Archive for June, 2012


The World’s Best Animal Advocate

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

On the 24th of June, 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded several persons recommended by Monty Roberts certificates for their pioneering efforts to encourage violence-free training using Join-Up® concepts. The Queen awarded signed certificates to acknowledge these persons for their extraordinary efforts to eliminate violence in the training of horses, followed by their country’s name. The ceremony took place during the Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Polo Cup, Guards Polo Club, Windsor, England.

award ceremony

Monty and Her Majesty presented the chosen recipients with their awards for commitment to his violence-free concepts. The chosen recipients are: Carlos Gracida (Mexico and Argentina), Memo Gracida (Mexico and Argentina), Catherine Cunningham (Guatemala), Eduardo Moreira (Brazil), Joel Baker (USA), and Satish Seemar (Dubai). Not present: Adolfo Cambiaso (Argentina), Carlos Leite (Brazil), and Mateus Ribeiro (Brazil)

Attending, back row: Joel Baker, Charlotte Bredahl Baker, Satish Seemar, Eduardo Moreira, Debbie Roberts Loucks, Prince Phillip, Monty Roberts, Carlos Gracida, Ricardo Diniz, Luiz Moreira, Catherine Cunningham, Memo Gracida; Front row: Tara Seemar (daughter of Satish Seemar), Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


The Advantage of Going Bare

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

The Advantage of Going Bare
– By Monty Roberts

All my life I have marveled at the wild horses of the Western United States. One of the most intriguing facets of their existence is how in the world can they survive on rocky, high deserts with no foot care of any kind? Sure, it is amazing that they don’t die of colic any more often than they do and just as surprising is that they don’t succumb on mass to diseases that the domestic horse is vaccinated against. Drinking from any source of water available to them insures that they have every opportunity to harbor internal parasites in lethal numbers. These are tough horses that any knowing horseman should be in awe of.

Since the late 1940’s, I have observed ranchers, who wanted to improve the wild horses, release domestic stallions in an effort to upgrade the genetic pool. Most of these horses die in a relatively short period of time and the number one cause of death is the demise of their feet. If the domestic horse is not gradually allowed to go bare and toughen his feet while he is fed and watered regularly, he will probably die within three to four weeks. He will become so sore of his feet that he simply cannot travel far enough on a daily basis to acquire the food necessary to sustain life. Sore feet will kill a horse in the wild quicker than any disease. A sore-footed horse is easy prey for the mountain lion or the bear in the Western United States.

I have attended many conferences on equine foot care. I have heard so-called experts give speeches on what angle the feet should be, the best methods of trimming and the proper use of metal shoes. Isn’t it interesting that the best feet in the world of horses are those that have none of these advantages. Nature will dictate the angle that is appropriate for the leg conformation that it compliments. The surface of the earth will do a better job of trimming than any trained farrier could ever do. The absence of shoes will tease and condition the foot to grow and produce the strongest possible tissues so as to sustain soundness.

Recently I had an opportunity to put these theories to the test with six American mustangs. I was asked by the Rose Parade Festival to produce a tribute to the American mustang. I agreed to place in training six wild horses captured on the high deserts of the Western United States. Three of them were from the Bureau of Land Management, the Federal Agency that is in charge of the wild horses on public lands. One of those was Shy Boy whom I adopted in 1997. Three were captured on Indian reservations and provided to me by the New Mexican Horse Project.

I had twenty-four feet that had never seen a shoe. Not one nail had been driven into any foot that was involved in this project. Five of the six had to be prepared for this monumental challenge with but six months to accomplish it. This means that many miles were required to assure the riders and the Parade Committee that they would be safe in an environment more challenging that any other that I can imagine. Students of mine trained these horses as I was traveling virtually the entire time of their preparation.

Not one horse missed a day of training because of illness, injury or a sore foot. No violence entered into the training program whatsoever and every horse went through a significant “bomb proofing” program. Musical instruments, plastic tarpaulins, firecrackers and every sort of spooky object was utilized in an effort to simulate what they would see in Pasadena, California on January 1, 2003.

