Horseproblems Australia
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John O'Leary




It is not often that I agree with the Scientists ....but on the subject of 'Join Up', I have to capitulate this time.

I don't use the conventional system. I have tested it well and in fact I supplied Horses for the State Show some Years back. I won't bore you with my reasons as they have been most eloquently put here below however I don't agree with everything that has been stated below either. In order for a Scientist to be able to accurately comment on anything Horse Training, they must be able to do it and be a highly qualified Horse Trainer themselves for all is not what it seems when reading Horses and if you can't 'do it' you can't Judge it. For every Public Demonstration of Horsemanship that I ever attended, the Crowd were wrong, 100% of the time.

If you want to see the 90 Minute Film, go here


If I were ask to Judge a 'Join Up' Demonstration, it would be Judged on the retention of the Personality of the Horse, the Look in the Eye of the Horse, the lack of Sweat and fatigue, but above all, it should be "True Unity' where the Horse Tells you what it thinks of the process, that would be the real decider. The Look in their eye.........Here are a few of mine of late.




  • Chasing a 1/4 Mile each way in a Round Pen.
  • LICKING AND CHEWING. In this system, licking and chewing is basically mandatory.
  • The Lowering of the Neck "The Meeting where the Horse elects Monty as the Chairman of the Board" We should examine these then......


All good Dressage Riders and others, will know that after work and especially after 'collected work' a Horse naturally wants to go 'Long and Low'. This is NOT about submission or hierarchy, it is about the skeletal structure of the Horse having contracted during the collected work and naturally needing to stretch again afterwards. Aided and assisted by the enormous weight of the Head and Neck.

Horses do not have to be ridden by a Rider for this to occur for the contraction of the upper Body of the Horse occurs during the 'Flight Mode' just as readily as when ridden by a Rider and asked to Collect. You can chase a Horse across a Desert and you will still see the lowering of the Neck if you withdraw.



In my experience, this can be caused by exhaustion, the commencement of stress levels after a certain distance travelled and the commencement of 'Learned Helplessness" where the Horse has nothing else to focus on but doing endless laps on a journey with no destination and no end and fear. It can also be caused by Fear, fatigue, worry, stress or even the environment. Indeed...pain.

Go check out how many of the Horses I work with on my Video and see how many 'lick and chew'. I can assure you they are in the minority. 'Licking and Chewing' does not have to be an ingredient for successful 'join up'.  Therefore, licking and chewing is simply a prop for Public consumption.


The known system of 'Join Up' was historically done against a 30 Minute Clock. ( I note however, a change in approach these Days) The longer the procedure takes, the more distress there is, the more licking and chewing as a result and the higher the chance of "learned helplessness' kicking in.



This arrives at the appropriate exhaustion level whereby a Horse wants to stop.  for psychological reasons, including then going the other way in an equal number of Laps around a certain Circumference of the Round Pen of the Day, equalling the 1/4mile. The Rest is easy.

Here, the selection of the Horses is paramount, for the more domesticated they are, the sooner they want to stop and have a yarn :) The Wild Horses should be used in such Shows. In Adelaide, I was given the job of travelling 1,000k and risking Life and Limb on untouched 4, 5 & 6 Year Olds, brought them Home but they were knocked back after inspection. These Horses, with this system, would run Miles of course.

I disagree with the proposition that systems of Horsemanship can be given a designated time, length, amount of pressure or anything else. The fact is that it cannot. I could 'join up' with a Horse in 30 seconds so why would one run it around for 15 minutes? The use of fatigue is a shortcut to impress, not good Horsemanship.



Let's not get 'paralysis of the analysis'. For the purposes of this examination of the system, I invented a new system, on the first Horse, right there and then and on the Spot, let's call it the "Kick em up Big Dust" system.

Later, at a Clinic in Perth where I was ambushed by an 18 Metre Round Pen, again, on the spot and in desperation, I invented the "Hit the Dirt' system.

In Melbourne, with the Grey Horse, it was the "Trust & Respect' system on the Grey Gelding and the "Tough Love System' on the Arrogant Warmblood Filly.

