The name ReeLee comes from the combination of Kelsey’s grandparents names. Marie and Leo Parisi were married for over 50 years, and the name ReeLee was on their license plate, email, and any other thing that they shared. BrAngelina has nothing on these two! Leo passed away in 2011, and was a long time lover of horses, specifically racing. ReeLee has always been a symbol of love and strength for Kelsey. So when starting her business, ReeLee Restarting & Training, it was an easy choice to use the name to represent her training style that sets her apart from other trainers.
Kelsey began taking english riding lessons at the age of 6. She stuck with the hunter jumper show scene as a kid, and loved the riding but was not a fan of the politics, even at that early age. Her instructors were loud and menacing, and they wanted her to ride in the same way. In these years her riding improved, she learned discipline and form, but her attitude toward the show world was soured. It wasn’t until she went to summer camp at the age of 12 that she learned what it was to enjoy a horse without having to win anything, and thrived on that. After her last summer at camp, Kelsey began working for a local trail riding business teaching lessons, and working as a trail guide and camp counselor in exchange for board of a shared horse for her sister and herself. While working there, Kelsey took up Endurance and Barrel Racing, and continued to compete in AERC and NBHA sanctioned events through her college years.
Kelsey started her first few horses while working for that same trail ranch. The first horse she ever started there is now her go to pony horse for her training projects. She also started Arabian endurance prospects, and her first of what would become many wild mustangs. All she had when starting out training at this ranch was the ability to ride, and the harsh training techniques she had seen firsthand up until that point. But she knew she wanted to do things differently, even if there was no one around to show her how. So, if the horse was lost, and she was lost on how to help him, she stopped. She would sit and think, and if she couldn’t come up with a solution, she found someone who had one. From a book, or a video, or an article somewhere. To this day, she lives by this mantra in her training. Don’t keep spinning your tires in the mud when you are stuck, it will only dig you in deeper. Ask for help, use some creativity, and find a way to not get stuck next time.
When Kelsey went on to Colorado State University to study equine science she finally had the opportunity to learn from true horsemen. Through the colt starting program at CSU she was introduced to horsemen that have greatly influenced her techniques, and reinforced her original views on horsemanship. Horsemen such as Kevin Meyer, Dick Pieper, Bobbie Walton, Tom Faul, Bill Smith, Terry Crofoot, and Thomas Saunders; they all train in a way that makes the right thing easy, and the wrong thing difficult. They taught her how to recognize the natural behaviors of a horse, and utilize them to accomplish your goal. They taught her how to establish a relationship that builds trust and leads to a successful horse and rider team. The lasting connections she made through the CSU program and with those trainers allows her to still refer back to them to continue to improve and excel in training horses. She also broadened her scope of disciplines in playing for CSU’s Polo Team, participating in the schools Ranch Horse Versatility Club, and interning at Endurance Racing Stables and Working Cattle/Dude Ranches.
When Kelsey graduated from CSU, she traveled the world seeking knowledge from as many trainers as she could. She spent 9 months working for two of the top racehorse trainers in Australia, Jake Stephens and Gai Waterhouse. When she returned to the states, she was an assistant trainer and rider at Parx Racing for two years under Robert E Reid, Jr. While working at Parx she would help re-home horses who retired, got hurt, or weren’t fast enough from her barn. She even kept one for herself, and is still involved with Turning For Home, the Parx thoroughbred retirement program. When Kelsey left Parx it was to broaden her knowledge even further. So, she moved to Texas to explore the cutting horse industry.
When Kelsey got to Texas she thought she would be working under a horsemen whose reputation preceded him as impeccable. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that he was just another trainer on a time crunch trying to earn the big checks. She loved the sport, but was not a fan of the way this trainer got to his finished product. She tried to tough it out, and learn what she could. She figured, at least the horses she worked with would be a little better off in her hands. But soon she had to choose between sympathizing with horses whose circumstances she could not change, and moving on so she could make a difference in the equine industry.
Within a year of returning to Pennsylvania, Kelsey started ReeLee Restarting and Training and won the 2015 East Coast Equine Comeback Challenge. Such success in a short period of time, proves that training using ethical methods can be successful. It was once said, “A horseman can be a trainer, but not every trainer is a horseman.” Kelsey Parisi is a horseman, and will gladly share her knowledge with anyone who is willing to watch, listen, and learn.