An Interview with Monty Roberts

Reader Contribution by Fala Burnette and Wolf Branch Homestead
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Monty Roberts andShy Boy the Mustang. Monty used Join-Up with Shy Boy in the wild during 1997, and he resides to this day at Flag Is Up Farms with the Roberts family. 

Monty Roberts is a world-renowned advocate of non-violent training for horses, who has spent all of his life working and competing with them. First taking note of the silent body language that occurred among wild Mustangs in Nevada, that Monty later called Equus, he developed a training method known as Join-Up. During the late 1980’s, Monty was invited by Queen Elizabeth II to demonstrate his work at Windsor Castle, and she later gave him the encouragement to write a book called “The Man Who Listens to Horses”. Her Majesty has since become a patron of the non-profit Join-Up International, founded by the Roberts family in 1997.

The process of Join-Up® has become not only a tool for the benefit of horses, but for the benefit of people as well. Relationships can be strengthened on the job, and with children as well, by applying Monty’s methods. A program has even been developed called Horse Sense and Healing, which is offered freely to veterans, first responders, and their families by creating a hands-on relationship with a horse over a three day period. This exercise of trust and gentleness has greatly helped the participants in overcoming stress-related problems such as anxiety and anger.

For those who wish to learn more about non-violent training, Monty launched the Equus Online University in 2009. Here, you can sign up for a membership that allows unlimited access to instructional videos on the site. A free, weekly email called Ask Monty also features direct responses by Mr. Roberts to user-submitted questions.

I recently had the great privilege to ask Monty Roberts a few questions about his methods, and why we should consider applying them to our everyday lives. His responses have been dictated through his daughter, Mrs. Debbie Roberts-Loucks.

Fala: Mr. Roberts, it is a pleasure to have this opportunity to share you, and your work, with our Mother Earth News readers. Your are world-renowned for your Join-Up® method, which advocates non-violence in horse training. In your opinion, why is the absence of violence so important in working with horses?

Monty: To answer this question would literally take a book. To bring you the essence of its importance, it is everything one should know and live by while training horses. The flight animal is negatively impacted by pain and violence throughout any and all procedures. To me, non-violence is the hallmark of everything that a good trainer does with the horses who he/she works with. Violence is never the answer; it is always for the violator and never for the victim. No one of us was born with the right to say ‘You must or I’ll hurt you’ to any other creature, animal or human.

Fala: How can this benefit not just horse owners, but those working with other animals and our personal relationships?

Monty: It is my steadfast opinion that the animal kingdom is far closer to humans than modern man has perceived it to be. It seems to me every corporation that has attended my clinics has perceived the following statement to be the strongest takeaway for them: the good trainer can make a horse do whatever he wants it to. The great trainer can cause the horse to want to do it. If that lesson is lived out by with every parent, boss or in fact every human this world over, all relationships would be improved.

Fala: What has been your most memorable Join-Up experience in all of your years, and why?

Monty: The most memorable Join-Up® I ever conducted was here at home with only one viewer at the Round Pen. She was a mustang mare who had recently been weaned from her foal. She was completely untouched by humans and after achieving Join-Up, attacked the saddle. It was on the ground and she literally ripped it to shreds. I believed I was next on the menu but in attempting to leave the Round Pen she appeared to be attacking me. I was on the ground in fetal position when I realized the mare was dripping milk on my jeans. With one human contact in her life, this mare adopted me and went on to be a champion in the show ring. Most horsemen would say this is a story from Fantasia but it actually happened as I have outlined it.

Fala: In conclusion, you’ve said your goal is to leave the world a better place for horses and people as well. What advice do you have for others who would like to make this their own mission?

Monty: It has always been my position one should send the next generation out like ripples on a pond. If the world is to accept my concepts, it will be the next generation or the one after which succeeds in accomplishing this goal. No one human can accomplish global change. It takes hundreds to change thousands and thousands to change millions. I am pledged to keep trying with every day I have left in this life of mine. My advice to others would be to learn my concepts and possibly even improve on them but then dedicate yourself to spreading these messages to the largest group possible in their lifetime. 

It is my hope that our Mother Earth News blog readers can take something from this article, and improve their relationships with animals and other individuals through non-violence. Thank you to Mr. Monty Roberts and Mrs. Debbie Loucks for their time given to this article! 

Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They are currently building their own log cabin and milling their own lumber, along with raising heirloom crops in the Spring and tanning furs during the Winter. Read all of Fala’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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