Archive for December, 2010


Monty Roberts’ Lessons from the Roundpen Part I

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

By Monty Roberts

We live in restless times. In almost every area of life people can feel that things are changing and indeed must change. But no one knows where the necessary changes will lead or what they will mean for those concerned.

What, you may be asking yourself, can Monty Roberts, a Californian horse trainer, contribute in such times of general insecu­rity? To find the answer, the best place to start is with horses, because for me too, that is where everything be­gan. I was born on a ranch in Salinas, California, and learned to ride as a small child. My father was a horse trainer but our relationship was strained, to say the least. I could never come to terms with the violent methods with which he would quite literally break the will of young horses until they obeyed him out of naked fear. By observing wild mustangs I later developed my own special way of communicating with horses that would ultimately lead to the creation of my Join-Up principles.

Very briefly, Join-Up is about causing the horse to want to be with you instead of away from you. This is achieved by using the same communications sys­tem that horses use among themselves. People are often amazed when I get a very shy or aggressive animal to want to be with me in a very short time. But for the trainer or owner, that is just the start of their own learning process. If you are going to use the equine communication system, you have to learn it. That means learning a language and it takes time. But the effect it has on horses is that they become a partner with people instead of an adversary.

When owners turn to me they are often frustrated be­cause they just cannot get what they want from their horse. Some of these big, strong, fast animals have be­come dangerous. Why? Because their trainers have tried to force them to do something with violent methods. Us­ing violence is the biggest mistake people can make in dealing with horses. Horses are flight animals; they want no violence in their lives at all. And that is my starting point. I try to create a calm atmosphere by convincing the horse that I am not going to attack it and it can trust me. In that kind of atmosphere the horse then will do what I want it to of its own free will.

End of Part I of three posts

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Join-Up in the Classroom

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Whose Classroom Is It?
by Stephen Taylor with Commentary by Monty Roberts

When one discovers something by accident or a number of meaningful events seem to happen by coincidence, I am never quite sure whether the right word to use is serendipity or synchronicity. However, I prefer to think of it as Joseph Jaworski describes in the preface to his book ‘Synchronicity, The Inner Path of Leadership.’ Jaworski refers to these moments as if we are being helped by hidden hands, and for him there appears to be a mysterious quality about them. With seemingly hard to explain events, requests and meetings with remarkable people coming out of the blue, almost from the very moment I made my commitment to help and support Monty Roberts, I too have had course to share Jaworski’s mysterious feelings and feel those hidden helping hands at work.

Helping hands were at work on the morning I rushed to the photocopier before class. Sitting there on top of the copying machine was a set of school classroom rules. Not unusual in a school, however, these rules did not belong to our school. I searched the immediate area for the possible owner, but strangely enough on this day and at a time that is usually bristling with frantic last minute activity, the copying room and surrounding area were quieter than the Mary Celeste. Resistance was futile, curiosity got the better of me and I started to read the ten rules and two reminders, all of which were neatly laid out with key instructions and directions picked out in bold blocked capitals. Each rule was written in a distinct tone, which to my ears sounded aggressive and confrontational. I couldn’t believe what I was reading; surely this was part of an early 20th century history of education project?

The Rules Read:

Quietly ENTER the classroom ONLY when your teacher tells you to.

Go to the desk given to you by your teacher: it is not your job to decide where to sit unless you teacher tells you so.

Take your coat off immediately and sit down when requested.

LISTEN properly and FOLLOW the INSTRUCTIONS your teacher gives you straight away.

At the end of the lesson PACK equipment AWAY and put your COAT on ONLY when the teacher tells you.

Push your CHAIR under the desk and LEAVE the room quietly but ONLY when the teacher tells you to do so.

REMEMBER: The classroom belongs to your teacher, you only visit it a few times a week: s/he decides what happens in that room and not you.


These rules pose a whole host of questions and observations which I would now like to explore…

As an outsider, these rules would indicate to me that the school was having or had had  issues with student behaviour. The school’s answer being, metaphorically speaking, to rein in the students and take a tighter grip of those reins. In other words management has decided to take a top down, ‘you will,’ controlling approach, the term ‘zero tolerance often being associated with such approaches. However, as riders can testify trying to hold a horse constantly on a tight rein, to hold back its energies and enthusiasm is exhausting for the rider and certainly not the answer, the long term consequences being of no benefit to either party. In an attempt to limit the disruptions and focus on the teaching and learning, schools that take such action are getting themselves wrapped up in the punishment business and wasting hours of valuable pupil time. This contributes to an us and them culture and staffroom banter that sounds more like a briefing from an episode of Hill Street Blues with comments of ‘hey let’s be careful out there’ and ‘get them before they get you.’ Unfortunately, it would appear that this is the direction hundreds of our schools appear to travel in the absence of any alternative approaches.

