Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category


John Brazil, Jr., World Champion Winner of 20 Working Cow Horse Classes

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Solvang, January 9, 2017

From Monty Roberts:

Recently, because I am working on my second autobiography, Pat and I have been revisiting memories from my years of professional competition in the event called working cow horse. This competition originated in Spain and Portugal and tested the ability of finely trained horses to control cattle on ranches and open ranges. The Spaniards brought their horses and their horsemanship to the Western United States where they conducted popular competitions calling their four-legged partners, Working Cow Horses.

I began my competitive life at the age of four and was working cattle on horseback as far back as 1940. The working cow horse was celebrated at the largest horse shows in the Western United States. Salinas, California where Pat and I were born, hosted the largest of these competitions throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s.

In 1948 I clearly recall the first time I watched John Brazil Jr. competing on the competition grounds where I was born and raised. John won all three of the categories competed for in that particular year. John, a small man of Portuguese decent, was immediately a hero for me. He rode as if he was part of the horse. Few riders could match his skills at high speed or with the precise maneuvers required.

John had been working for Cutter Laboratories, a West coast company experimenting with animal vaccines. John’s job was handling cattle for them. Simultaneously, W.D. Dana, owner of the Empire State Building in New York City contacted John. He indicated that John had been recommended to him, as he had purchased a cattle ranch near Healdsburg, California. Mr. Dana agreed with John that he could continue to compete on horses purchased by Mr. Dana for the purpose of working cattle. John remained the trainer for Mr. Dana until his death in 1964. At that time a dispersal sale of the Dana horses allowed me to purchase one of John’s young prospects, a mare named Night Mist. I was able to win two world championships on Night Mist and amassed a record of 31 straight victories. Night Mist was one of my most successful working cow horses and is buried here on Flag Is Up Farms.

One segment of the working cow horse competition is called reining, which included flying lead changes and, while running at top speed, sliding stops and spins to illustrate the horse’s sensitive mouth and athletic ability. A second segment of the competition is called (herd work) cutting and requires the horse to control a single bovine animal by keeping it from returning to the herd. The third and final segment is to control a single bovine animal as if it was on the open ranges. The reined cow horse today still competes with one of the widest range of skills of any of the horse competitions.

After the Second World War and entering the 1950s, I began to compete with horsemen at the apex of the working cow horse division. Pat and I became close friends of John Brazil and his wife, Laurie beginning in the mid-1950s. I was in competition with John 20-30 times per year throughout my 20-year career as a professional schooling and showing the working cow horse.

While I competed in a wide range of disciplines, John Brazil specialized in the working cow horse and competed solely in that discipline.

Throughout my professional life in competition I met individuals who had dozens of different personalities and acted with a variety when it came to integrity. John Brazil was and is the epitome of a gentleman. The world of horse competitions is rife with people who would criticize another’s work to judges or anyone who might be inclined to listen. I never knew John Brazil to criticize anyone. This man inspired me to take on the promise to myself that I would never openly criticize another horseman by name in public. I believe this attitude has served me well.

My books, tours travels and executing the decisions I made for my career post-competition retirement, have consumed my life for the past 28 years. About a year ago, while conversing with Al Dunning, a mutual friend and speaking of great horsemen, Al told me that John Brazil at 95 was still alive, healthy and working with his horses. I asked Pat to discover contacts for John and said I wanted to go wherever he now lived and have a good visit. She made arrangements to drive the eight hours to Geyserville, California, a small village in the heart of the northern California wine country.

I must say I have to thank Pat for driving every mile of the 16-hour round trip, but she agrees that it was well worth the effort. Not only did we find John Brazil alive and well, but also his wife, Laurie was right there with him. John was born in 1922 and served with the US armed forces in WW II. John and Laurie were married in 1946 and recently celebrated their 70th anniversary. John is still working with about 10 head of horses and caring for the 20 or so head of cattle he uses for his working cow horses. The four of us visited for five to six hours, finishing with dinner at their favorite restaurant in Geyserville.

In going through John’s stable, it was clear that it might be difficult to place a large Western saddle on the back of these horses. He agreed that in the last several years he used a pulley device he designed and made himself suspended from the rafters. With his invention he could attach his saddle at the level of his waist and then elevate the saddle so he could place it on the back of the horse without having to lift the weight. John then explained to Pat and I that after watching our videos, he has trained his horses to the mounting block, which he now admits to using even though he used it for about five years before admitting that!