The 'softly softly system" on the fearful and distrusting Clydesdale Mare in Perth, and

The "I am your Mate" system on the Dumped 3000k from his Home Gelding in Perth.

and if I were inclined Today, I could invent yet another. So keep an open Mind. Horses can respond to any system, any language and any gesture. .......hell, even any thought!

TO SUM UP MY SYSTEMS FOR MY CLIENTS (back in the real World)

  • It takes into account all of the personalities of Horses and is completely adaptable between the arrogant to the frail Minds.

  • It has serious uses from a re-education perspective.

  • It is highly useful for the Amateur who have Horses that are 'Out of their Box', thus increasing Human Safety, and

  • It is short, sharp and far less stressful.


Amateur Folk have great difficulty in achieving 'Join Up" via the traditional system. It is highly difficult for them to do and confusion is almost always present. Not their fault for one needs the ingredients of a Professional to limit distress to Horses, timing, feel, reading, position, savvy.

With my system, due to the lack of 'terms to impress' is far less likely to distress Horses as well as the add on benefits of re-education for them.

So far as the legging up of a Rider on a "Joined Up' Horse goes, recommendation of such is a MAJOR Risk Management situation and could bring about a successful Litigation in the Courts.


The "Joined Up' Horse is a safer Horse to Humans, a more respectful Horse to Humans and a better trained Horse than others. To use 'Join Up' at the commencement of starting a Horse, is highly beneficial and good for the relationship between Horse and Handler.......IF DONE RIGHT!!!


Obvious. Safety for you and the Kids, respect and more. Turning to the fence is a sign of dis-respect and 100% of Horses I get for re-education for behavioural issues, turn with their Head's to the Fence.

Horses that know their place in the 'pecking order', don't kick the Boss Horse. It can run at the Rump and tear strips and the subservient won't double barrel the aggressor. That is why, " I love your Bum but it is your Face that I want" promotes safety for ill-equipped Humans.



Article from Cavallo magazine.
December, 2003

When a horse in a round pen is chewing and licking its lips American trainer Monty Roberts rates this as proof of the success of his work, that will gain him the respect and the trust of the horse. Robert's interpretation: The chewing and the licking is a sign of respect and relaxation of the herbivore horse. This theory is one of pillars of Roberts' allegedly non-violent Join-up method.
How do equine ethologists and behavioural scientists interpret the
chewing and licking? Does it always signal relaxation? How gentle is
Join Up really?

CAVALLO asked leading experts from all over the world. Here are some excerpts of their answers:

Dr. Barbara Schöning, Specialist in Animal Behaviour from Hamburg, Germany.

From a very early stage the foal shows chewing and licking, the head can be lowered at the same time and the legs bend - similar to the suckling at the udder. Later this eating behaviour becomes a social behaviour that signals submission and appeasement during conflicts.
Behaviourists believe that the empty chewing (bruxism) not only
restrains the adversary's aggression but also calms and relaxes the
chewing one, in the sense of a so called displacement activity.
If a horse shows this kind of behaviour, there is a reason for it: it
feels threatened, which means it is stressed and therefore shows a
behaviour that in its opinion is adequate in order to avert the
threat. As it is impossible to flee in a round pen it is left with
the options to attack, to surrender or to appease.
That is where drama comes into play: situations like those that Monty Roberts creates are for most horses incomprehensible. Why (from the horse's point of view) does an unknown person put on massive pressure in a situation where nothing important, in the understanding of the horse, is at stake?
Generally this means double stress which in my opinion brings it to
the limits as regards animal welfare. I don't think humans should
only be very gentle. Pressure is necessary every now and then during the training - but it has to be reasonable, graded and above all comprehensible for the horse. Then it won't suffer stress as it learns how it can resolve a certain problem. Monty Roberts is neither gentle nor non-violent in the round pen –
unless gentle and non-violent is defined as "the absence of direct
corporal punishment/manipulation".
To me psychological violence is also relevant.


Dr. Sue McDonnell holds a PhD in psychology and physiology and is
Head of the Equine Behaviour Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.
She is one of the leading experts for Equine Behaviour in the USA.

