Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

Technique focuses solely on communication

AS A YOUNG boy in the Nevada desert, Monty Roberts constantly watched wild mustangs and observed a non-verbal communication between the horses, a silent language he called 'Equus'. He incorporated this language into a non-violent training approach he called 'Join-Up'.

Monty first developed Join-Up to stop the cycle of violence that was typically accepted in traditional horse breaking. Convinced there must be a more effective and gentle method, Monty created a consistent set of principles for training that use the horse's inherent methods of communication and herd behaviour.

The aim is to create a willing partnership between horse and trainer in which the horse's performance can flourish to its full potential, rather than exist within the boundaries of obedience.

Where traditional methods aimed to teach the horse to 'Do as I say' and involved the use of pain and intimidation, Monty focused on communication with the horse, rather than domination.

"For centuries, humans have said to horses, 'You do what I tell you or I'll hurt you'," he says. "I'm saying that no one has the right to say, 'you must' to an animal or to another human."

The Join-Up training method is most simply explained when it is used in the breaking of young 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, the trainer begins Join-Up by making large movements and noise as a predator would and begins driving the horse to run away.

The trainer then gives the horse the option to flee or Join-Up. By using body language techniques, the trainer asks the horse: will you pay me the respect due to a herd leader and join and follow me?

Also Read

The horse responds with predictable herd behaviour such as locking an ear on the trainer, 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 his/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 the trainer, accepting his/her leadership and protection.

Join-Up methods rely on the 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 they can learn," says Monty.

"We hear that actions speak louder than words, but generally we do not live by it too successfully," he claims.

Irish Independent