John Brazil, Jr. (left), and Monty Roberts (right)

John Brazil, Jr. (left), and Monty Roberts (right)

My goal is to give John Brazil as much credit as I can for influencing me to act in a gentlemanly fashion to those I deal with, whether in the horse business or simply in life itself. Today’s forms of communication are often filled with slanderous remarks toward one another, criticisms of the opinions of our fellow man or just plain being rude for the sake of it. If I were in charge of finding a person who was best suited to molding the character of the next generation, John Brazil Jr. would be my choice.

I have spoken of and written about my eight world championships in the working cow horse discipline. John Brazil won 20 world championships in the working cow horse division. He is humble to the extent that very few people know of him, which is a shame really, but it is truly the story of John Brazil. John has chosen not to be a public figure. At 82, I only hope that I can use John’s influence to encourage the next generation to appreciate the value of integrity, honesty and a respect for our fellow man.






The Cowboy and The Queen

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

cowboy and the queen


When the British Monarch called on Monty Roberts wishing to learn more, that began a mission that grows today “to leave the world a better place for horses and for people, too.” Read the full article here:



A Summer of Inspiration with Monty Roberts

Monday, June 16th, 2014

By Debbie Roberts-Loucks and Dr. Susan Cain, authors of Life Lessons From The Man who Listens to Horses

It is finally summer, and that means that more people will be here in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, touring Flag Is Up Farms!

This month we hosted a great evening program called Night of Inspiration, featuring Monty’s signature Join-Up event, followed by a superb barbeque cookout. Over 45 people attended this great event–which was casual and at the same time very exciting. After watching a Join-Up® in Monty’s specially built round pen with viewing deck, the group headed to Monty and Pat Robert’s home atop the farm. There, they meet personally with Monty, Pat and their family, and enjoy a cocktail and dinner amid the signed photographs of the Queen of England and Pat’s award winning sculptures. It sounds like a commercial, but people who attend can’t say enough about how touched they are by the personal impact.

The next day, we held an intimate workshop called Life Lessons From The Man Who Listens To Horses. This full-day session is like an intimate book reading, a behind the scenes look at the famous stories from Monty’s original book- which spent over a year on the New York Times Best Selling list.

In this deeply personal session, participants get a chance to delve into the “back stories” in Monty’s fascinating life journey. We apply lessons learned, and think about our own lives and our own learning opportunities.

One of the session participants, Marsha Mantzoros, wrote this note about her experience:

“To you, Debbie, Monty, Pat & Laurel, thank you so much for allowing us an inside look at your life & home (stables). The small group allowed for a closer intimacy between all & I truly valued Monty’s ability especially to relay his private story. Sharing where we’ve been & what we’ve done allows comparison to all that we have become and/ or will become. A humble success story. What I regretted not asking Monty, as he goes through some struggles of his own, is how can we assist him & add to his life? What does he want from us??? How can we (I) help? Thanks again for a wonderful day.”

After receiving Marsha’s letter, we asked Marsha to tell us more about her experience. The resulting response is below:

“On June 1, 2014 I was blessed and grateful to be able to attend a seminar with Monty Roberts on his beautiful, peaceful ranch in Solvang, California. Living all my life on the East Coast, I never raised my head to notice this extraordinary Cowboy from the west who was doing wonders with horses in a way that I would have very much appreciated to

know about. So here I am in my 60’s, now living in California, and finally paying attention to a man worth paying attention to! The Life Lessons event on Sunday was beautiful, inspiring and fun. Pat Roberts, Debbie, Laurel (Roberts) and Sue Cain were all there to contribute to the day. Because of the small group, it was all up close & personal. All our questions and observations were addressed.

I came away feeling totally fulfilled, and that I am now on a path that would lead me forward with more insight and compassion for our giving, loyal friend, the horse.

Many thanks to the Roberts family and associates for putting this day together, for making us feel welcome and for passing on some valuable horse wisdom that we can carry with us.”