As you might well image, some of these horses had higher energy levels than others. And admittedly, Shy Boy was already “bomb proof” at the beginning of the training program. Shy Boy became a role model for the five who were in the early stages of training. Navajo, the horse I rode, took more work than any of the other mustangs. For the last thirty days or so, he was cantered more than a mile and one half per day.

Throughout this project, I was adamant upon keeping their feet shoeless. This meant that I had to get special permission from the Parade Committee, as they are quite insistent upon specially designed shoes for the parade horses. Some of these shoes are covered with rubber and others equipped with borium, a non-skid metal. I was convinced that the safest way to ride on the tarmac was “bare.” The Committee agreed to give me an opportunity to prove my theory.

We rode five horses in the Rose Bowl Parade and led the sixth. Shy Boy was my wife Pat’s mount and she depicted a Western lady rider of about seventy-five years ago. Wayne Robison, an eighteen-year-old who works as a rider for us, rode Cherokee. They were equipped with all Hispanic gear as the mustang came from Spain. Hondo was ridden by Koelle Simpson, a twenty-two year old who works on our Flag Is Up Farms. Koelle rode as a young Spanish female in sidesaddle and flowing skirt. Jason Davis, who portrayed a Buffalo Hunter, rode Yellow Bird. He was in an all leather outfit, with a rifle on his back and leading Chamisa, his packhorse. The pack was covered with a buffalo hide. I rode Navajo and dressed as a gentleman rancher would have in the early 1900’s.

As we took our instructions from the various segments of the Parade Administrators, we were constantly warned of the potential for slipping on the pavement. We were told that part of the parade was on an unlevel surface and that many horses had slipped in the past. We were made aware of many instances where thrown shoes created the necessity for horses to be extracted from the parade itself. We were advised of four exit points in the five-mile trip where horses could be retired from the event.

I can report that we did not have one horse slip one inch during the entire five miles. No horse took a lame step or appeared to be in any discomfort during the entire trip. I have examined each foot subsequent to the parade and found no ill effects from the effort. At the conclusion of the parade, officials present were astonished by the marvelous condition of these six horses.

Pat and I took pictures of each horse and individual feet from the horse in order to give you an idea of their condition. We used an angle calibrator to determine the angle degree of each of the horse’s four feet.

I am absolutely amazed by the accomplishments both physical and psychological of these incredible animals and I want to share their story of achievement with the rest of the world. As horsemen, we would do well to listen intently to Mother Nature. I am not saying that there is no need for shoes under any condition. That would be silly. There is, however, the need to be aware of how nature intended this wonderful part of the equine anatomy to work.

It should be noted that this six-month test began and concluded with six mustangs that had never been shod. They had the toughest and most natural feet a horse can possess.

It should be further noted that these animals were ridden on a friendly, stone-free surface throughout the six-month test. Their feet were cleaned daily and Cherokee was treated with iodine for four days for a slight thrush condition. Please note that each horse concluded the six-month trial without a sore step and there were no significant cracks, chips or otherwise damaged areas to any of the twenty-four feet in question.

This test was not intended to minimize the need for foot care, nor was it conducted to show that there is no necessity for shoeing under any conditions. I believe at the conclusion of this test that the training and competition involved in racing, eventing, show jumping, reining, cutting and many other disciplines would require the use of shoes to accomplish these disciplines.

I conclude from this test that horsemen should become more aware of the value of allowing horses periods of time to “go bare” to allow the feet a chance to seek a natural condition. Typically, most shod horses will migrate to an angle that is far shallower than this test produced. The six horses on test ranged between 50 and 56 degrees at the conclusion. This must be what nature intended for these feet.

As I view the thickness of the walls of these six horses, compared to domestic animals often shod, the difference is dramatic. Each of these horses received good quality hay of two types throughout the six months. No concentrate feed or any substance meant to enhance foot health and growth was given them.

This test was conducted on Flag Is Up Farms by our staff. It was not connected to any academic institution, nor was it conducted under any scientific rules. I simply suspected that we could accomplish our goals and conducted the tests so as to bring the horse world information about natural feet.


What is the best way to introduce a horse to a train?

