Monty Roberts’ Programs and Healing, Inspired by Equus

For over 80 years Monty Roberts has advocated for, and demonstrated the many unique qualities of our equine partners and athletes.

Monty Roberts is known for his gentle horsemanship and his eight decades in the service of training horses at the highest levels. Roberts just held his 6th annual event called The Movement, the event where he brings together trainers and practitioners to focus on the attributes of horses to positively affect people’s lives.

To understand Monty’s passion, first it is important to learn that his parental upbringing was violent which drove him to be with horses as much as possible. If you ask Monty how old he was when he got started in the horse business, he will smile and tell you that he didn’t get into the business until he was 3 or 4, as before that he was busy learning to walk, talk and ride a horse. This visionary has an unwavering, seemingly inexhaustible sense of purpose that he brings to his work with horses. He has stayed true to his vision for eight decades since discovering that horses respond better when they trust you than when you cause them pain.

Monty was only 13 when he was sent to Nevada to round up wild horses for the Salinas Rodeo, then the largest equestrian event in California. In the desert, lying on his belly with binoculars, Monty discovered horses have a common language, one that is silent and gestural like signing for the deaf. It struck the young teenager that if he could adopt this language, horses could be trained in a more humane and effective way.

Born in California in 1935 to an American horse trainer whose traditional method of breaking in horses was rejected by Monty as cruel, young Monty gained his own insight into how horses can be started, not broken, by meeting their needs and understanding the flight animal. Recognizing that he could gesture with his arms, eyes and body angle, to replicate leadership in a herd language, Monty shared his discoveries with his father who punished him cruelly for his son’s rejection of traditional methods.

Monty had already achieved many accolades in the show ring at this point and was encouraged by his mother to begin a professional show career staying true to his own training beliefs by creating willing partners in his horses. In his early twenties as a professional competition rider, he achieved nine world championships in Western show horse disciplines.

In 1950 Monty won the national Horse Mastership in Palm Springs and then Madison Square Garden where there was the formality of the finals and a ceremony. On Fiddle D’Or, he won two Hackamore Cow Horse championships in the early 1960s. On Night Mist, he won two Working Cow Horse championships in 1965 and 1966 showing in Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada and Arizona. Then on Hall of Fame’s Johnny Tivio he won four Working Cow Horse Worlds Championships during the mid 1960s.

At age 21, Monty married his childhood classmate, Pat Burden and began a sixty-seven year marriage that continues to this day. Pat joined Monty in his desire to create a legacy of good horsemanship and supporting his efforts to travel and compete while maintaining an equestrian training center. They raised three biological children and over the years fostered 47 children, many became capable horse persons themselves.

One foster son, Larry LaGue credits his long career as a jockey and his 2400 race wins to the care and mentoring by Monty and Pat. Another, Satish Seemar is the long time Thoroughbred trainer for Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum. Other renowned horsemen also credit Monty with their career achievements such as Zane Davis, Ron Ralls and son Phillip Ralls who lived on the Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms for years, learning from Monty, earning over 3 million dollars in horse show purses, still competing and training today.

While studying at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, Monty became fascinated by the behavioral sciences. Encouraged by his professors, he triple-majored in order to study behavior while earning a degree in Animal Husbandry and competing on the Rodeo Team, winning championships in the NIRA Team Roping in 1956 and in 1957 the NIRA Bulldogging. His obsession with behavior eventually led him to post-graduate work resulting in two doctorates in behavioral sciences cross spectrum, animals and humans.

In 1971, Monty and Pat focused on the business of purchasing yearlings and selling two year-olds prepared for the races. They began with two horses and then subsequently led the world for 17 years in the production of two-year-old Thoroughbreds trained for racing. Monty bought, started and trained Alleged named Horse of the World in 1977 and 1978. During those 17 years, they purchased 195 yearlings and sold 195 yearlings for a total profit of $4,023,482.60.

The ability to lead the world for 17 years in the selection of yearlings, their successful training and sales preparation, and causing huge values to be placed on their careers was a talent that became globally recognized. Articles were written and leaders in the industry began to ask Monty why his methods were consistently successful with these young Thoroughbreds.

Successful Thoroughbred trainer and TV commentator, Sean McCarthy’s first job out of school was to ride for Monty in the 1980s. Monty and Sean started many of the aforementioned successful horses with their first saddle and bridle in Monty’s now iconic Round Pen on Flag Is Up Farms (named for that moment before the race announcer says “And they’re off!”).

Monty was creating a paradigm shift in the starting process for Thoroughbred horses. Just as his early achievements with mustangs were his powers of observation, Monty learned from this sensitive breed how to meet the needs of virtually every horse he started under saddle. He was presented with thousands of equine behavioral challenges in those 17 years and continued to improve his abilities to produce calm and cooperative partners.