We get these responses from so many people that come away with a sense of renewal from Monty’s workshops. Even reading a Monty book or watching him work online via the Monty Robert’s Online University brings this improbable response on. It’s amazing and gratifying to watch Monty’s impact on people. From our Life Lessons workshop, we have a few tips to share to help you discover lessons taken from the session. Take a look at the personal development tools we introduced at the session here:


You can find the Life Lessons book here, at Amazon: Book:

Find the Monty Roberts Online University here:

Join us for a Night of Inspiration or Life Lessons workshop. Contact Debbie Roberts-Loucks at


Tom Durocher: Monty Roberts Certified Instructor, Canada

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

By Carole Herder, President of Cavallo Horse & Rider

Riding, singing and drumming to the joy that is his life, Tom Durocher hails from the small Fishing Lake Metis Settlement of Northeast Alberta, Canada. He can’t remember ever NOT being around horses and he takes pride in his natural upbringing and lifestyle. Traditional ceremonies and community functions complement his love of humanity and although he was very warm, engaging and kind to me, it was pretty obvious who really captures his heart. Horses are Tom’s passion.

Reading “the Man Who Listens to Horses” by Monty Roberts was the life changer that took him out of his comfort zone, community and country to seek the knowledge he was destined to learn. He actually had to get a passport too! From Fishing Lake to Solvang, California Tom traveled to Flag is Up Farm to meet the man who would improve on the already solid foundation Tom had built with horses.

Having spent considerable time with Monty myself, I know that heart to heart talks, compassion, kindness and understanding just naturally seep into the conversation. You get the feeling he knows you and with that, knows exactly what you need, right now, to bring you to a better understanding of not only your equine partner but yourself.

It was heartwarming to watch Tom at Mane Event, Red Deer, as he understood that the horse allocated to him was really frightened. He decided not to push too much. He decided not to win the Trainers Challenge. He decided that this horse would be better off leaving the event on a comfortable note, rather than the stress required to overcome the fear she had. Some horses are just more fearful than others and overcoming real apprehension can take more time than the 3 days allowed. Tom was not willing to risk it and gave up the chance to win for the betterment of the horse.

This is the type of trainer who can really serve and benefit of horses.
Way to go Tom Durocher!


What can we learn about leadership from horses?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

 Dr. Susan Cain and Debbie Roberts-Loucks

CLI_MR_book_covers-1In writing our new book, JOINING UP: What Horses Can Teach Us About Leadership, we came across an important discovery: the way we “show up” and influence animals is sometimes similar to the way we lead humans. Take for example the last time you trained a horse, a dog, or another animal in your life.

How did you communicate the training goal? Were you patient or impatient? Did you enter the training opportunity with anxiety or come in totally calm?

Monty Roberts starts horses with a dedicated calm, clear communication and a great deal of patience. Think about that approach the next time you are about to lead a human or a group of humans. Enter in assuming good intent, communicate expectations clearly and patiently work through the process of elevating the performance levels of others.

Leadership is that blending of personal style with enough self-awareness to be able to bring people with you. As a leader, think about the following question: why would anyone want to follow you?

Our new book, due out in fall of 2013, will give insights into how Monty developed a personal leadership style capable of changing the world for horses and humans. Let’s hear from you! What inspires you most about Monty Roberts’ leadership qualities? Click here to respond:

 For more information contact Susan Cain at


Tough Training Techniques

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Correspondence between Monty and Readers of Ask Monty

From: Danell Adams to Monty


I rcv your updates on a regular basis and enjoy the stories and information. However, today I received the response to horses not wishing to be caught…and you referenced a Peruvian Horse…a national champion yet…and then you commented:

“Thank you. It comes under the heading “what a small world we live in”. About three months ago I received into training a Peruvian Paso owned by a lady in Southern California. In his show career he was a national champion. The fact is however his start in life was under the tutelage of South American style horsemanship. He too would do anything you ask when he was completely in the grasp of forceful and very violent horse trainers, straight from Peru”

I found your comments here to be very disrespectful and very likely stated from no factual basis. “Violent horse trainers…straight from Peru”?

I own Peruvians and have been riding them for 48 years. Certainly, I have also been to Peru. Yes, there are certainly inappropriate training methods used there…and here!! But, your generic comment about the Peruvian trainers is offensive to me and certainly to the many Chalans there and here in the US who are extraordinary trainers with soft voices and light hands. A Chalan working with one of my babies sat with me to explain the personality of this particular filly…”never raise your voice” he said, “it will never be necessary.” Very violent trainers straight from Peru????

