Thank you very much for your question and I must say that I have been in France having fun with two horses that seemed to go into the starting stalls without any problem. The issue was that each of them refused to leave the starting stall when the gates flew open and the race was on. That can cause any owner to choke on his mint julep or in France it might be champagne. Watching your horse give the field twelve or fourteen lengths before choosing to leave the starting stall is a death knell to the best of racehorses. One of the horses I worked with gave the field fourteen lengths and then actually won the race. That’s how talented this young horse is.
He was entered back against much tougher company after calling in an expert to deal with him. He gave the next group of opponents another fourteen lengths and finished third beaten by only two lengths. These were high level competitors and one would have to ask just how good is this horse? I worked with him for ten days and it is my hope that he will get adequate human assistance before his next start which is scheduled for early July. It is a mile and one half race with a purse well over a half million US dollars. When I left France he was flying out of the starting gates. I almost feel that he was too keen following ten sessions of my work with him.
The problem, as I see it, is that this young horse was ultra sensitive to the touch and the rails inside the starting stall were simply too invasive. As Thoroughbreds set their feet for the start, they will generally spread wide behind and then push off like a rocket. As they leave the stall at top speed, their stifles are burned by the rails that jut out into the stall. This is not an uncommon occurrence and it requires innovation so as to protect the area of the flanks and the stifles as the horse leaves. I say that they protective blanket that I use was invented by a horse called Prince of Darkness. He was in training in Newmarket, England when they called me in to get him right.
Sir Mark Prescott was the trainer and I must say I knew absolutely nothing about the phenomenon of rail sensitivity. I would feel guilty about this except that no one else in the world knew anything about it either. I am sure the problem existed, but I think that everybody took the position that it was just a stubborn horse and had nothing to do with the rails. I worked for about a week with Prince of Darkness before realizing what his issues were. Once I had the protective blanket on him, the problem was over. We went straight to the races at Warwick in England where he was extremely successful in a field of 26 horses and the blanket now circles the globe.
So this is what I was doing in France and I will be happy to report on the ongoing progress of the two horses that are incidentally by the same sire, interesting, eh? Perhaps I can include their names and those of the connections, but I think we better wait to see what the outcome of my work actually amounts to. Let me tell you that France is no longer the country of good food, but they certainly know how to make out a huge bill for a dab of chicken with some sauce poured over it. I’m looking forward to more work in France, but next time I will insist upon a kitchen in my hotel room. One can actually buy food at a grocery store for a relatively reasonable price.
During the course of my stay, I met some wonderful people who were very helpful. They rescued me from my inability to navigate the pitfalls of Charles de Gaulle airport. It is a chaotic tangle of roadways that even the natives can’t fathom. My driver parked at 2E, an airline terminal and walked with me to the Sheraton in the middle of the airport. He asked at the reception desk, “Where do you park for the Sheraton Hotel?” and the answer was, “Wherever you want and then you walk to the hotel.” He said, “What about the bags?” And then they said, “The bags have wheels on them, don’t they?” Actually they did, but we could have used one of those push trolleys.
It is a different world out there, but I have to tell you that Chantilly is heaven for horses. There is one training gallop through the trees that is over two miles long on the straight.There are about 50 training gallops through the forest in the Chantilly area. It is natural sand and for thousands of years the leaves have worked their way into the soil to the extent that it has produced a surface like the finest protective mattress that a horse could train on. It rained heavily while I was there, but the incredible footing was never a problem to train over. Every horseman should make the trip to learn about this natural utopia for horses. It is phenomenal.
We were lucky to be invited recently to a Huey Lewis concert, and then to go meet Mr. Lewis back stage prior to the show. We went to the show with Pat and Monty Roberts.
When we got to the concert venue, we were ushered backstage. There was quietness before the show-no sign of backstage jitters or stage fright by anyone about to go on stage. Someone asked Mr. Lewis what he did to prepare for his show. He looked around, adjusted his glasses and said simply, “Change my shirt.”
We liked that answer. It showed how lightly Mr. Lewis wore his fame, and reminded me that even high profile people have a choice in the way they prepare for an event or meeting. After that statement, Mr. Lewis took the stage and the audience readily responded to his low-key sincerity.
