describes his method as follows: “The goal is not the result, but the path you follow to reach it, which must be “natural.” This means placing the relationship with the horse before everything else, and knowledge, friendship, trust, companionship, play before technique, respect before obedience, and emotional balance before physical…Approaching the discipline of jumping in natural way does not mean using a halter instead of a bridle. It means simply learning a new way to play with your horse, entering a higher level of energy and understanding how to handle it in the simplest and most natural possible way for both rider and horse.”

He explained further in an interview with CNN, “It’s like if you make me cook spaghetti for you with a gun, you put a gun here and say ‘if you don’t cook spaghetti for me, I will kill you.'”

“For sure you will have spaghetti but the quality is different than when I become your best friend and say ‘I really want to cook spaghetti for you because this is my favorite dinner and we will enjoy spaghetti with a good bottle of red wine.’ This is the difference.”

Though many upper-level riders were skeptical of Natural Horsemanship in the international showjumping sphere, Moneta worked out a deal with French Olympic showjumper Michel Robert. He gave Robert lessons in his riding philosophy in exchange for showjumping lessons to improve his riding skills. It seems to have been a winning combination, bringing  Moneta to the 2014 World Championships from his initial appearance in the international showjumping scene in 2012.

Ever modest, Moneta told Horse & Country TV, “I feed my horses [carrots] because I’m not such a good rider, and I need to ask them a lot of help. The positive reinforcement is a good way to make them happy.”

You’ve got to be a master of motivation to have a horse jump over seven feet for you.  Check out the culmination of Moneta’s training in the 2013 Puissance class. That is a happy horse!

What’s crazy is that he almost scratched the class. After three rounds of the Puissance, Moneta wasn’t 100% sold on trying the bigger height, but show officials encouraged him to go for it.

“I say to my mare, ‘Ok listen, we just go there, and I just ride you easy, nicely, and if you maybe, if you are a little bit, you know, don’t want to do it, it will be okay.  I still give you carrots, and it’s ok.’ And she did it! Lucky for me, I didn’t need to be brave.”

What’s next for Moneta after this year’s Olympia? Well, he’s got his eye on Rio 2016, as well as the one thing he wants for Christmas–a better connection with his horses. What a great horseman!


What do you think, Horse Nation? Has Natural Horsemanship helped you soar to new heights with your equine, or do you not buy the hype? We’d love to hear your stories.


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