I just spent at hour plus on the telephone with Larry Garner, who works with Tom Spalding to run Spalding Labs - the company that has supplied fly predators to November Hill since 2005.
When I received an unsolicited Parelli catalog in the mail last week, I was concerned when I got to the last page and found a two-page ad for Spalding Labs, who I feared might be endorsing Pat and Linda Parelli's work.
Many readers might remember my pledge to investigate the companies I do business with and vote with my credit card when it comes to companies endorsing riders, trainers, and/or training methods I feel are damaging to horses. The hard part of this pledge comes when you learn a product you love is in some way affiliated with a rider/trainer you can't abide.
I emailed the company on Sunday and received a quick email response yesterday (Monday) from Mr. Garner, who said he had tried to call (they had our old phone number in my account info, my fault for not updating!) and would I please call him to discuss my concerns.
Today I got around to that - he was on another call but someone (Crystal, a very nice woman) corrected my telephone number in their system and said that Mr. Garner would call me right back, which he did.
He was very candid and said that they have entered into a one-year advertising experiment with the Parelli company, purchasing advertising in the Parelli materials. He said that the Parellis have used Fly Predators for years and were thus interested in selling advertising to Spalding. Mr. Garner said in that sense, by paying for advertising, they are "supporting" Parelli, and he does not want to try to mask that fact.
He went on to say however that they are not endorsing Parelli or the work the Parellis do with horses. He asked what I had seen that brought me to my conclusions about the Parelli training methods.
We had quite a long discussion about horses and training and ethical concerns. Mr. Garner has lived with horses for 50-odd years and he described some of his own ways of working with them to me. I didn't ask permission to share those, so I won't, but I will say that what he shared matches what many of us have shared in blog posts and comments. I shared some of my herd stories, we discussed various issues in the world of high-dollar horsemanship, including round pen work, dressage, 3-day eventing, and more, and by the end of the call, I felt assured that Spalding Labs is in the business of providing non-chemical means to control flies for horses, other animals, and people, and that they are not in fact endorsing any horsemanship methods at all with their advertisement in the Parelli catalog.
I appreciated the honesty, and the sincerity of Mr. Garner's statement that they want to keep my business, and that they also want more horses to enjoy non-chemical fly control.
In addition, they are staying abreast of the latest in fire ant control via a kind of fly currently being studied by the USDA. At some point if this fly is approved for introduction in the US, we may be able to order fire ant predators as well.
Mr. Garner kindly put a hold on my 2011 order, as I requested in my email Sunday, so that I could talk with him before this year's shipments started. I asked him to release the hold and send the fly predators out asap.
If you have any concerns about the Parelli advertisement, I encourage you to contact Spalding and ask to talk with either Tom Spalding or Larry Garner. At this point I am comfortable continuing my relationship with the company (for which I have only ever had excellent service AND results) and I have a feeling Mr. Garner will be looking for some Parelli videos to see for himself what I described in our conversation.