On another recent occasion, we spoke with a colleague, a fellow graduate school instructor. His words about how he prepared for each class struck us as useful. “I don’t worry about class time,” he related. ” I prepare for each class, then enjoy myself once in class,” he said. It struck us that Mr. Lewis had done just that-albeit with minimal last minute preparation.
Many of us have to prepare for what we perceive as high-pressure meetings. Our anxiety in the meeting can steer an otherwise good meeting toward a tense, pressurized encounter. We have an antidote to that scenario- a different way of putting anxiety into a more useful place. We suggest looking to horses for a solution.
For thousands of years of domestication, horses as flight animals have developed a keen sensitivity to human adrenalin levels. They know when anxiety levels are high in humans, and when they are low. According to New York Times Best Selling Author Monty Roberts, it is more useful for training (read, learning) when adrenalin and anxiety levels are lower. Mr. Roberts uses a process of training called Join-Up to establish a relationship with a horse that relies on trust to relax and enable the horse to learn. He mirrors the horse by using the horses’ own language of gestures-a language Mr. Roberts calls Equus.
“Adrenaline up, learning down, adrenalin down, learning up,” says Mr. Roberts about the usefulness of nerve-wracking learning encounters. How can this perspective inform your own preparation for presentations or training meetings? It’s simple, for your next presentation, try doing the following:
1. Prepare for your meeting or presentation to the point of complete comfort with the materials you will present.
2. Rehearse, role-play, practice. Know your material cold.
3. Once at your meeting, enjoy the company you are with and let your presentation roll out. Connect with your audience. Relax, breath normally, you know your stuff!
For your next presentation, try the above suggestion-use your nervous energy to drive meeting preparation and then relax once you are into the meeting. Enjoy. Your anxiety levels will be lower, and so will the anxiety levels of your audience.
Debbie Roberts-Loucks and Dr. Susan Cain design and facilitate unique corporate training events. Find out more about MPRI corporate training opportunities by visiting the corporate events page at www.montyroberts.com.
My young horse, who is 10 months old, needs farrier attention yet it seems to me that he is too young for Join-Up. What steps should I take before bringing in my farrier? Kerry Milford
Thank you for your timely question. This week we have added a sixth farrier lesson to my Equus Online University. Students should ask their farriers to watch along with them as they learn from world renowned farrier Ada Gates showing us how she achieves a balanced foot and objective farriery. Farriers will appreciate that these owners are willing to prepare their horses for the farrier’s visit.
I remember, as a child, my father telling me that he had never been to a dentist and that he hated the thought of ever having to go. I remember my first visit vividly. I was totally unprepared, scared to death, and hated every minute of it. By the time our children made their first visit to the dentist, times had changed dramatically, and our family dentist was willing to take the time for a mock visit, where an assistant explained to the children the value of dentistry, and educated them about the great lengths taken to keep it pain free.
Consequently, our children have never feared the dentist, and our family has enjoyed a much improved dental environment than from my childhood. This is precisely the message that I believe to be applicable when preparing your horse to deal with the farrier. Let’s first address your question about Join-Up®.
Once your foal has been weaned and no longer calls out for his mother, he is ready for his Join-Up sessions. Accomplishing Join-Up is a great way for your foal to enter that period of his life when his mother is no longer a factor. Properly done, it will promote an understanding between weanling and human that will be beneficial lifelong. I recommend two or three Join-Up sessions on consecutive days. Be gentle and patient with foals as they are small and ultra-sensitive.
Doing too many Join-Up sessions at this stage is usually counterproductive. It is a little like often telling a child the same story; the foal will come to resent it and exhibit gestures of anger. Prudently accomplished, two or three Join-Up sessions will allow you to live by the concepts of Join-Up throughout the relationship with your horse.
The post Join-Up work with the Dually halter should proceed until you achieve strong signs of willingness and relaxation. Then, you can move on to accomplish other goals. The Dually is very effective for schooling a horse to stand for the farrier or the veterinarian. The Dually halter will also help a horse load into a trailer, walk into a starting gate (starting stalls), walk through water, stand for mounting or any other handling problems.
Any person preparing a horse to be trimmed or shod by the farrier should take this responsibility seriously. I have seen extremely wild and fractious horses that require a week or more to be prepared for the farrier’s visit. During this training period the sessions might take up to an hour a day. Half-hour sessions twice a day are not a bad idea.