Monty’s Principles would indeed take schools in a totally different direction and certainly out of the punishment business. Schools need to work in partnership with their pupils, as Monty states JOIN-UP®, student and teacher, as his theories would suggest for horse and rider. Keeping calm, being patient, listening, negotiating, positive and negative consequences for ones actions, giving ownership and with that ownership responsibility.  In my experience, children and young people are only too willing to seize upon and be involved in the issues that directly affect them. They bring such energy and enthusiasm to these issues, which, if channelled correctly result in tremendous benefits to all.

One key element of JOIN-UP® in the classroom and in schools in general, is the creation of negotiated contracts at whole school, class and individual level. One thing I have learnt is that students will be much harder on themselves than any teacher, and rather than weakening the processes that run the school, students who have input will actually strengthen the school’s experiences. Students who are allowed to have a voice in the running of THEIR schools, classrooms and environments will be learning vitally important life skills [CITIZENSHIP] of cooperation, give and take, responsibility to themselves and others and consequences associated with choice, ‘the learning being in the doing.’

I would suggest that the zero tolerance approaches have actually been introduced because of the consistently disruptive behaviour of a minority of students. We often hear of the term peer pressure being used in a negative sense. It is time this was reversed and the majority of students were given the opportunity to apply peer pressure [non-violent] upon the disruptive minority and reclaim their stolen education. This can be achieved through a progressive and serious commitment to valued student contributions in the form of class meetings, school councils, representation on school governing bodies right through to area and district education committees.

Schools that operate ‘zero tolerance’ approaches will believe they are doing the right thing. However, in my opinion they are operating from fear and under this fear students lose out through lost opportunities! Let me explain; schools are generally judged against other schools by things that can be measured, namely exam results. For many schools this is the number one criteria, failure to continually improve performance is met with public humiliation, branding and all associated negative consequences. These anxieties are met by tightening the control/ rein in order to keep pushing the students and staff to improve their performance, attempting to force more and more information into students rather than allowing it to be wilfully drawn in. And all this takes place in atmospheres of coercion and classroom cultures that neuro-scientists can now prove are not conducive to the brain working at its best.

At one time, I would have suggested that a leap of faith was required by schools, education leaders and districts before taking on Monty’s principles. However, they only need to look at the success of companies in corporate America such as Volkswagen North America who have come to realise that trust based approaches are the best performance enhancers. To quote Clive Warrilow [CEO Volkswagen North America] in his 1998 speech to the graduating class of the Business School of Oakland University, on the subject of Monty’s techniques and philosophy he said ‘ it is a metaphor for a style of management that says people will be better employees if you treat them with dignity, respect and honesty. Trust goes a lot further toward winning people over then ordering them around.’  Unfortunately, still very few education leaders are prepared to take that leap whether through fear of failing and ridicule or just not knowing how to. However, in the meantime our children continue to suffer lost learning opportunities to become self-disciplined and responsible young adults who are equipped to make our world a better place.

To return to those earlier rules that mysteriously appeared and inspired this article and which are clearly the antithesis of Monty’s Principles. I find it very interesting that there is no mention of responsibility, no mention of consequences, no mention of choice and no mention of the school and staff’s commitment to quality lessons and respecting students’ efforts in order to earn mutual respect.

Taking the tough no nonsense approach is not helping these youngsters or our future communities. It is not offering them anything new but only mirroring the social difficulties of fear, aggression and threats that already exist for many from very difficult family backgrounds. If you want tough approaches, these youngsters could well teach the staff a thing or two.

On discovering these rules my immediate concerns were for the very same children who years earlier I had had the privilege to teach in an atmosphere of mutual respect, in a shared and negotiated classroom and who now found themselves in a top down oppressive, aggressive and controlling environment.

To answer a question often asked by the media. Yes, it is upsetting to think of children I have previously taught having to endure a regime that is not only unnecessary but also inadequate. However, I have to believe that the previously good experiences will linger longer in their memories and that it will be these they take into adulthood and not those of fear, aggression and threat. As Amy, a past pupil once shared with her class, ‘JOIN-UP IS LOVE.’

So, I ask again……………..WHOSE CLASSROOM IS IT?

