The Monty Roberts Story

I was born in the saddle, first riding in front of my mother as she taught students to ride. I won my first competition at age four on Ginger.

My father trained horses in the traditional way, 6000 years of methods handed down generationally, often violent and rarely fair to the horse. He expected me to follow in his footsteps and so I was also violently disciplined in the only way he knew how, through pain and force. I vowed to seek better methods for my horses.

I first learned to listen to horses while observing wild mustangs in Nevada at the age of thirteen. Sent there to round up horses for the Salinas Rodeo Association’s Wild Horse Race, I spent hours silently watching the feral horses interact with each other.

Monty Roberts at Flag Is Up Farms, Solvang, California, with Mustangs, Chief and Beauty

I soon realized horses use a discernible and predictable body language to communicate, to set boundaries, show fear and express annoyance, relaxation or affection. In a moment that would change my life, I understood that utilizing this silent body language would allow training to commence in a much more effective and humane manner, encouraging true partnership between horses and me. ‘Join-Up’ would become the foundation of all my work with horses and later people, too.

“A good trainer can get a horse to do almost anything. The great trainer can cause the horse to want to do it.” 

Now in my eighties, I still travel the world demonstrating gentle, more effective ways to train horses and people together. I have been fortunate to receive an MVO distinction from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and we maintain a friendship since 1989, when she first requested I demonstrate my methods with her horses. The MSPCA honored me with George T. Angell Humanitarian Award, of which I am very proud.

Monty Roberts with Shy Boy at Flag Is Up Farms

My autobiography The Man Who Listens to Horses has sold six million copies which still astonishes me. It seems to have touched a chord with people who know that horses and people are experiencing violence and seek better ways to communicate.

My Dually Halter has revolutionized the direction away from violence, to help the horse seek a better understanding of how to intrinsically learn to partner with people and accomplish harmony in training.

“My life’s goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it, for horses and for people, too.”

Join-Up International & Monty Roberts Non-Profit Program founders - Monty Roberts, Pat Roberts, Debbie Loucks

About Join-Up®

Join-Up is the title Monty Roberts has given to the body of his work with horses without violence. To define Join-Up, however, requires a narrower view of the term. Join-Up is that moment when the horse decides that it is better to be with the person than to go away. Join-Up can be achieved with all horses of any age or background. It is as effective on wild mustangs as it is on the gentle child’s horse.

The practice of Join-Up is a commitment to a path that two species travel together in search of commonality, friendship and survival. The process has no time constraints; it has no definable beginning or end. The process does not begin when you arrive at the barn to meet your horse; it begins when you wake up in the morning and exists even as you sleep.

Monty Roberts with Mustangs at Flag Is Up Farms

Join-Up is based upon a communication system creating a bond rooted in trust and an environment of cooperation. It must be nonviolent, non-coercive and can only be accomplished if both partners have willingly entered the process. To gain Join-Up with your horse, it is necessary to step into his world, observe his needs, conditions and the rules that govern his social order.

“The horse is a quintessential flight animal. When pressure is applied, he will almost always choose to flee rather than fight.”

Join-Up as a Tool

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

The Moment of Join-Up - Monty Roberts

Monty Roberts has won 11 world championships in the show ring, across disciplines. His violence-free methods do not sit at odds with competition but, in fact, create break-through performance by creating a willing partnership. Olympians such as Will Simpson in Show Jumping and Charlotte Dujardin in Dressage admire and use Monty’s non-violent methods. Some of the world’s top trainers have had Monty work with their most challenging horses to overcome behavioral issues.

The fact is that to train violence-free one can achieve a far higher degree of excellence than forceful training, and can take far less time to do it. Horses will perform closer to their optimum levels when they do it because they want to, rather than when they are forced to. It is scientifically sound to make this assumption for the flight animal. Traditional ways of starting a horse with his first saddle and rider can take upwards of 6-8 weeks, while Monty’s methods can take a fraction of the time without the loss of trust.

Monty Roberts with the Queen of England and Colonel Perez of Sao Paulo, Brazil

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.

“Equus has been my teacher, my friend and my provider; he can be yours.”