Most behaviourists have concerns regards the naturalness of these
natural horsemanship methods. Many horse owners who have been exposed to these methods contact our Institute subsequently for help. This indicates that they often encounter complications or even failure.
Join up is a weird and ever growing changing combination of
procedures that has very few if any practical applications beyond
the "show".
Same results can be achieved in much simpler ways, though not as
entertaining perhaps.
Now in the US it seems that Monty is going out, I haven't heard much lately about Shy Boy or any of his materials. The methods people have learned in join up type clinics can be fairly rough and border on inhumane and can cause psychological wrecks long-term.


Dr. Francis Burton, Brain Researcher and Behaviourist at the
Institute of Biomedical & Life Sciences of the Scottish University of

I think the horse is already stressed by the time he is "licking and
This action is caused by a previous adrenaline release. The simple physiological explanation goes: being made to flee - increase in circulating adrenaline - dry mouth - licking. This means a horse may lick and chew following a fright, in which situation it surely cannot mean "I'm a herbivore, and if I'm eating I can't be afraid of you" – the interpretation given by Monty Roberts in join up. I've tried "join up" with three horses with whom I already had a trusting relationship. One joined up "classically" and followed me around meekly.
The other two displayed signs of being irritated by the procedure,
one showed increased aggressiveness towards me. I was left wondering
frankly what the point of the exercise was and realized that the
driving away had a detrimental effect on the trust that I already had
built up. It is not a technique that I would consider using myself,
or recommending to other people.


Lesley Skipper, Equestrian author from the USA. Author of the
book "Inside your horse's mind - A Study of Equine Intelligence and
Human Prejudice". She owns eight Arabs, Hanoverian and Draught horses.

I have often observed chewing and licking in horses who are anxious about something as evinced by their body language. In some cases it may simply indicate that they are thirsty. This illustrates the need for caution when attributing specific meanings to particular gestures or facial expressions as these can vary according to context. To be fair, Monty Robert's pupil Kelly Marks does inform people that licking and chewing can signify anxiety, and she also warns that join up is not suitable for every horse.
The problem I have with many so-called natural horsemanship methods is that it seems to be based on some very limited observations of free-ranging horses and much of it pertains to stallions rather than mares. The result is that the training methods adopted are based on very simplistic assumptions, which are not necessarily correct.


Mary Ann Simonds, Wildlife and Range Ecologist, Equine Behaviourist and Therapist. In 1987 she wrote the Guidelines for Managing Wild Horse Stress for the American Bureau of Land Management (BML) and she is the founder of the Whole Horse Institute in Vancouver/Washington.

In working with many wild horses, I have observed that at first their
lips are tight and they are fearful. As they start to let go off
their stress, they often will lick and chew - this is however more a
sign of relief than of relaxation. But horses will lick and chew,
too, when they are in a high state of stress with eyes rolling back,
sweating, pawing. But in this situation it demonstrates, I believe,
just a way for the horse to release some of the built up stress.

I have known Monty Roberts for almost 30 years. Many of the "join up" techniques are not natural to a horse and in fact cause trauma. The video made by Monty Roberts with a wild horse given to him by the BLM was one of the most stressed encounters I have seen. The wild horse demonstrated every level of "high stress indicator". Good horse ethologists or trainers take into account the horse's temperament and level of stress and then design the most appropriate method to help the horse learn with the least amount of stress and fear. Patience, kindness and being able to think like a horse, are the best traits a human educator can have to educate a horse. Join up once started out as a better way to "break" horses, and has just turned into just another way to control horses using techniques they do not all understand.


Dr. Dirk Lebelt, Specialist for Animal Behaviour at the Horse Clinic
Havelland in Brielow/Brandenburg, Germany

I have some doubts regards the claimed naturalness of round pen
training. Even though the control of the movement of a lower status
horse by a high status horse is a characteristic of specific equine
behaviour. But while under natural conditions the lower status horse
is able to evade the aggressions of the higher status animal and may signal its submissiveness, an evasion is impossible within the round pen. In my opinion this explains partly the quick success that often can be observed during round pen training. The horse feels it is at the mercy of the trainer, which is also called "learned
helplessness". This leads to quick submission.
How far such a procedure, which surely doesn't correspond with the
specific equine behavioural repertoire, is non-violent or not,
depends definitely on the empathy and the experience of the trainer.