~ Stephen Taylor

Monty’s thoughts after reading Stephen’s article:
Children are intelligent little creatures, often underestimated by adults even if they are well educated and hold teachers’ credentials. Young people learn even when we are not paying that much attention. It is not whether they can learn, but it’s a matter of what they are learning. If through the actions of adults youngsters are learning that force and intimidation works, then they will strongly anticipate the day when they too can control their environment in that fashion.
Any newscast you choose will prove to the inquiring adult that our society is growing accustomed to using forceful techniques. Violent acts are being celebrated by our society at an unprecedented rate. The Internet is loaded with mindless acts of aggression between one human and another. To the victor go the accolades; we tend to be saying that if you’re big enough, strong enough and draw enough blood, you’re the hero.
The most recent atrocities include girl-on-girl physical violence, which steals from our species one of the last tenets of respect for one another. Cage fighting has become incredibly popular. No participant can leave the ring, and there are virtually no rules. Hitting a man when he’s down, kicking his teeth out and choking to submission are ordinary acts to determine the champion.
Where does this mindset begin? Is it in the homes where violence is often the vehicle used by family members to control the environment? Is it in the schools where rules such as Stephen has identified are regularly employed? Is it on the playgrounds where this mentality takes over to celebrate the actions of a bully who controls his subjects? Is it in the entertainment elements in the lives of our children? TV, motion pictures, video games, and the Internet provide incredible educational opportunities for those who want to become proficient in the principles of a fear-based culture. Is it the actions of certain military elements and even religious extremists?
There seems no doubt that it is a certain measure of all of these elements. There is no question that there is an ample supply of each of them no matter where we look. When our very educational system begins the academic life of a child by saying that it’s OK to demand rather than request, it is my opinion that we are headed down the wrong path. When our school systems agree that it’s OK to control the educational environment using the same techniques that a schoolyard bully would use, I believe we are educating but in the wrong direction.
Most elementary school teachers are bigger, stronger and more frightened than their students. If that is the criteria by which we gain control, then what happens when the natural process of growing up finds the student stronger and more physically capable than the teachers? I’ll tell you what happens: We get exactly what we are seeing in our violent modern culture.
Many of my readers can remember the story that I have told so often of the lady who is walking with two children. One is about ten years of age and the other about six. We watch as the lady stops, spins round and in a loud voice says, “Johnny, you stop hitting your little brother or I’m going to hit you.” What sort of message is this? I submit that it is certainly effective, at least until Johnny is as big as his mother. After that point, she is likely to experience her lesson in reverse, and that’s what we are experiencing in our culture today.
~ Monty


Shy Boy Helps Wild American Mustangs

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Shy Boy: the Mustang that Came in from the WildMonty Roberts and his most famous mustang Shy Boy, the authors of two new children’s books are proud to partner with ACTHA  to benefit mustangs through the Mustang Heritage Foundation.
ACTHA and Monty joined in support of the mission to increase the number of adoptions of American Mustangs. The sales of I’m Shy Boy, The Little American Mustang and the Ride for Mustangs will all benefit the Mustang Heritage Foundation. $1 from the sale of each book will be donated by Monty to the Mustang Heritage Foundation in honor of his relationship with ACTHA and mustangs everywhere!
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December 4, 2010: Understanding the Needs of Horses

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Often, when I see people working with horses, it seems clear to me why a horse might be confused. We humans are far from perfect at understanding the mind of a species whose behavioral patterns are so far removed from our own. I wish I could live another hundred years because I believe we will ‘get it’ much better as time progresses. I often watch horses migrate through a road map of understanding as I do my work. I feel as though many of them would like to come back to me a month or so after a training session and say, ‘Now I know why you persistently asked me to do something that seemed scary to me at the time. I can handle it now.’

The horse training principles that I practice and share with you focus on the nature of the horse and meeting his needs, rather than simply citing the needs of the human and setting out to make the horse conform to them. I would like each one of you to eliminate the phrase ‘make the horse’ from your vocabulary. Many decades of working with these wonderful animals have shown me the value of bringing the horse to want to do what you are asking of him, not demanding it of him through force.

There is a movement on this earth of ours to understand horses better and to treat them in a far more reasonable way than we have in the past. I congratulate those who seek information and live up to their responsibility to learn as much as they can about the horses they admire. You are the ‘doers’ in this industry, seeking answers to improve your understanding of, and relationship with, the horses we have come to love. Many people know by now that my life’s goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it, for horses and for people too. You know that I cannot do it by myself. Each of you will realize that if we are to succeed in becoming better partners with our horses, it will take a family of individuals who care. You can be part of that family.