In every country I have visited, I have found that some people believe that the farrier can educate the horse himself when it comes to standing and behaving while the footwork is done. This is an unacceptable mind-set. A farrier is a professional and should be treated as such. His expertise is to care for your horse’s feet, not to train him. While it is true that some farriers are also good horsemen and quite capable of doing the training, most horse owners do not plan to pay the farrier for training services.
The farrier often feels that he is being taken advantage of and should not be required to take the time necessary to train. This can result in short tempers, and horses dealt with in an inappropriate way. While farriers are generally physically fit, muscular and capable of administering harsh treatment, should something like this occur, the blame should rest with the people securing their services, and not the farrier. Starting to prepare your horse to meet the farrier should preferably be done just after weaning, but you might inherit an older horse that has not had this education.
The following procedure is for yearlings and older horses. I would suggest that your student be introduced to the round pen and go through one, two or three Join-Ups on successive days. Once Join-Up has been achieved and your horse is perfectly willing to follow you with his adrenaline down and volunteers to stay with you comfortably, I suggest that you put your student though two or three daily sessions with the Dually halter.
Once that has been accomplished, you are well on your way to having your horse stand comfortably while you pick up and deal with his feet. To begin the farrier-schooling process, you should first rub your horse over, or spray him, with insect repellent. He finds it disconcerting if he has to stand on three legs and can’t stomp one to remove an insect. Once the repellent is applied, you can begin to pick each foot up repeatedly.
If, at this juncture, your horse is perfectly willing to give you one foot at a time and stand on the other three while you tap on the lifted foot and run a rasp over it, you are probably ready to give your farrier a call. If your student is reluctant, offers to kick, or refuses to allow you to tap or rasp the lifted foot, I suggest that you fabricate an “artificial arm,” which I’ll discuss later.
At this point, the good horseman should reflect on why a horse might react in this fashion. Each of us should quickly remember that the flight animal relies upon his legs to carry him to flee for survival. We should immediately understand that acting out violently toward the horse does nothing but convince him that we are predators and out to cause him harm. Delivering pain to your student is absolutely inappropriate.
To make an artificial arm like the one I use to train horses that are difficult for the farrier, you will need the following items:
1. An old rake or broom handle, cut 3 feet (approx. 1 meter) long, or a hardwood cane with a straight-handle grip, not curved grip.
2. One heavy-duty work glove.
3. One sleeve of a discarded sweatshirt or heavy work shirt.
4. One roll of electrical, gaffer or duct tape.
Place the glove over one end of the pole and fill it with straw or shavings. Slide the sleeve into place so that the cuff can be taped at the wrist portion of the work glove. Fill the sleeve with sponge, straw or shavings, and tape the upper end of the sleeve to secure the material inside. You should have approximately one foot (30 cm) of uncovered pole for easy handling.
I’m finding it fun for me, at this stage in my life, that innovative students, encouraged to keep open minds, are making some very interesting discoveries. Kelly Marks is the director of the original Monty Roberts courses in England. She brought Ian Vandenberghe to be an instructor in my concepts. Ian came up with an idea that is very helpful, particularly for small, female trainers. He concluded that if the arm had a stiff thumb on it, the handler could, at the appropriate moment, slide the thumb down behind the rear leg, stopping at the pastern.
Using the padded thumb, the handler could actually lift the hind leg without placing her own arm in jeopardy. I was on tour in England when I received a very difficult horse, with a strong desire to kick. The English team brought me Ian’s improved arm and I found it very effective.
If your equine student wants to kick the artificial arm, do not discourage him. Return the arm to the position that bothered the horse until the horse accepts it anywhere you want to put it.
Begin using the arm by massaging the body, shoulders and hips of the horse before proceeding to his legs. You can even rub the belly, and up between the hind legs. Spend considerable time in the area of the flank, as it will be often touched by the farrier’s shoulder. Bad habits can get started if the horse is still sensitive in the flank area before the leg-lifting procedures begin. Use the arm to massage all four legs until the horse is perfectly happy dealing with the procedure.
