Caton Parelli, son of natural horsemanship pioneer Pat Parelli, is featured in a cover story this month in America’s Horse — the magazine for the members of the American Quarter Horse Association.
Residents of Pagosa Springs, the Parellis attract thousands of horsemen to the Parelli Natural Horsemanship campus each year. While Pat Parelli is the founder of PNH, Caton is increasingly gaining attention with his inspiring story and exceptional attitude.
On the cover, Caton Parelli is shown comfortably riding bareback, with only a string around his horse’s neck. The feature article and photo spread heralds Caton as a young man defying severe odds.
“Horses, to me, are one of the greatest teachers,” Caton told America’s Horse. “For me, they teach me how to maintain my balance, they teach me to be more flexible, which is a challenge. They teach me lots of things.”
Caton Parelli was born with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. His parents were told it was unlikely he would ever walk or talk. But when Caton was 5 and still couldn’t walk well, his dad set him atop one of his best horses, harnessed in with a seatbelt.
“That horse was really therapeutic for him,” Pat Parelli says in the article.
Caton Parelli, now 28, lives and travels with his dad and stepmom and rides five horses every day. The article details a typical day for Caton, which includes a variety of barn, tractor and cattle chores on the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Pagosa Springs and Ocala, Fla., campuses.
Pat Parelli also mentions, with obvious pride, Caton’s recent success in quarter horse competitions, including a recent one where Caton won his first belt buckle.
“It was a moment that had people in tears, especially those who have been supporting Caton along his journey,” the elder Parelli said.
Caton Parelli credits his dad’s patient tutelage with much of his current success and he says the two of them “have a beautiful relationship.” Pat Parelli said learning how best to instruct Caton has helped him become a better teacher to his other students.
The American Quarter Horse Association was founded in 1940 and has an estimated 350,000 members. This edition of America’s Horse is available through April.