In California there are very few renowned equestrian facilities that have stayed the course, keeping their core values as well as staying in the family for more than 55 years. In 1966 Monty and Pat Roberts opened the gates to Flag Is Up Farms and to date have trained some of the most talented and pedigreed Thoroughbreds in the industry. Monty Roberts changed the way people thought of traditional horse training enough to revolutionize the industry across disciplines, eventually gaining support for his concepts by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989. The pandemic took him off the road after 30 years of demonstrating his horsemanship in 41 countries with tens of thousands of horses.
Flag Is Up Farms has been the home to Thoroughbred Training as well as the Monty Roberts International Learning Center where students come from around the world to learn Monty’s concepts of Join-Up®.
In 2021, daughter Debbie Roberts Loucks and her husband Tom purchased the farm and the main residence to assure two important goals were achieved. The first was to confirm a promise to Monty and Pat that they could live out their lives on the farm they built five decades earlier. The second promise was to assure that the legacy that Monty, Pat and Debbie had built over the past twenty years would be carried forth into the generations.
Since the purchase, Loucks has been developing several different updates to the farm with the encouragement of Monty Roberts. While touring Europe, Monty has seen many facilities that successfully carried out progressive innovations for the past 20-30 years. It was a surprise to Roberts that the United States had not yet adopted these more natural and efficient ways of caring for horses. Last summer, Loucks and Roberts began their plans to open up their barns and create more movement through computer-aided feeding rotations, customized for each horse’s needs.
Loucks explained, “You know how horses naturally live in outdoor herds but when domesticated are often made to live in box stalls alone? What we’ve done is design a safe herd environment where horses are both mentally and physically more active. This helps them lead a healthier, happier life without stall vices and chronic illnesses.”
CALIFORNIA HORSE CENTER
Loucks tapped a German company to help design and import the blue-tooth enabled machines that are programmable. These encourage horses to move freely in small groups around trails while having access to forage to keep a healthy gut, hooves and muscling. The name for this unique kind of living is Movement Smart Stable and its the first of its kind in the United States open to boarders at the California Horse Center on Flag Is Up Farms.
In October 2020, Loucks and Roberts partnered with The Right Horse Initiative and the ASPCA to launch the pilot called the Monty Roberts Mustang & Transition Horse Program for horses needing new homes through adoption. The two major barriers to adoption are training and transportation, per The Right Horse Initiative website. That program has now placed several dozen retired racehorses, mustangs and other breeds in forever homes, some for performance and some for companionship.
In March 2022, Loucks engaged three time world champion Mountain Trail competitor, Mark Bolender to complete a two acre Mountain Trail Course in the infield of the racetrack. The track has remained an important part of the farm for training. Monty Roberts was excited about this additional direction of Mountain Trail training to emphasize how in-hand ground work before the under-saddle training builds confidence and has always been integral part of his training. He credits his eleven world championships to his building a partnership with his horses before asking for break-through performance.
The two-acre course includes over 22 mountain trail obstacles, including bridges, a teeter totter, a trench, water obstacles, a gate, logs, fan, balance beams, crossbucks, Texas two-step and more. The full course will be used for clinics and IMTCA challenges.
Loucks shared how she came to the decision to build the course, the first in the state of California, “We set out to create a better way to help horses become more engaged with us and to develop our Monty Roberts Mustang & Transition Horse Program for horses needing new homes through adoption. Mark Bolender’s methods are incredibly safe, and the beautiful obstacles stood out as the best option. Then, when I learned he had won three world’s championships after age 40, I was inspired.”
Roberts added, “Mark has convinced me more than ever that in-hand work prior to ridden work is critical to build trust in your equine partner. I watched today as every horse and every handler were challenged and then celebrated as they met the challenge of each obstacle.”
Back in 2018, Loucks and Roberts founded an event called The Movement with the help of mentor Kanella Kennedy, a horse owner and visionary. Monty Roberts and other leading experts have been coming together at the annual Movement event to demonstrate and share their latest discoveries. The Movement is inspired by a love for horses, the ambition to impact their lives as positively as they impact people’s and the belief that together horsepersons can drive positive change.