If this woman told you this horse came from A ranch and A trainer in/from Peru, then your comment should have been specific and singular. I am aware of no peruvian trainer in So Cal who employs “violent” methods….or they would not be here working! But I doubt she saw anything with this particular horse…or why would she purchase??

I sit on a So Cal board of directors as well as the National Organization and I feel you owe an apology to our breed, the Peruvians and our chalans for printing such a disrespectful and offensive generic comment that reads as if directed to the country and it’s trainers!


To: Danell Adams from Monty

Dear Danell:

I have received and taken note of your response to my report on the Peruvian Paso presently in training here. First, let me say that reading your response causes me to believe that we are two individuals on the same side of this issue. Let me go on to say that I try very hard, every time I criticize violent training, to indicate that it not everybody that acts in this way. In re-reading the message I sent out, it is clear that I neglected to follow my own rules.

Let me state categorically that there are wonderful people in Peru, Chili, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico and many other south, central and north America that are strongly opposed to violent forceful training of their horses. Unfortunately, in South America, the percentage of these people is extremely low. I go to Brazil next week to continue my work in changing the mindset of the horsemen who are working with wonderful animals that deserve the best.

It is not clear to me whether you realize that I am looking for the positives to congratulate for their efforts rather than blaming and exposing the perpetrators of violence. It is not my opinion that you do not want me to go to the area of causing the world to know just how violent the breaking procedures are in most of South America. I can prove it. I have been there to each of these countries and I have met with the people who conduct these violent sessions.

It is possible that you are not aware that on June 24, 2012, I accompanied Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of England, to present certificates to nine outstanding individuals that are changing the world of horse breaking in South America, Central America and Mexico. These ranged from a young horse breaker in central Brazil to a investment banker who is backing education in Brazil, a Guatemalan owner and three of the top polo players of the world.

Memos Gracida, Carlos Gracida and Adolpho Cambioso have owned the game of polo for about 40 years. They did South American breaking. They then came here to learn my way when it realized that more than 50 percent of their prospects were lost to injury or death. I have them on tape along with dozens of other South American horsemen stating how wrong that area has been for hundreds of years. You do not want me to begin to expose these.

It is far more productive, in my opinion, to look for the positives and you may well be one of those positives, but if you are, what you say you are, you are rare and you know you are rare. I have spent significant time in each of the countries I have listed and I do not speak through guesswork. I would love to invite you to come to my farm in Solvang, California and show me your work. I would love to use what influence I have to support your efforts.

If, in fact, you are, what you say you are, you could be a very good role model for the countries in question. Brazil is changing more rapidly than any geographic area since we began to domesticate horses 6,000 years ago. In the past three years, the rule books of the Mangalarga Marchador have been turned upside down. Violence is no longer tolerated in the competitions and hundreds are going to school to learn a new way of thinking and eliminating violence.

We are working with the government of Brazil to stop financing the schools that they have been conducting where horses are treated exactly as I now have on tape. The mindset of the culture of Brazil was so broad based that they audience would cheer whistling and yelling out, when the horses were thrown to the ground or beaten with rawhide whips. These acts are in front of audiences at public shows. I have it on tape with the sound clearly substantiating.

None of this is to excuse the fact that I did not praise the work of individuals in each of these countries that are in fact kind and fair with their horses. For this exclusion, I apologize deeply and with all sincerity. I am not looking to find the negatives. I am looking to find the positives. Please continue to dialogue with me so that I can include you on the list of extremely important people to the horses of South America. I will back up the statements I am making.

From: Danell Adams to Monty


While I appreciate your response, your public email strongly and generically criticized South American and Peruvian Chalans. In my estimation, your apology…or failure to follow your own rules…needs to appear on the same public site on which you made these very negative, generic comments. The National Board has been informed of your response and also believes a public apology is warranted.

Your comments are spreading through the Peruvian community. It is our understanding that the horse you are referencing may be HMS Achillies, sold to a woman in Orange County by a ranch in Hemet. If so, this gelding was bred and trained by a man…and personal in Southern California. He has been in the US most of his adult life and is one of the most soft spoken and gentle people you could meet, which also reflects in his training methods. The horse was purchased from him to be used by an amateur in performance classes. His “brio” at his young age is not uncommon. I am personally familiar with him as I also looked at purchasing him.

