The Art of Life

Monty Roberts’ Join-Up Equestrian Program

By Kelly Beasley

Simply put, Join-Up is a nonverbal communication between human and horse achieved through body language and respect.

Cautiously, the big chestnut ex-Dressage horse followed the girl leading him by a lead line, following the petite, albeit sturdy, woman into the large round enclosure, not knowing what to expect. He tentatively followed this girl into the round pen. The other students and I stood high above them on the deck, looking down and into the cavern, anticipating their demonstration of “Join-Up.” In seconds, the girl unhooked the lead, locked her eyes on the horse, squared her shoulders and advanced upon the 1,500-pound animal in a way that universally said “Go away, I am a threat!” and the giant took off…

A quarter of a mile. That’s the average flight distance of a wild horse. He will run, then he needs to stop, either to reassess the situation or to avoid the risk getting lost, running out of energy, or being separated from the herd (a lone horse is a dead horse).  The distance is instinctual, whether the horse is wild or not.

After moving from her for about a quarter of a mile, this magnificent, skinny and unsure creature finally broke down into a trot, locked an ear to her, started to lick and chew with his mouth, and sort of came off the rail, moving closer to her, saying in his language, “I’m showing you some respect (the ear)—see, I’m an herbivore, so you don’t have to fear me (licking and chewing).” He slightly lowered his head, showing more signs of “OK, I need help… Can we renegotiate? I will make you the chairman if we could…?” Seeing that the horse was ready to ‘talk,’ the woman changed her position to offer for him to ‘come in,’ and he immediately turned to her and walked right up. He would then ‘follow up’ with her, walking so close behind her she could reach out and stroke his head.

The trust that is created between horse and human with Monty Roberts’ Join-Up method is powerful and real. The implications are amazing—Roberts can take a wild mustang that has not been ridden or even handled much, perform Join-Up with him, and have a saddle on his back and a rider on usually in about thirty minutes—without any force or cruelty. The horse is WILLING. He trusts!




What is unbelieveable is that there are still many “horsemen” out there who feel the need to stick with tradition, which usually involves violence and cruelty. Traditionally, a horse is tied up to a large post so he cannot flee, and broken down physically and emotionally through beating and scaring the fear out of him until he has no other choice than to submit to the man’s will. Sometimes it takes days, and the horses are left powerless, exhausted, and certainly broken in spirit. They can be ridden only because man broke their will. There is no joy, no willingness, no partnership. (I think these “horsemen” should have the same done to them.)

Thanks for reading, I will expand more on Join-Up and my experiences in the program in following posts!

7 Comments to Monty Roberts’ Join-Up Equestrian Program

  • HiCaliber Horse Rescue

    That is one of our beautiful horses that Monty Roberts so graciously offered to have trained for us. We couldn’t be more props of her or more grateful for the opportunity!

  • HiCaliber Horse Rescue

    Proud* (needed coffeeee)

  • Jordan Staggs




  • Ruth Karow

    Dear Kelly,
    I really appreciate Mr. Roberts life work very much. I love horses since I was a little girl. Everything I was told by so called horsemen didn’t really fit to me and I thought, it’s all my fault, because I’m too silly … A lot of years later, I read his first book, some years later I visited his show in Aschaffenburg / Germany and bought another book. Only three month later a friend gave me the opportunity to try with her horses myself. And just by remembering what I’ve read and seen I could do join ups with a mare, a stallion and a very suspicious gelding.
    During the following years I found out, that the reason for not accepting Mr. Roberts method by so called horsemen must be, that they wouldn’t earn enough money, if “everybody” could cope with horses by simply using one’s own brain and heart.

  • kelly

    Yes, Monty is all about helping the horses, and I was glad to hear that that use rescue houses for the students. It helps all around… those learning as well as the horses.

  • kelly

    P.s. the horse lying down was after join up during free time…a time of bonding together not asking anything of the horse.

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