If you are dealing with an extremely flighty or dangerous horse, you may consider using an assistant so that one person can control the head while the other uses the arm. Remember, if the horse acts out or pulls his leg away from you, drop the leg immediately and then school with the Dually halter. This will not be necessary with most horses that are raised domestically, but it could be an advantage with mustangs or horses raised with little human contact.
Be alert and watch for improvement, and when you get it, remove the arm from that position at once and go to the other side of the horse to continue working. Your student will regard this as reward for not kicking, and is likely to quickly improve. With your student cooperating fully when you pick up all four feet and tap and rasp, ask your farrier if he has an old pair of farrier’s chaps that he can lend you, if you don’t own a pair yourself.
You need your horse to allow you to work on all four legs while you are wearing loose-fitting chaps, which may frighten him and present a problem when the farrier visits. Most horses become accustomed to chaps within five to ten minutes without a much difficulty. On the day the farrier arrives, your student should have the person who has been working with him present for his first farrier procedure.
You should choose a place for this work that the horse is familiar with and one where you have accomplished a large part of your schooling. It should be a safe enclosure with good lighting so that the farrier can see the feet clearly. Good footing should be provided, and a firm, level surface should be available so that the farrier can judge the action of the feet as the horse walks away from, and back toward, the farrier.
You should have the Dually halter on your student, and move through the procedure slowly so that he accepts the activity while staying calm and relaxed. Advise your farrier that you believe it is a good idea to pick the feet up and put them down a few times before working on the foot just to accustom the horse to the activity. It is also a good idea if the farrier picks up the foreleg briefly just before picking up the rear leg on that same side, to help prepare the horse for work on the hind foot.
If you find that you have done insufficient work to prepare your horse for the farrier, then stop the procedure at once and allow additional time for further schooling before reintroducing him to the farrier. Following these procedures, your farrier is likely to be a much happier member of your team than if he would be if required to deal with an unprepared horse. And just as important, your horse will be a much happier individual, likely to enjoy a lifetime of comfort with the farrier.
Anyone who owns a horse should read material written by notable farriers to better understand the importance of foot care. The old saying “No foot, no horse” is certainly valid. An owner should take the responsibility of being as informed as possible when it comes to this critical part of the horse’s anatomy. The informed owner will judge the farrier’s work by the angle, shape and health of the foot he helps to create, and not by the amount of material he removes.
Good luck with your foal’s training and let us know how it goes with all his new experiences.
I’m a 23 year old Dutch student and I have been riding since I was 5 years old. I have always followed the conventional methods of the German and Dutch dressage school but since I became familiar with your methods about 7 years ago when visiting a Monty Roberts demonstration, I’ve gone in and out of a kind of existential crisis. I believe firmly in your methods and beliefs, but thinking of them I find it difficult to integrate the Join-Up principles in the dressage school. This has led me to consider a totally different approach to my horse and to abandon dressage in favor of a more natural way of enjoying my mare. But my question to you would be; is my understanding correct? Is it really true that dressage has very little to do with your beliefs? Or could there be a way to combine them both? Since dressage is really all about forcing a horse to assume a posture that isn’t natural and making them do ‘tricks’ and exercises supposedly to train them into assuming a posture that would lead to benefits for the horse. How does Monty see this issue?
Monty’s Answer [Part I of two parts due to the completeness of Monty's answer]:
A question has come through to me that is very interesting and quite appropriate at this moment in time in the world of horsemanship. The question is ‘can dressage, and the training of dressage horses, be accomplished while staying within the guidelines of your non-violent methods?’ It is my opinion that the one word answer is ‘YES’.
Not for one moment do I want any horseman to believe that the one word answer is actually sufficient. Nothing that we do with horses is so perfect that it requires no revision to make it better for these wonderful animals. Meeting their needs while helping them to become educated to the ways of the human, is absolutely essential.
One should remind oneself that the elements of dressage were born out of pre-historic wars. Each movement can trace its inception to a time when officers rode large athletic horses along with the foot troops on the battle fields of Asia and Europe. All accounts of the training of these horses would suggest high levels of violence.
Carvings in the rocks and later drawings and even the written word would suggest that horses were literally beaten into submission to accomplish elements of dressage that we still see today. These demands are made in riding schools, on bridle paths and most of all in the competition show rings of the world. This is simply not acceptable.
