one thing I have noticed is that most of the horses I see doing Parelli are often resistant to going forward. They suck back and often have their ears back in an irritated expression when asked to move out and go!
I agree with this statement to an extent. What I have come to realise is that many many Parelli students have come to Parelli as they have "issues" with their horses and have given up on more traditional methods. Which is also possibly a reason that many think Parelli trained horses have problems. They do, that's often why they are in Parelli :) . It was certainly the case for my wife who originally started the Parelli program as her horse bucked for the first few strides of canter, every time. Traditional trainers she hired mostly said hit him when he bucks. She did not want that sort of relationship with her horse, hence after a long search, Parelli. We do not have any problems with him now of that sort, and very few overall.
Back to the subject. I think Parelli recognises this as the situation and hence in the early days of training a new student a lot of time is spent getting them safe, forwards can come later. The snag is that many then don't progress rapidly enough through the program and so they get stuck in the safety zone of it which promotes horses that don't go forwards so well. Lots of hind quarter disengagement is the culprit.
You have to search for the true nature of the Parelli program a bit, and I was lucky enough to wind up having lessons from James Roberts. As a protégée of Pat's he uses Parelli for his business of colt starting, thus if you watch him you see the Parelli method in its' raw form as done by a professional. His major emphasis is forwards. Forwards in the mind of the horse, not neccessarily the body. Remember the YoYo game says Go = Woa. I have seen him and his staff do many first rides on young colts. The speed of progress is astonishing. Day 1 is accept the human plus some basic yields. Accept a human involves sitting on them the first time. Day 2 is accept the saddle and first ride ! Day 3 is second ride with some more direction from the rider, Day 4 is first hack out. All of this is to promote forwards and more importantly forward thinking.
He is also looking for anything that inhibits forwards. For example he found with Filly (that IS the name of my horse :) ) that just the heavy clasp of the lead rope on the halter was discouraging forwards, so second ride was in a rope hackamore which does not have the heavy clasp dangling in front of the drive line. Whilst I was there I even saw either the first or second ride on a young colt being done brideless as even the rope halter itself was discouraging forwards in motion and thought.
His mantra is that he doesn't care what horsenality the horse starts with, it must be put back in it's stable confident and forward thinking. He'll adjust to fit each inherent horsenality to get them to that happy place.
This is a very long way of saying that actually done properly Parelli most definitely promotes forward thinking in horse, but too many get stuck in early stages of the program where that is not emphasised so much.
If I was to recommend any DVDs to newcomers to the program I would probably recommend the Colt Starting Series above all others. This shows Pat starting a young colt in near real time with explanation for those who don't speak "Parelli". It shows the level 1 and level 2 program being played with level 8 experience and knowledge. That will show the true nature of the program far better than the levels packs and is the next best thing to seeing one of the protégées like James work.