During this two-decade period, a set of circumstances presented Monty with the opportunity to become familiar with a small family group of wild deer that inhabited the small coastal hills that were part of the Farm. The first doe that Monty worked directly with was called ‘Grandma’ and she taught him that these flight animals are 100 times more sensitive than a horse. Many of the methods of body movement and eye movement Monty uses are due to the study of wild deer.

He continues to work with these incredible individuals to this day. Having spent 50 years now studying the deer, he has achieved an unparalleled level of understanding of the flight animal. Interestingly, he is colorblind and believes that this is an advantage in his powers of observation. Through Monty’s thousands of hours of working with and observing the deer, they are responsible for a massive amount of the concepts Monty uses with horses today.

In 1989 the west coast two-year-old Thoroughbred sales had discontinued and Monty needed to once again start a new direction in his career with horses. In this same year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II sent an invitation to Monty to demonstrate his concepts for the Royal Family and the team at Windsor Castle. The Queen was a life-long horsewoman. The success of this event resulted in Her Majesty’s endorsement of Monty’s work by requesting he write a book to share his concepts with the world.

Uncharacteristically Her Majesty allowed a photo to be published in an English magazine with an article about his work. Her Majesty’s interest in Monty’s career over the past 33 years has allowed him to approach his stated life’s goal, “to leave the world a better place than I found it for horses and for people, too.” Many would consider the Queen’s endorsement of Monty’s nontraditional and violence-free methods to be the greatest achievement of his career thus far.

Monty’s first tour of clinics was in 1989, planned and overseen by Queen Elizabeth. It involved 21 cities in England, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Mann and Ireland. Monty worked with 98 horses in front of live audiences, all without a failure. His rider, young Sean McCarthy had never traveled nor ever worked in front of an audience. Yet every horse Monty started did accept the saddle, bridle and Sean in about 30 minutes.

In 1991, Monty received a call from a Thoroughbred trainer in Bremen, Germany who had a talented horse that was refusing to race. It was impossible to cause him to accept the starting stalls (start machine) at the races. Walther Jacobs owned Lomitas. Monty observed that Lomitas’ work routine and phobias were misunderstood and soon had Lomitas agreeing that racing could be fun once he got through the gate quietly. Soon he was named Horse of the Year for Germany.

Mr. Jacobs then offered Monty a lifetime position to manage the early training of their young Thoroughbreds. Monty was asked to purchase some broodmares for Lomitas and a few select young horses to add to their racing stable. The first year he bought Quebrada who became Two-Year-Old and Three-Year-Old Champion Female. The next year he bought Risen Raven, who became Three-Year-Old Champion Filly. The third year it was Macanal who became Two-Year-Old Champion and then Sprinter Champion of Germany.

Broodmare, Spirit of Eagles, when bred to Lomitas, produced Silvano, Horse of the Year in Germany and winner of Group I races around the world. Silvano became the leading sire of South Africa and has recently produced the first, second and the third-place winners of the South African Derby. In addition, Spirit of Eagles produced Sabiango, a Group I winner in Germany in the same week that Silvano won the Group I Arlington Million in the United States. This is a feat never achieved by any Thoroughbred broodmare in history.

As if the aforementioned elements of the 30 year experience were not enough, Jacob’s farm Fährhof had produced the 2016 Two-Year-Old Champion Colt, Reserve Champion Colt, and the Two-Year-Old Filly title and incredibly were the Leading Breeders of Germany for the year. And in November 2016, a documentary featuring Lomitas and Monty was named the winner at the Equus Film Festival in New York City in the category of Equestrian International Documentary.

Between 1990 and 1996 Horse & Hound magazine managed at least one tour per year for Monty until his autobiography launched. Once the book was published, the requests grew for international tours. Monty spent 30 years touring internationally, slowing only for the pandemic. Monty has conducted more than 2,800 public events involving 11,000 horses and 41 countries with 3.6 million attendees. There have been no cancellations. Many would conclude that sharing his concepts by touring would rank high on his list of achievements.

As Monty’s first book The Man Who Listens to Horses was being launched, the BBC inquired of Monty if there was anything that had not been made public, which could be done as a documentary. At that point, the mustangs came back into his life. John Groom of the BBC learned that a young Monty had caused a mustang to accept his first saddle and rider in the wild with no domestication, any fences or 20th century facilities of any kind.