While I can appreciate your experience in your travels, it really has no relevance to your comment about very violent training methods by trainers straight from Peru…neither of which are remotely correct or appropriate. With your personal background in abusive environments, it would be like assuming that you too are also abusive…which we know couldn’t be further from the truth. While your generic comments may be regarding specific experiences you have had, they DO NOT apply to this horse, this breeder and trainer and certainly, the significant majority of our Peruvian trainers…not Brazilian. To make a comment like this could lend to people believing the Peruvian horses owned and trained by Chalans may not be good purchases due to your comment about their training background. “Oh, Monty says the Peruvian horses are trained by very violent methods.” Can that affect our sales and breed? Sure it could. Please understand my analogy here…not good!

Many are waiting to see if you make a public apology on this matter. I think our trainers and breed deserve this. The majority of Peruvians here in the US ARE trained by chalans….not “straight from Peru”…but rather in this country for 20 and 30+ years! This includes the breeder/trainer involved with Achilles. While your experience…and mine as well, certainly see abuse in all breeds, lets get back to your very generic comment….that is the primary point here. I am not concerned about the need to “back up statements here”….I agree with you about the abuses…just not your generic comment in this particular situation. It is an isolated comment that needs to be corrected as you have clearly implied that the problem with this particular horse is due to these “very violent” training methods which is simply not the case by any stretch and points directly to one breeder/trainer in particular.

I have been following your work for years and have read much of your material. It is incredibly disappointing…and inappropriate to read this type of comment coming from you directed to our breed. If you neglected to follow your own rules, then your apology should be public.

Thank you for your very serious consideration in this matter.



To: Danell Adams from Monty

Dear Danell,

I write this letter from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I am here to continue my work to help South American people understand that the overwhelmingly brutal techniques that are seen in South America when horsemen gather are clearly not effective and not acceptable. Each day when I arise I begin to make mistakes and throughout the day I continue to do the same. I consider each mistake I make an opportunity to learn. It is with this in mind that I was quick to write you back to say that I made a mistake. Whenever I criticize any group of given people I should always state that it may not apply to each and every horseman in the geographic area. In my writing, I didn’t do this.

Over the years I have written to many people apologizing for one error or another. Some are gracious in accepting the apology and some are not. Unfortunately you have fallen into the second category. I am happy to use the same newsletter to publicize my apology letter to you and intended to do so from the outset. The fact is I did not want to do that until I had communicated to you personally. I thought that was a gesture of respect to you; however you have chosen to criticize me even for the gesture of respect to you. Let me say to you that we will be reviewing many videos of South American breaking on this very trip. It will be a part of my study.

If I were to begin to attempt to prove what the typical South American breaking style is, I believe I would offend many individuals who have no idea of the incredible brutality of this region. Your comments would tend to cause me to verify this by making these videos public. I am not sure this is a good idea. Further, I have no idea what horse you are referring to in your letter back to me. I am not in the business of embarrassing people by blind-siding them nor do I think it matters who it was that caused this horse the incredible fear that he expressed. His response is quite often seen in the horses that I deal with who have been through South American breaking.

In your return letter you made no mention of the program I have to honor South American horsemen for changing their brutal ways. One of my recipients is called Mateus. I regard him as a wonderful young man who is soft spoken and polite when you meet him. I have video of him beating a horse half to death with a crowd of thousands cheering each time the horse fell to the ground. One would be delusional if we observed South American style breaking and then just said these are all nice people, soft hands and caring. I regard them as nice people with high levels of talent. They have simply been raised in a culture where violence is exulted.

When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth saw videos from South America she was, as most people are, angry with the humans involved in these sessions. It was my encouragement to learn how to accept the fact that these were potentially good horsemen, who were culturally imprinted, could change. It seems to me that you are obsessed with blaming me instead of realizing that we are far closer to the same side than we are to the opposite sides. This is your choice and I must accept your position. There is no way that I agree with it, nor will I change my desire to bring South America into the world of non-violent horsemanship.