My upbringing was in the western part of the United States. I saw my first dressage horses in the late 1940′s. We had a Hollywood actor, Arthur Godfrey, who went off to Germany, fell in love with dressage and brought two high-level competition horses back to California with him. I was amazed by what these horses could do and observed them intensely.
Later, while studying my behavioral sciences I was able to see several motion picture accounts of the training of these horses. What I saw was appalling. I suppose I immediately checked dressage off my list of acceptable disciplines. It stayed off my list for about five decades. It was then that I met a wonderful Australian lady called Janice Usherwood.
Ms. Usherwood challenged me to observe her techniques for accomplishing world-class pirouettes, piaffe and passage. I have always been one to advise horsemen to keep their minds open and watch for the good things; not dwelling on the bad. Ms. Usherwood called my attention to the fact that I had been operating with a closed mind.
Later I would meet and work with Charlotte Bredahl. She went on to win the bronze medal in dressage at the Barcelona Olympics. Charlotte is a kind lady who loves her horses and would never think of acting out in violence with them. I have come to know her much better in recent years and she has taught me much.
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.
There are times when biting is a behavioral sign of hindgut sensitivity caused by ulcers in the colon. Ulcers can lead to colic, so it is critical to get a complete vet check on horses showing these signs. Please take time to review this explanation from John Hall, the President of Freedom Health, in view of studies recently conducted on horses and hindgut sensitity leading to colic.
Communication from John Hall, President of Freedom Health:
In reference to the blog post on the young lady that wrote about her horse “starting to bite when asked to canter”, it is worth asking if there have been changes in the way this horse is fed and managed. Cantering requires more collection, which puts pressure from the hind legs on the abdomen, plus the horse appears not to like having any lower leg pressure from the rider. These are signals of hindgut sensitivity.
Usually, the horse will somehow put up with some discomfort, then finally rebel (which is totally against its instincts) as conditions worsen. When it does rebel, someone has to find out what is causing this, rather than assume it is simply a newly learned “bad behavior”.
Monty mentions spurs as a possible cause. We would suggest that, while we totally concur, it’s less likely if this hasn’t occurred previously (unless the young lady has just started with spurs). By far the most prevalent issue is colonic ulceration. Based on our most recent study, 88% of 262 horses had colonic ulcers.
After closely observing the horse industry for more than 70 years now, I have been able to establish any changes that might have occurred when dealing with headshy horses. Many recent events would clearly indicate to the horse world that the concepts of schooling the headshy horse have remained essentially the same for the past 70 years and possibly much further back than that.
This video represents the first full disclosure of the entirely new concept that I have discovered, which we will call the Monty Roberts Centaur Method. This is the act of riding a quiet, cooperative horse while building on the platform established through Join-Up, Follow-Up and the use of the Dually Halter to work with the headshy horse from a different position than handling from the ground.
The importance of the centaur training method of is not likely to be fully appreciated until tens of thousands of horsepeople see it. It is desperately needed on a global basis because it sets the pattern for nonviolent training. It clearly illustrates how effective it is to communicate in the absence of violence, force or intimidation.
It is my opinion that the discovery I have made, that I will call ‘centaur’, will eventually change the world of dealing with headshy horses. It is my hope that from there is will go on to significantly reduce the number of headshy horses that are created by individuals who know no other way but force.
- Monty Roberts
What are the benefits of Monty Roberts’ Centaur Training Method?
- Safe approach to touching sensitive areas of headshy horses
- Effective in dealing with even the most phobic headshy horses
- Successful in building trust between trainer and headshy horse
- Fast method to help headshy horses overcome their fears
Why does it work?
- It provides the fearful horse with a calm companion horse
- It initially reshapes the human and presents the fearful stimulus (touching the head) into a new form (trainer + horse = centaur) that the phobic horse does not immediately mistrust
In 2004 I wrote a book called The Horses in My Life. In it was a chapter titled Lomitas and the German Dynasty. Recently several events occurred that have proven my last paragraph regarding my all-time favorite racehorse has come true in the most electryfying way. The paragraph stated Lomitas’s second life at stud may prove even more important than his first life as a racehorse. He was a champion racehorse and a champion sire, and at the time of publishing in 2004 Lomitas’s offsppring had won nearly $8,000,000. At this writing I have no idea how many millions have been added to that amount.