– Monty Roberts

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Joe Camp on Monty’s EQUUS Online University

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

“I highly recommend Monty Roberts Equus Online University. I spend a lot of evenings with Monty via his University. It’s very inexpensive and the lessons are terrific, short and sweet, and available forever to review. No Level 1 and Level 2 nonsense. Just good things to know as you work with your horse. And the best thing I’ve seen in years on how to (easily) train your horse to side-step to you on the mounting block… and wait for you to mount. It’s sooo cool.”
Joe Camp
Editor’s note: Check out Monty’s EQUUS Online University at 


Monty Roberts, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, Publishes Two Books for Children

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Solvang, CA (November 30, 2010) – Monty Roberts’ seventh and eighth books enlighten and entertain children while helping them better understand the hearts and minds of horses. These first novels from Monty were inspired by requests from little girls the world over to tell the story from the mustang’s perspective. Like Black Beauty, the story is told in the voice and from the perspective of the horse.

The books are titled I’m Shy Boy: Here’s My Story for ages 9 years old and up and the other is The Little American Mustang for ages 3-8 years old. In both, Monty interprets the life of an American mustang being raised in the Western United States. Drawing upon his real-life adoption of a three-year-old Bureau of Land Management wild mustang, Monty includes their experience with the British Broadcast Company (BBC) filming while he achieved Join-Up® with the mustang on 12,000 acres of open range. It was then that Monty named the mustang Shy Boy and he still resides today on Flag Is Up Farms with Monty in Solvang, California.

Monty’s says: “These books were a lot of fun to write as I answered the requests of hundreds of children who wanted Shy Boy to tell his own story.”

Endorsed by authors and horse lovers:

“I was so fortunate to be present on the day Shy Boy Joined-Up with Monty. It was thrilling and life changing for all concerned.”

–Cheryl Ladd, Actress and author of The Adventures of Little Nettie Windship and Token Chic: A Woman’s Guide to Golfing with the Boys.


Title: I’m Shy Boy: Here’s My Story

Description: Shy Boy, Monty Robert’s mustang companion, is finally telling his story…through his eyes and interpreted by Monty Roberts. Beautifully illustrated, his tale is a compelling read for young people of all ages. Shy Boy’s life begins in the Nevada mountains, where he is born into a herd of wild American mustangs. Seeing the world through his eyes, you experience his first encounter with the humans who capture him from the wild as a three-year-old stallion. His surprise at meeting Monty, a man who moves and speaks like a horse, develops into a bond of trust that will last a lifetime. Shy Boy takes us on a unique journey through the mind of the horse, encountering obstacles, challenges and rewarding experiences. His confident yet questioning nature makes him a natural storyteller as he recounts the amazing journey life has taken him on.

Co-starring with Monty Roberts in the BBC documentary Monty Roberts: A Real Horse Whisperer, Shy Boy and Monty now live on Flag Is Up Farms in California, where they work together to help people learn to understand and respect their horses. An utterly unique and uplifting adventure story, you will find yourself falling in love with this horse and his message.

Author: Interpreted by Monty Roberts

Written for ages 9 and up


English language

ISBN 978-1-929256-61-7

Dimensions 8 ¼ x 10 ¼

Price $19.95USD

82 full color illustrations including chapter heads by Sisko Tahon-Raulo, age 19, and Phillipa “Millie” Raulo, age 17 from Hungary

Includes five photographs

It can be purchased in the United States on line on or at Flag Is Up Farms, Solvang, CA. In the UK online at

Published 2010

Title: The Little American Mustang

Description: Based on the true story of Shy Boy, the wild American mustang who learned to trust through the gentle ways of an extraordinary man, Monty Roberts. This storybook is brimming with vivid illustrations and written from the horse’s point of view. Shy Boy’s inspiring story demonstrates how much fun people and horses can have together and how much we can learn from each other. With its humane message about the immeasurable effects of kindness, it is sure to capture the imagination of young children ages 3 to 8.

Author: Interpreted by Monty Roberts


English language

Illustrators: Siska Tahon-Raulo and Philippa Raulo

Retail Price: $14.95USD

Reading level: Pre-school to lower elementary

Paperback: 40 pages

Publisher: Monty and Pat Roberts Inc. (November 15, 2010)

Language: English

Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 8.5 inches

Shipping Weight: 1.1 ounces

It can be purchased in the United States on line at or at Flag Is Up Farms, Solvang, CA.