Join-Up

Monty   Roberts -Photo by Christopher DydyckWhen Monty Roberts was observing wild mustangs in Nevada at the age of thirteen he realized that horses use a discernable, effective and predictable body language to communicate: to set boundaries, show fear, express annoyance, relaxation or affection. Later on he would call that nonverbal language “Equus”. Monty Roberts understood that utilizing “Equus” would allow training to commence in a much more effective and humane manner, encouraging true partnership between horses and humans.
Monty incorporates “Equus” into his nonviolent training approach called Join-Up®.

The moment of Join-Up® is when the horse willingly chooses to come to you through communication. The horse has decided that you will be the leader of its two-member herd. This is a 50/50 partnership, meaning you give each other full attention and are also willing to meet each other midway.
The sequence of the horse’s language is the same in the round pen as it is in the wild. The only difference being that the human (predator) has assumed the role of the matriarch mare.
Monty first developed Join-Up® to stop the cycle of violence typically accepted in traditional horse breaking. Convinced there must be a more effective and gentle method, Monty created these consistent set of principles using the horse’s inherent methods of communication and herd behavior. The result is a willing partnership in which the horse’s performance can flourish to its full potential, rather than exist within the boundaries of obedience. These principles are valuable tools to understanding what motivates horse behavior and increasing effectiveness in any application.

Join-Up®training methods are most simply expressed in the process of starting raw horses. Without the use of pain or force the trainer persuades a raw horse to accept a saddle, bridle and rider. Working in a round pen, one begins Join-Up® by making large movements and noise as a predator would and begins driving the horse to run away. She then gives the horse the option to flee or Join-Up®. Through body language, the trainer will ask, “Will you pay me the respect due to a herd leader and join and follow me?” The horse will respond with predictable herd behavior: by locking an ear on her, then by licking and chewing and dropping his head in a display of trust. The exchange concludes with the trainer adopting passive body language, turning her back on the horse and without eye contact, invites him to come close. Join-Up®occurs when the animal willingly chooses to be with the human and walks toward her accepting her leadership and protection. This process of communication through behavior and body language and mutual concern and respect, can be a valuable tool to strengthen all other work with horses.
Traditional methods aim to teach the horse to ‘DO AS I SAY’ and involve the use of pain and intimidation, but Monty focuses on communion with the horse, rather than domination. “For centuries, humans have said to horses, ‘You do what I tell you or I’ll hurt you,’ I’m saying that no one has the right to say, ‘you must’ to an animal or to another human,” Monty said.
Join-Up® methods rely on horse and trainer establishing a bond of communication and trust. “You must somehow understand that we as horsemen can do very little to teach the horse. What we can do is to create an environment in which he can learn.” Monty says, “We hear that ‘actions speak louder than words,’ but generally we do not live by it too successfully.” The principles found in Join-Up®offer valuable tools for all other work. Riders, trainers, veterinarians, vet techs, farriers, barn managers – virtually anyone handling horses – can use these methods to increase their effectiveness in helping horses fulfill their potential.

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