In 2022, Shy Boy, Monty’s famous Mustang from the BBC famed documentary was joined by Sir Rugged Chex, known as Checkers owned by Mark and Lee Bolender for The Movement. Both horses are immortalized as Breyer horses and awed the crowd as they both looked amazingly healthy, Shy Boy at age 29. This year’s line up of presenters was impressive again, with Monty Roberts, ASPCA’s trainer of the year Jamie Jennings and host of the Horses In The Morning podcast, design expert and Stall and Stable podcast’s Helena Harris, trainer Mark Bolender, trainer Elisabeth Hower, resident instructor Simon d’Unienville, and famous farrier Ada Gates Patton. All were treated to a concert by Nashville’s Templeton Thompson and Sam Gay who launched their new album, Get Back Up! sponsored by HandsOnGloves.com and Kaena Wines at The Ranch.
Coming soon to the California Horse Center is the Movement Wellness Center with its in-ground aqua-tred machine and access other amenities and to professionals that are centered in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County of California. Currently CHC is seeking a person with vet tech experience and horsemanship skills to lead this center.
Monty Roberts and his team welcome visitors from around the world 9am-4pm daily and are looking forward to sharing their new directions with horsepersons everywhere. Currently CHC is seeking a talented rider to assist with the Mustang and Transition Horse Program.
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MONTY ROBERTS AVAILABLE FOR SELECT INTERVIEWS:
The New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned horse trainer Monty Roberts is available for interviews.
MONTY ROBERTS first gained widespread fame with the release of his New York Times Best Selling book, The Man Who Listens To Horses; a chronicle of his life and development of his non-violent horse training methods called Join-Up®. Monty grew up on a working horse farm as a firsthand witness to traditional, often violent methods of horse training and breaking the spirit with an abusive hand. Rejecting that, he went on to win nine world’s championships in the show ring. Today, Monty’s goal is to share his message that “Violence is never the answer.” Roberts has been encouraged by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with the award of the Membership in The Royal Victorian Order, as well as becoming Patron of Join-Up International. Other honors received were the ASPCA “Founders” award and the MSPCA George T. Angell Humanitarian Award and FEI’s Man of the Year. Monty was recently included as Horse and Hound Magazine’s Top 50 Horsemen of All Time. Monty is credited with launching the first of its kind Equus Online University; an interactive online lesson site that is the definitive learning tool for violence-free training. Equine behavior expert & Join-Up Founder. Monty started listening to horses in 1942 and has won 11 World Championships across disciplines. He achieves all results with his non-violent training methods and has dedicated his life to teaching and evolving these methods. The Equine Industry Vision Award (EIVA) has now tapped Roberts as a finalist who exemplifies outstanding visionary achievement and sustained contributions that have made a profound impact on the equine industry. Monty is in the top four American Horse Publications’ finalists for the Equine Industry Vision Award, “recognizing ingenuity and service as well as the benefit to the equine industry by inspiring these qualities in others”. “For over 80 years, he has advocated for and demonstrated the many qualities of our equine partners and athletes.”
JOIN-UP philosophies can be seen at work with both humans and horses across the world, from farms to major corporations. To learn more about Monty Roberts or the many applications of his Join-Up training methods, visit www.montyroberts.com. Horse Sense and Soldiers aired on Discovery Military in 2010 highlighting the therapeutic effect horses and Monty Roberts’ Join-Up® have on PTSD. Soon after Monty and his team developed the Horse Sense & Healing program for veterans and first responders. Lead-Up International was officially launched worldwide at the Monty Roberts International Learning Center in Solvang, California, in February 2017. The purpose of Lead-Up International is to reduce violence in the community by creating peaceful leaders from vulnerable youth utilizing equine-assisted therapy and non-verbal communication, building trust-based relationships.
DEBBIE ROBERTS LOUCKS joined with her parents, Monty and Pat Roberts, in 2002 to build Monty Roberts’ international training schedule and oversee their publishing, product development and licensing. Monty Roberts is the world renowned original Horse Whisperer and New York Times Bestselling author of The Man Who Listens to Horses. Pat Roberts is an internationally acclaimed sculptress of horses. A graduate of UCLA, Debbie has extensive experience in marketing as well as new business development.
Debbie’s life-long work with horses, as well as her commitment with Monty to advance his concepts, uniquely qualifies her to extend the MPRI brand into a global leadership organization which has impacted millions of individuals, companies, organizations, governments and industries. She is credited with launching the MONTYROBERTSUNIVERSITY.COM; an interactive online lesson site considered one of the most effective educational tools for horsemen on the web. Meet Debbie on Facebook.
Beautiful photos available upon request.
Media Contact: Debbie Loucks
Monty and Pat Roberts, Inc.