Thank you for the time you took to express your views. It is my opinion that you will eventually realize that I am on the side of the horses and of good horsemen. I sat recently with the top Polo players of Argentina and you should hear their stories of what has been considered traditional South American breaking. It is my opinion that in order to change, each of us must want the truth. As caring horsemen we should want to see what actually happens and help these wonderful people set aside a culture of violence toward horses. I will continue in my attempts with my last breath and leave students to work after I am gone.

My daughter Debbie and I will ponder whether or not it’s a good idea to make public footage of these brutal breakings. Just know that I had no intention of doing so until your response. I accept your correspondence as a challenge to my own honesty and integrity. And if I need to prove what I have said

is true, then perhaps I should do it. Please understand that I have nothing against you personally and I have dealt with many fans of South American horsemanship who also want the status quo to be protected. I suppose the best way is to bring it into the light of day and let the caring horse world see it for real.

It has come to my mind that you exhibit a strong need to protect the world of the Peruvian Paso and the association that represents them. I respect that and I love the breed itself. I further recognize that you have come to admire the Peruvian people and I have stated categorically that I have as well. It is my opinion that they are not bad people. They are only the result of a culture that has accepted methods which I believe are less than effective and morally wrong. It seems to me that you must allow me to have my opinion the same as I am allowing you to have yours. I am dedicated to the horses of the world.


From: Danell Adams to Monty

Hello again Monty,

It is unfortunate that my attempt to point out a single horse and comment has been turned around in this manner. While I was not criticizing you as a horseman…and a fine one…I was criticizing a single comment regarding a single horse trained and bred by a fine Peruvian. It was simply that your reference unfortunately read to include many and not one. I do not know your experience with Peruvians..horses or trainers. I just felt that your generic response…and a violation of your own rule, as you stated…was worthy of an apology in the public realm in which it was first presented

I am personally preparing to travel to rescue abused horses….starved. We all do the best we can, each in our little corner of the world… to give these gorgeous animals the care and attention they need and deserve. I’m sorry you took my comments any other way.

We can all show horrible photos of such abuse right here in the US. It is an unfortunate reality that we all contend with on a daily basis.


From: Helen Diaz to Monty

Dear Mr. Roberts:

I met you a few years ago in Wellington, Florida, during the Christmas Extravaganza. You rode of young chestnut filly and we were very impressed with your style. Despite your being surrounded by stuck up Dressage equestrians, most appreciated you. Believe me, I know. I’m one of them. Before you went in the ring, you approached me and found me to be less than receptive. My apologies.

Your “hard to catch” article mentions Peruvian Pasos and their trainers. I’m sure you will receive numerous feedback relating to this article. I live in Miami, Florida, which is the Paso Fino capital in the US. I’ve owned several Paso Finos, as well as Arabians, and Dressage sport horses. My formal Dressage education commenced in 1971.

I too am not a fan of the “South American training” style. Since I purchased my first Paso Fino in 1976, I’ve observed a growing number of Colombian trainers in South Florida. Regrettably, this style of training has become mainstream here and throughout the US in the Paso world.

This article is far more important than you’ll know. It has been an unspoken taboo, which most folks refuse to face. Owners don’t care if a trainer utilizes acceptable training methods. They only care their horse wins in the ring.

In fact, numerous “trainers” come to the US, claiming to be trainers from Colombia and we later find they were only barn hands, mucking out stalls. Were you aware women are banned from showing Paso Finos in Colombia’s upper divisions?

To make matters worse, due to the current economic situation, especially in the horse world, many have taken up farrier work. Numerous horses have been ruined (one in my barn died), due to inappropriate farrier practices performed by these men.

Thank you for writing this article and bringing forward a subject that few have the courage to address. Wishing you and your family continued success.


To Helen from Monty

Dear Helen,

Thank you very much for your response to my recent writing. This correspondence is coming from Jacarei, just outside of Sao Paulo in Brazil. I have just completed my first Two-Day Clinic on the property of Eduardo Moreira who is helping us bring our message to Brazil. I have two outstanding students of mine here helping me with the clinic. One is from Brazil and the other is from Italy now living in Brazil. Both are filled with stories of extreme abuse in this country.