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Question: I have purchased a 14-year-old bombproof mare but she comes from an area without trains.  I live in a rural area but I cannot go very far without crossing train tracks. What is the best way to introduce a horse to a train? On this road there is about 5 other horse owners, but none take their horses near the trains.  Though some own driving horses, these people go on wagon train rides and are careful to avoid the trains. The trains are an infrequent, but daily occurrence.  I intend to let Black become accustomed to the train rather than avoid the train altogether.  I live in coal country and there are at least 3 spots where I can expose her to trains without interfering with traffic.  However, I would like to drive her to the post office, etc. and there is 1 train crossing with bells and poles that come down.

The State of MD is spraying trees to eradicate some bug.  I am in the center of a forest.  The helicopter flew over my property and directly over Blackie and made about 4 passes within 50′ of Blackie.  The spray was quite visible and the helicopter was only about 50′ above the ground.  When I got outside she was looking up at the helicopter and watched as my goats either slammed into fences or jumped them to get to me.  The geese and turkeys were also quite frightened.  By the third pass of the helicopter, Blackie seemed more interested in the hay in front of her than helicopter.  My goats would not leave my side the rest of the day but Blackie did not seem to need me at all.

I did not see the helicopter & Blackie at the moment of the first pass, but when I went out to check she was about 30′ away from her hay.  I went out as soon as I heard the helicopter and missed seeing Blackie’s reaction by about 10 seconds.  I assume she “spooked” and ran 30′ but when I got to the outside she was looking up at it the helicopter not running.  She went back to her breakfast.  Looked up for subsequent passes but did not stop munching.  Can I assume a similar reaction to the train?

Monty’s Answer: Thank you for the time that you took to explain Blackie’s fears. As is the case with so many interested horse people out there, you have answered your own question. There is a test for you. You might ask “Where did I answer my own question?” You did so with the following words “But she comes from an area without trains”. You are telling me that if she came from an area where there were trains that she would be just fine with trains and you are absolutely right.

horse and pigDon’t worry. We’re going to get through this because I do realize that this simply does not give you enough information. Remember that I often say to my audiences and write in my books. Every horse on the face of the earth is frightened of pigs, unless they are raised on a pig farm. If so, they are perfectly fine with pigs. Most pig farm raised horses love pigs and considers them good friends. There is a lesson to be learned from this phenomenon.

Horses are frightened of anything that they are not familiar with. Their DNA has set them up this way and they simply would not have lived as a species for 50 million years if they failed to think that way. As a child I traveled, with horses, to many horse shows on a train. My horses hadn’t been raised around trains so I had to work out how best to let them know that the train wasn’t going to kill them. I remember exactly how we did it.

Salinas, California has a train track and a depot. It is an agricultural area and there is a lot of freight train loading of vegetables destined for all parts of the United States. Just west of Salinas along the tracks there are some cattle and horse farms. The tracks are laid down in multiples and they are called switching tracks. This means that there are switch engines that move along 2 or 3 cars at a time and park them on the side to be loaded.

After the loading is complete the cars are switched on to the main track hooked to the larger freight train and off they go. We found a dairy farm near the tracks, right in the area of switching. There was high activity on those tracks. We made a deal with the dairy farmer to allow for some horses to be put in the field next to the tracks. After 2-3 days and nights the horses would graze right along the fence and never even look up when the train went by.

Remember that when this was going on we still had steam engines (choo choos). They were awesome, noisy and huge. The trains of today sound like a Rolls Royce compared to the trains of my childhood. Remember also that switch tracks have signals going almost constantly. The signals of my day were called WigWags which was a very large stop sign-like hunk of metal which wagged back and forth on a long metal arm like a giant pendulum on an antique clock.

If you are innovative I think you can come up with someone who has property along the tracks who can assist you. It is well to remember that there are many items at home that can aid you in your efforts. One can start with something as small as an electric toothbrush and work your way all the way up to a leaf blower. Quads can help a lot. They are like a four wheeled motor cycle and very noisy. There are kids in your community that would love to help.

For $5 they will have races up and down in front of your horses stable for a half hour or so. Remember that it is essential to train to these frightening sights and sounds in different locations and at different times of the day. In order to get the job done properly one must do it while on the ground and while in the saddle. Remember to take care and be extremely incremental. Start with the easiest challenge and work your way upward being very cautious not to over match your horse.