On October 1 the Gr. I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe race at Longchamps France was run and the name Danedream will be forever in the history books as winning by one of the longest margins in the history of this prestigious race. The newspress described the efforts of Danedream as one of the outstanding all time performances by a race horse. Not only was she a filly, but she had to compete with the colts. To me the most exciting thing was that she was sired by Lomitas. Little did I know how prophetic my statement about Lomitas becoming an outstanding sire would be proven beyond a doubt in the year 2011, seven years later.
Since that time Lomitas has produced many champion racehorses and champion stallions who are too numerous to list. In that same week that Danedream won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a horse by the name Silvaner won the Gr.3 Baden-Wurttemberg-Trophy in Germany and was also sired by Lomitas. This three-year-old comes from the same crop as Danedream, and in winning this race she had to battle fiercely with two other outstanding racehorses, one of which was also sired by Lomitas. Silvaner was bred by Gestut Fahrhof, as was Lomitas.
Lomitas’s dynasty lives on and it makes my heart warm to know that this gorgeous, intelligent Thoroughbred stallion was able to prove his greatness not only on the track but also in the stud barn.
If a person is going to be successful in the horse world, you have got to decide what you want for yourself. The needs of the horse come before wanting to win championships; wanting to make money; wanting to be successful internally. It is a partnership. Your horse is critical. His needs must be met first, and if his needs are not met, your performance will pay a price.
We need to know what that horse considers to be a reward. As predators, we know food as a reward. There is, in our DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid], a factor for considering food a reward, but no blade of grass has ever run from a horse. No horse felt the need to stalk down a blade of grass and kill it, and then eat it. Food is just there, for them.
So what does a horse consider as a reward? Often times it is just the ceasing of work. Just stopping. Giving them a rub. Getting off their backs, if we’re on them. Walking them around. Walking away from them is a reward, that tells them that you are not predatorial. Think of innovative ways to reward your horse in HIS language. Which is to say, “I like you, and I’m not going to hurt you.”
Horses are very generous animals. They are ambitious. They have a lot of energy. So they don’t want to just stand around, they want to do things but be careful. Monitor them. Observe them. When they’ve had enough, ease up. Reward them. Stop. Get off. Give them a rub and walk away.
Your chances for success will fall right off the table if the needs of the horse are not met. When you meet his needs, then your chances go sky-rocketing. One can’t simply be conceited about it, or arrogant, when the horse meets your needs. The reason that you can not do that, is that you will start to overwhelm your horse, with your own requirements.
Study. Learn what he needs. Provide those needs and your chances for success will sky-rocket.
Having spent the last three and a half hours and 198 miles driving on rain-sodden motorways back from Keysoe, Lou and I have had plenty time to reflect on a remarkable show and demo. Everyone was on sparkling form, from all the helpers to the core team, but above all, the performers, Kelly, Rosie , Copy and, of course, the maestro himself Monty.
But the final demo was really exceptional. Initially starting from the ground, the horse’s issues were quickly established and visible to all. Monty then opened our eyes to a new and breathtaking concept that he has only just developed and one that those lucky enough to be there will store as a cherished moment. Monty climbed aboard Copy and proceeded with some quite remarkable work from the saddle to work on boundaries with our head-shy friend quickly gaining the horse’s trust and respect.
A form of mounted Join-Up. It was not long before Monty was leading the horse in a calm, peaceful and gentle way. Copy had switched to his working horse roots assuming a low energy role becoming the master horseman’s perfect partner – ice cool, calm, willing and oh so honest. Monty then went to work demonstrating to a captivated audience the use of his concepts (usually demonstrated from the ground) but now in the saddle.
We all watched spellbound as the head-shy horse started to change and understand before our very eyes. It was a privilege to be there and to see this great horseman displaying his skills not only in the saddle but also demonstrating his mastery in working with and understanding behavioural problems. Monty asked Rosie to work with Tilly on the ground whilst he was still on copy and to touch and rub Tilly at the same time as Monty and then completely on her own – it was really something seeing Tilly happily accept what before the demo was totally unacceptable.
This was really a demo not to be missed and to be at Keysoe and to see the phenomenal way Monty brought about a disenfranchisement of a phobia and the clear transformation of our head-shy friend was something to be remembered forever.