To recreate that feat, the BBC adopted a three-year-old Bureau of Land Management mustang and returned him to the wild.  The documentary tracked a 62-year-old Monty from horseback, causing the mustang to accept his first saddle and rider in the wilderness. Monty named him Shy Boy during that endeavor, as he proved to be elusive yet eventually willing to partner with Monty. That documentary touched millions of viewers and was translated into many languages.

In 1997 Monty founded the non-profit Join-Up International seeing the need for a school where horse persons could come to learn the concepts and the gestural language of the horse Monty calls Equus. To assist horse persons to use his discoveries, he created a method called Join-Up® which is based on the way horses communicate in the wild. Some form of his horsemanship is being used nearly as much as traditional practices in developed countries today.

Although considered primarily used to start horses, this gentle, non-violent approach can also be helpful in strengthening all other work with horses. In addition, to fill a need for gentle, more intrinsic forms of equipment, Monty patented the Dually Training Halter.  Horse, handler and halter work in partnership to train to come off the gentle pressure of the soft, round noseband on the halter when asked, both forward and back. Horses find the halter’s comfortable sweet spot and move with the handler to maintain it, without pain, knots or poll pressure.

Monty’s experiences touring the world through many cultures and populations renewed his passion to pursue his discoveries regarding behavioral sciences. Discovery Military Channel learned of his Join-Up® with horses to assist humans with post-traumatic stress, tendencies to domestic violence and also violence toward children. Moving into the world of helping people was the logical next step in influencing his concepts globally to eliminate violence for both animals and humans.

This effort expanded in 2010 to include the program called Horse Sense & Healing for military and first responders with their families. In it, Join-Up is a tool which helps people learn to find trust again through interaction with a gentle horse. This exercise deals with emotional trauma, anti-social behavior, anger and Post Traumatic Stress. Monty’s workshops demonstrate the healing power of establishing a trusting relationship with a horse. He has shared the beneficial techniques of Join-Up with business leaders, health professionals and prison workers.

In December 2021 Monty was honored to have his Horse Sense & Healing program featured in Google’s 2021 the Year in Search magazine. Google, in partnership with Pop-Up Magazine, created an annual magazine with reflections and original artwork inspired by the year’s trends.

In the article titled “Natural Connection”, Veteran and journalist Sara Samora explored the impact the Horse Sense & Healing program on participants, including retired marine Rashun Drayton. Read the full story:

In 2011, Monty was honored by HM Queen Elizabeth II for his service to the Royal Family and for his service to the racing industry and was made an honorary Member of the Royal Victorian Order. A year later, Queen Elizabeth agreed to become patron of the non-profit Join-Up International, encouraging his work with people positively affected by Join-Up. The program can best be described as combining compassionate conversations with therapeutic interactions with horses to obtain relief from suffering.

Monty offers this program, free of charge, to any Veteran or first-responder who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress. It is a three-day program offered six times a year. After three transformational days, the participants better understand how to control their anger, confront painful memories, and move on with their lives. This program has had tremendous success and serves 60-70 participants along with their families or significant others each year.

On the 24th of June 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded several persons recommended by Monty Roberts certificates for their pioneering efforts to encourage violence-free training using Join-Up® concepts. The Queen awarded signed certificates to acknowledge these persons for their extraordinary efforts to eliminate violence in the training of horses. The ceremony took place in Windsor, England where Monty and Her Majesty presented the chosen recipients with their awards for commitment to his violence-free concepts.

The chosen recipients were: Carlos Gracida (Polo for Mexico and Argentina), Memo Gracida (Polo for Mexico and Argentina), Catherine Cunningham (Volunteerism in Guatemala), Eduardo Moreira (books and demonstrations in Brazil), Joel Baker (Polo in the USA), Satish Seemar (Horse Training in Dubai), and Adolfo Cambiaso (Polo in Argentina).

One of these recipients, Catherine Cunningham, was inspired by the award to return to Guatemala and establish Lead-Up, a program based on workshops with horses in which participants are introduced to humane ways of handling and interacting with horses. The Lead-Up team has been developing the program since 2012 and has partnered with organizations in Guatemala who have expressed the growing need to reduce violence in the communities they serve. Many horses are needed to assist in this program, and many horses’ lives have been improved because of it.

Youth ages 14-22 experience non-violence and non-aggression through interactions with horses and principally through the experience of Join-Up® with a horse. Dr. Judith Gibbons and team published in the journal ‘Human Animal Interaction Bulletin” scientific evidence of reduced violence and abuse toward horses and people through the Lead-Up Program. The program helps participants learn how to improve their self-awareness and regulate their body language and emotions through specialized interactions of Join-Up with horses.