Monty Roberts Join-Up with a mustang

Flag Is Up Farms

Monty Roberts and Pat Roberts have been in the Santa Ynez Valley for  over 50 years, with the establishment of Flag Is Up Farms in 1966. The Roberts encourage visitors to their ranch and home, and fans and tourists visiting the Santa Ynez Valley can stop by at any time to see the farm (9 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week).

Flag Is Up Farms is the internationally renowned starting point for some of the world’s most successful racehorses and other horses. Monty Roberts and Pat Roberts, with their team of exceptional trainers, have used violence-free, Join-Up® training methods to start horses on their way to happy, healthy and successful careers for over 50 years.

“The major source of satisfaction that I received from working with horses is the verification by the horses of what my work means to them.”

Monty Roberts Dually Halter - Dually horse training halter

And, for the past five decades, Flag Is Up Farms has been one of the premier destinations in Central California for a wide range of events – from weddings, to corporate events and team building, to art shows, fundraising events and more.

“Horses and people must be allowed to fail to learn to succeed and be rewarded if they meet or exceed expectations.”

Flag Is Up Farms - destination weddings Santa Barbara county

The Movement

The Movement symposium was launched at Flag Is Up Farms in May 2018, with the vision to unite outstanding speakers and live demonstrations with horses. Founded on Monty Roberts’ belief that non-violent forms of communication are essential to building trust and achieving outstanding results, the mission of The Movement is to help people discover the unique power of horses to teach better ways to interact across all aspects of life.

Two hundred participants from around the world journeyed to Solvang and agreed that the symposium was a life changing experience. The 2018 presentations were recorded for historical relevance and can be found on Vimeo Video on Demand.

Monty Roberts gentling wild horse at The Movement 2019

“We are describing The Movement as an event to Learn, Lead and Live Better,” says Debbie Roberts Loucks, who manages the events. “A movement started in the horse industry when horse owners began to have a clearer vision of how horses affected humans in positive way. Inspired by how interchangeable the lessons from herd behavior were, I’ve watched trainers, teachers, mothers and managers become better communicators, leaders and influencers for good. The presenters are each amazing in their industries and they all have a vision of a better world, inspired by incorporating horses in their own story. They come to share that vision and build on it with participants who will take home a life-changing plan. Leaders may inspire, but only when people choose to act does a vision become a movement.”

Monty Roberts Dually Halter - Dually horse training halter

April 2019 saw the second year of The Movement bring an amazing array of new speakers and attendees, as well as familiar faces from 2018. The Vimeo Video on Demand for 2019 will be available on Vimeo Video on Demand.

This annual, unique event helps you better understand problem solving using violence-free training methods. People come and spend time with like-minded people absorbing what non-violent communication can be and enjoy discussions with Monty and students from around the world.

At the event, in addition to guest speakers and presenters, Monty and his Certified Instructors work with a range of young and remedial horses. Participants gain first-hand knowledge during demonstrations, lectures, and discussions. This annual event is for the novice rider, the non-rider, as well as the advanced student who wants to observe advanced horsemanship at work.

Flag Is Up Farms Solvang California - home of Join-Up International, Monty Roberts and Pat Roberts

“The Movement event is approved as continuing education credit hours for our CHA membership as it brings together scientific and practical experts who are helping horses and humans to work better together,” says Christy Landwehr, CEO of the Certified Horsemanship Association.

The journey continues with world-renowned experts across psychology, science, social work and horse training exploring breakthrough insights on how mindfulness and horses help us better learn, lead and live better. #startingnotbreaking

“There is no such thing as teaching, only learning. No teacher can push information into an unwilling brain.” ~ Monty Roberts

Preparations for The Movement 2020 are underway! Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about The Movement and other news.

Gentling wild horses Monty Roberts Learning Center

Animal Welfare

Monty Roberts famously said “My goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it, for horses and people too.” And part of Join-Up International’s mission is to assist horses in transition find new homes. Over the past 2 decades, through our Monty Roberts International Learning Center, we have been working with mustangs from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), mustang rescue centers and horse rehabilitation networks to gentle and start horses in transition, to greatly improve their chances of being adopted or re-homed.

And we have recently partnered with the Right Horse Initiative to help realize their goals of “creating a national partner network of equine professionals that create unity for the horse industry” and “fostering a more compassionate, pragmatic support system for those doing right by people and by horses”.

Join-Up International program - Lead-Up