In these past few days I have worked with about a dozen separate issues. Each owner has told their story and nearly all have related descriptions of extreme violence that the subject horses have been victims of. There is no question that I had more than 20 on my course who had conducted South American style breaking. Nearly every horse had remedial issues related to brutal tactics used upon these individuals in the past. The commonality was pervasive.

Many of the horses were first described to me as spooky. The testing procedures that I used would indicate that they were not spooky in the normal context of the term. They were simply phobically frightened of being beaten. These are wonderful horses of the Mangalarga blood. They have the same genetic background “Barb” as the horses titled Peruvian Paso and Paso Fino. They are wonderful horses that deserve far more humane training tactics than they typically receive.

Please understand that the people who train horses here live in a unique culture significantly different from most of the world. They are often talented individuals who are simply using the only way they know. It is not my desire to blame them. Indeed it is my mission to show them a different way which is then up to them to accept or reject. I watched several big strong men reduced to tears as they told me that I had changed their life; not just with horses but with their family too.

I often ask people to rent the old movie “A Few Good Men” then to listen to Jack Nicholson admonishing Tom Cruise that Cruise didn’t want the truth. Nicholson said “You can’t handle the truth”. If we, the horsemen of the world, hide our eyes and refuse to see the truth, then nothing will change. It is extremely difficult to muster up the courage to enter this sociological minefield. At 78, I don’t mind because the horses have been so good to me I must come to their assistance.

No one of us should blanket the South American horseman as there must be some human caring individuals in the mix. As I travel South America, however, it is becoming clear that the breaking procedures that include extreme violence amount to more than 90%. I will not hide my eyes nor will I fear sociological repercussions. Once I clearly demonstrate my concepts most of these talented horsemen come to thank me with exuberance; these are good people.


Helping Employees Turn Their Performance Around

Monday, July 8th, 2013

by Dr. Susan Cain and Debbie Roberts-Loucks

Recently, we received an interesting request for information. The sender, a human resources professional, saw a correlation between what Monty does in the round pen with horses to inspire trust and motivation and how it can impact the workplace. Click here to download further information about the retreats and workshops based on Monty’s principles that are offered to corporations at Flag Is Farms.

Dear Monty,

Have you ever looked at applying “Equus” in changing the progressive disciplinary systems of companies? If yes, I would love to get my hands on materials that you have developed for this purpose. If not, I’d especially enjoy speaking with you again and see what your thoughts are on this.

Creating circumstances to help horses or humans perform at their best requires similar skills.

A round pen and a learning environment in the workplace must start with the absence of fear, an abundance of support and encouragement, transparent expectations, and a negotiated agreement to moving forward. Force can create short-term responses, but can build resentment later. Monty shared a story from his book, the New York Times Best Seller, The Man Who Listens to Horses:

The most influential teacher in my educational career was a nun by the name of Sister Agnes Patricia. The thing I will always remember about her is that she taught me about teaching itself. It was her belief that no teacher could ever teach anyone anything. She felt her task, as a teacher was to create an environment in which the student can learn.

Her opinion was that knowledge needs to be pulled into the brain by the student, not pushed into it by the teacher. Knowledge was not to be forced on a student. The brain has to be receptive, malleable and most importantly desirous of that knowledge. I apply the same philosophy to training horses. To use the word ‘teach’ implies an injection of knowledge, but it is my opinion – garnered from Sister Agnes – that there is no such thing as teaching, only learning.

Setting the right environment for an employee to turn performance around starts with the assumption that improvements cannot be forced.

We have created three vital lessons that taken from “Join-Up”:

1. Respect for freedom of choice: In the round pen, free choice is placed on the table and the human leader offers support for change. In the workplace, an effective manager or leader might also disclose consequences if a performance is not improved. The crucial learning lesson from the round pen is that free choice is engaged, and horse or human have options-resist or engage. Resentence, the ability to say no, forms the basis for any possible commitment, replacing compliance and lip service. As a trainer, Monty treats horses that are resistive with the same respect as horses that have decided to “Join-Up.”

2. Resist the temptation to react: Tension and reaction limit the ability to manage the changing situation. Stay neutral and step outside the need to fix. Stay involved and available. Listen to your follower. Offer affirmation. How can you facilitate the situation so that it culminates in the best interest for all?

