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Ask Monty

About Join-Up ®

While tracking wild mustangs in Nevada as a boy, Monty observed a nonverbal communication between the horses, a silent language he would later call “Equus.” Monty incorporates “Equus” into his nonviolent training approach called Join-Up®.

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Monty first developed Join-Up® to stop the cycle of violence typically accepted in traditional horse breaking. Convinced there must be a more effective and gentle method, Monty created these consistent set of principles using the horse’s inherent methods of communication and herd behavior. The result is a willing partnership in which the horse’s performance can flourish to its full potential, rather than exist within the boundaries of obedience. These principles are valuable tools to understanding what motivates horse behavior and increasing effectiveness in any application.

Join-Up training methods are most simply expressed in the process of starting raw horses. Without the use of pain or force the trainer persuades a raw horse to accept a saddle, bridle and rider. Working in a round pen, one begins Join-Up® by making large movements and noise as a predator would and begins driving the horse to run away. She then gives the horse the option to flee or Join-Up®. Through body language, the trainer will ask, “Will you pay me the respect due to a herd leader and join and follow me?” The horse will respond with predictable herd behavior: by locking an ear on her, then by licking and chewing and dropping his head in a display of trust. The exchange concludes with the trainer adopting passive body language, turning her back on the horse and without eye contact, invites him to come close. Join-Up occurs when the animal willingly chooses to be with the human and walks toward her accepting her leadership and protection. This process of communication through behavior and body language and mutual concern and respect, can be a valuable tool to strengthen all other work with horses.

Experienced horse people, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, have called Monty’s method incredible. Two-time, World’s Greatest Horseman winner, Ron Ralls uses Monty’s methods in the foundation for his training work as well.

Traditional methods aim to teach the horse to ‘DO AS I SAY’ and involve the use of pain and intimidation, but Monty focuses on communion with the horse, rather than domination. “For centuries, humans have said to horses, ‘You do what I tell you or I’ll hurt you,’ I’m saying that no one has the right to say, ‘you must’ to an animal or to another human,” Monty said.

Join-Up methods rely on horse and trainer establishing a bond of communication and trust. “You must somehow understand that we as horsemen can do very little to teach the horse. What we can do is to create an environment in which he can learn.” Monty says, “We hear that ‘actions speak louder than words,’ but generally we do not live by it too successfully.”

The principles found in Join-Up offer valuable tools for all other work. Riders, trainers, veterinarians, vet techs, farriers, barn managers – virtually anyone handling horses – can use these methods to increase their effectiveness in helping horses fulfill their potential.

Other Applications for Join-Up®

Other application for Join-Up®The message of Join-Up® goes far beyond horses. The lesson is also about philosophies of communication and relationships. Join-Up proposes that not just horses, but humans too, thrive in a cooperative and safe environment and falter in a climate of fear and submission. It is clear why corporations, educators, government leaders, physicians, and more, are using Join-Up as a platform for work outside the equine world.

Monty frequently speaks with corporations, translating his theories about rewarding positive behavior with horses, to human applications. Leading corporate communication events, he uses the horse as a model, and shares how more can be accomplished with mutual respect and cooperation than can be accomplished with dominance and aggression. Hundreds of executives from Disney, Merrill Lynch, Jaguar, John Deere and other major corporations have gathered around the round-pen at Flag Is Up Farms, experiencing the Join-Up® demonstration and listening to these new philosophies in management. Ann Marsh of Forbes wrote in the late 1990’s Volkswagen “made a remarkable comeback in the U.S. market… at least some of the credit goes to a kind-hearted horse trainer, Monty Roberts.” (read Forbes article) Management specialists such as Bob Foxworthy have even based entire leadership development practices around these Join-Up principles.

Educators are applying Join-Up techniques in their classrooms. Recently school administrators, teachers and psychologists have been visiting the Farm in increasing numbers to consider how Join-Up principles offer alternatives to children without the fear of pain or punishment. Using Monty’s methods, the Kinghurst Junior School (read article) in Great Britain, has gone from being condemned as a failing school, to being re-classified as a center of excellence. In Spring 2004, the Girl Scouts recognized the valuable lessons in Join-Up with a badge program for their youth. “Make it easy for the child or adult to Join-Up® with you, rather than struggle against you,” Monty said.

Monty’s principles really amount to common sense and immense patience. He believes that children and horses have the same behavioral patterns. They are both naturally “flight” animals. If you frighten them and resort to confrontation, you’ll lose them. Simple one-on-one reassurances and praise reap long term dividends that can all be undone with the quick slamming of a book on a desk or shouting back.

Monty Roberts has used the success of Kingshurst as a blueprint for schools worldwide. Konocti Unified School District in Northern California has just become the first to open its doors and listen in the US. Monty now offers his program Monty’s Principles to public and private schools, co-ops and equine therapy groups. Monty’s Principles has been developed in cooperation with veteran teachers and experienced administrators in challenging environments. It trains teachers in the use of a method for teaching that employs a horse’s communication system of gestures as a metaphor to aid teachers in class instruction, and provides course material for the method. (click here to request info on this program)

“To watch him tame a horse in 30 minutes that has never before been ridden, without resorting to the conventional and fairly brutal breaking methods that usually takes weeks, is quite inspiring. Likewise, to hear from children who probably would have been lost in the system who are now fully engaged, really does make you wonder why more have not listened before.”

Paolo Marenghi and the “Nightline” Staff ABC News London Bureau ( Order Nightline Episode by clicking here)

Other applications for Join-Up®Government agencies, such as the CIA’s polygraph division have sought to learn more about Join-Up, relative to the value of body language – based on Monty’s many years of observing animals and people. White House representatives have asked to learn more from Monty about fostering confidence and loyalty within organizations (read article). Monty has even taken the principles of his Join-Up methods to Los Alamos National Laboratory, to promote the value in trust and cooperation, as seen in his work with horses.

Medical clinicians are now using the Join-Up communication formula when working with children with autism. These children exhibit a similar level of sensitivity to the horse’s in regards to body language, tone of voice, and touch. The non-aggressive, visual based communication that is integral to Join-Up horse training philosophies has proven a useful tool when working with these children’s unique needs. (read article)

The Join-Up principles, while originally developed as a tool to work with horses, hold value in an infinite number of applications: some tactical and quantifiable, some more abstract. Join-Up is about a balanced existence, encouraging trust, reliability and comfort from others, but it can only occur when an underlying desire for partnership exists on both sides. With humans, as with horses, communication enables Join-Up. Trust keeps the process alive.

We are always eager to hear new interpretations and success stories! Please send us your Join-Up story.