In 2014, a student of Monty Roberts, Eduardo Moreira, author of the Brazilian bestseller Encantadores de Vidas (Life Whisperers) based on his experience learning from Monty, was asked to make a speech for a group of 500 cadets at the Police Academy of the State of São Paulo, Brazil. Later that year while Monty was on tour in Brazil, the Commander of the Police Academy, Colonel José Mauricio Perez, invited him to visit and accept a recognition. The academy trained the cadets using horses in their program.

The Commander told Monty he had learned the Join-Up® principles after reading Monty Roberts’ book, The Man Who Listens to Horses, presented to him by the captain responsible for the cavalry regiment of the academy. He decided to adopt the philosophy of Join-Up in the training of cadets. Colonel Perez came to the belief that by eliminating all forms of violence in the training of the students, he would contribute a far more humanitarian, capable and transformative police force.

Through that academy, 100,000 police officers were positively impacted, resulting in a less violent environment for more than 40 million people, the population of São Paulo. Monty was delighted with what he saw and immediately took the story to the attention the person who had asked him almost three decades earlier to transform the world through the Join-Up message: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen recognized the positive affects Join-Up would reverberate forever the legacy and mission of Monty Roberts.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on June 16, 2015 honored the Commander of the Police Academy of the State of São Paulo at Windsor Castle in private ceremonies attended by Her Majesty, Monty Roberts, Colonel Perez, Eduardo Moreira and Eduardo’s wife Juliana Baroni. The certificate celebrated efforts to eliminate violence in the treatment of citizens in São Paulo, Brazil. The act of Her Majesty had immediate and positive repercussions in Brazil.

Another milestone for Monty in 2015 was to become the first Global Ambassador to the Brooke international animal welfare charity. Petra Ingram, then Chief Executive of Brooke, stated that their paths and missions were aligned and they invited Monty on a week-long tour of its work in India. The conditions were harsh and Monty’s emotional journey was captured in a short film which was released alongside the announcement of his role as ambassador.

On January 12, 2017 the iconic Horse & Hound magazine named Monty one of 50 ‘All Time Greatest Horsemen’ with his photo prominently on the cover and included William Fox-Pitt, John Whitaker and Xenophon. It reads “It was in 1989 that the Californian shot into the limelight when the Queen invited him to Windsor Castle to demonstrate his “Join-Up” technique, and he now visits her up to three times a year to help “start” her horses. To date he has worked with nearly 15,000 horses during his demonstrations, spreading his “non-violent” ethos worldwide.”

The year of 2017 saw Monty push on in his 82nd year to demonstrate again in Sao Paulo Brazil where traditional and often violent horse trainers are increasingly requesting that he come to teach how to get better performances from their horses. Indeed, he imparts that knowledge but in a form that also edifies that horses perform more willingly in the absence of violence. Many of the young trainers, veterinarians, farriers and breed associations attend and are eager to learn.

A most unusual milestone was achieved by Roberts in July of 2017 when he was invited to demonstrate his concepts at the oldest continuously running equestrian school on earth: The Spanish Riding School, home of the famous white Lipizzaner stallions of dressage. To a sold-out audience of some of the most traditional horsemen on earth, Monty gentled four challenging young horses and was encouraged by a standing ovation.

In his 88th year, Monty continues to share what he has discovered is naturally a part of  the horse, the gestural language of Equus to help us understand and partner more effectively with them. He continues to develop new vocations for the horse, making their lives even more relevant in our lives today. Launched in October 2020, the Monty Roberts Mustang & Transition Horse Program utilizes his world-renowned gentle and effective training techniques including Join-Up and his patented humane gentling facility. To date this program has placed dozens of horses in new adoptive homes. Monty’s podcast, Horsemanship Radio, has produced several episodes sharing best practices to create a healthier racing industry in the United States as demonstrated by those adopted going on to new careers in the show ring and on the trail.

Monty and his team at the Monty Roberts International Learning Center (MRILC) are gentling and starting unbacked horses from adoption partners and working through remedial issues with others. All of the horses are desensitized to a variety of objects and stimuli to help cause them to be safe and willing partners for their future owners.

Roberts has spent the past two years completely retrofitting his farm to be a more healthy and happy environment for horses. Shed rows became walkouts and Mountain Trail obstacles were placed in open spaces where horses of all breeds (and riders of all ages) have more fun enjoying the outdoors. Roberts is setting the example by pilot programs for herd groups with programmable feeding machines, adding more movement to horse’s daily lives at his California Horse Center.

Monty Roberts has made a profound impact on the equine industry and his knowledge is available to the world in many forms and resources, most are free or very low cost.



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.

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 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.

Media Contact: Debbie Loucks
Monty and Pat Roberts, Inc./Join-Up® International
(949) 632-1856

Photos available upon request.

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