Articles

Introduction to Join~Up®

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

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 this consistent set of principles using the horse’s inherent methods of communication and herd behavior. The result is a willing partnership in which the horse’s performance can flourish to its full potential, rather than exist within the boundaries of obedience. These principles are valuable tools to understanding what motivates horse behavior and increasing effectiveness in any application.

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

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

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

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

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

©2005 Monty and Pat Roberts. All Rights Reserved.

 

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