3. Generate options: If the follower decides not to “Join-Up” and improve performance, be very careful about lowering your standards to accommodate their choice. There are still many options for them, including employment elsewhere, a change in position, or other options that perhaps they were unable to see before. What skill or information gaps can you help close to help them move forward?

Even a horse that decides to “Join-Up” has specific fears to overcome and lessons to learn. How can you help your follower move forward, even if it is not with you?

Watch the Join-Up in Monty’s video above, and think about other ways you can transfer the key learning’s from round pen to the office. Contact Susan Cain for more information at


How sensitive is your horse?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
My horse is very sensitive in the flank and the stifle area. When I am grooming her, she seems to get very angry. She puts her ears back and even acts as though she would kick me. When I brush or touch her in the area of the flank or the stifle, she moves her hips toward me and not away. If I push harder, she pushes much harder against me. She has pinned me up against the wall several times and it’s very frightening. What should I do, Mr. Roberts? My instructor says that I should not go into her stall without a whip. I don’t want to whip her, but I don’t want her to hurt me either. There must be a solution to this problem. Can you help me? Sincerely, “Extremely Frightened!”
Monty’s Answer:    
Thank you for your inquiry. This is actually a subject near and dear to my heart. This is the pattern of behavior that causes so much trouble with horses in the starting stalls in racing. There are rails inside the stalls which jut out toward the horse. They are there to protect the feet of the jockey but in my opinion, they cause more trouble than they save. The horse that is sensitive in the flanks and stifles will go ‘into pressure’ particularly if its applied to that area of their body. I have maintained for most of my adult life that horses are ‘into pressure’ animals. It is the same phenomenon as we see in the human baby as they bring in new teeth. 
The gums are irritated and the child gets comfort from pressing hard on them typically from a teething ring. The horse has survived, in part, because they have learned to go into the sharp pain of a dog biting in the region of the flank. If the horse should run away the dog would simply rip the flesh allowing the intestines to exit the body and the dog makes a successful kill. Survival of the fittest has caused horses to behave with an ‘into pressure’ pattern of dealing with sharp pain. One must use soft grooming brushes on this type of horse and be very careful about staying out of the kick zone. It is essential that we treat this area carefully.
You have probably trained your horse to move off pressure without even knowing it. While riding, you will put a leg against your horses side and when the horse moves off the leg, you remove the pressure. You have probably done this on both sides of your horse. Most likely, when your horse was ridden only a few times, there was a tendency to move into the rider’s leg and not away from it. Eventually however your horse learned it was better to move away from the leg. At this present time I have some experiments going on which may prove to be a help with the very problem that you have described. It is to see if we can teach the horse to move off pressure in the area of the flanks. 
In order to alter this behavior, I have asked that a soccer ball be attached to the end of a strong bamboo pole. I have asked that the pole be about 6 feet long (2 meters). The ball is actually taped onto the end of the stick, covered with sponge and more tape applied… any way to cause the bamboo stick to be safe when pushed against the horses flanks. I direct the handler to press the ball into the area of the flanks, and stay with it if the horse pushes back. After a few minutes of work, most horses will step away experimenting with how to get the pressure off the ball in the flank. With the slightest step away the handler will remove the ball immediately, releasing all pressure.
The reason for the large ball is so that the horse feels no sharp pain. After removing the ball the handler should proceed to the other side and repeat the process. When one can achieve behavior that is immediately off pressure instead of into pressure, you’re well on your way to a successful alteration of deeply imbedded behavioral patterns. Having accomplished this you will be safer to groom, open gates more easily and even have better flying lead changes than you could achieve prior to training your horse to move off pressure even when it’s in the flank area. It is still early in this experimentation, but I think I am the first person to set up this kind of trial. 

After making sure that your horse has no physical ailments, the next step is to desensitize that area. As a point of interest, people who imprint their foals and have aspirations to train them to be performance horses, do not desensitize this area. They leave this area naturally sensitive so that cues can be given by the rider.


The Starting Gate for Sensitive Racehorses

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

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.


Monty Roberts Corporate Training Events

Thursday, May 30th, 2013


Preparing for More Effective Presentations Using…

Horse Training?  

By Dr. Susan Cain and Debbie Roberts-Loucks

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

Obtain a copy of the workbook: Life Lessons from The Man Who Listens to Horses