Andy Beck from the "White Horse Farm Equine Ethology Project" in
Northland/New Zealand studies equine behaviour and training methods on Thoroughbreds and Arabs.

The drive away in which the horse is put into 'flight' is potentially
very frightening. The use of a mask increases the element of panic
and the potential for "learned helplessness". While this may create
an appearance of "control" it has also been shown to impede future
learning. There is also the risk of producing abreaction in response
to repressed emotion (fear, isolation). Horses that have already been well socialised to people become extremely confused by being driven away. The horse has no idea why it is harried and is most likely to experience the method as unpredictable aggression - the last thing a good trainer wants a horse to experience.
One of the most basic tenets of good horse management is that the
handler is able to control their behaviour so that they do not
trigger the response of blind flight as a predator would do.


Professor Katherine Houpt, Behavioural Psychologist and Physiologist at the College of Veterinary Behaviourists, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

I have seen Roberts use the Dually as punishment - jerking on the
nose rope and forcing the horse to back up. He doesn't call it
punishment, but it is. His method is not suitable for every horse.
Very aggressive horses will charge. And it is not suitable for every
horse owner, as some simply exhaust the horse. To drive the horse
away is just a form of negative reinforcement - doing something unpleasant until the horse does what you want. That is
not too different from kicking the horse until he trots. I don't
think this method has anything to do with herd behaviour and I don't know how often horses are permanently cured of their problem if Roberts isn't there. Round Pen training is not miraculous.


Dr. Natalie Waran, Expert for Equine Behaviour at the Royal School of Veterinary Sciences of the Scottish University of Edinburgh

In the UK we are rather getting tired of the join up method
especially as this method is not new at all, but the Gyro (a round
pen) was used for training horses in Roman times. If the horse is
placed in isolation and in an unfamiliar environment and powerful
psychological techniques such as those in the join up system are
applied, you have to question the effect that has on the animal: The handler becomes an unpredictable dictator and the horse learns to become helpless, activity is reduced and the horse shows licking and chewing - all signs of stress.


Dr. Sharon Cregier, Equine Ethologist, former Lecturer at the
Canadian University of Prince Edward Island. She has published many books and articles on equine behaviour and animal welfare.

I have never liked the "predator - prey" application to horse
training. The horse is a social animal, seeking security and
reassurance with trusted herd mates. An ill horse is driven from the
herd and it is forced to try to survive on the edge of the herd where
it is prey. Therefore it must be confusing to a horse to be
continually driven from its source of security but unable to flee.
The round pen, notes veterinarian Robert Miller of Thousand Oaks,
California, inhibits the horse's natural flight response. The free
horse flees a predator in a straight line.
Regards the "chewing and licking" it has not been clear to me whether Monty Roberts is referring to the grooved "suckling" tongue or the nervous attack on, for example, hay in a trailer when a horse is under stress.


Dr. Willa Bohnet, Biologist and Expert for Equine Behaviour at the
Center for Animal Welfare, School of Veterinary Medicine Hannover;

To do a join up with an aggressive horse in a closed round pen is
highly dangerous. The method on its own is not suitable for the
behavioural therapy of a problem horse. For such a therapy it is
necessary to combine, depending on the diagnosis, various methods
(for example conditioning, systematic desensitization and anti-
conditioning in cases of fear and phobias). Under certain
circumstances Join up may be suitable to establish the relationship
as regards dominance between the trainer and the horse as a basis for further training. Horses that are generally ready to accept the human being of higher status and to work with him, would be completely confused if they were chased away by the trainer without knowing how they had triggered this behaviour. I once attended a Join up demonstration by a book writing trainer during which he wondered why the mare he was working with would only follow him a few steps. What did the good man do wrong? Every few steps he looked over his shoulder to control if the mare was following him. Every time the mare turned around and ran away. Why? In the horse's language looking over the shoulder right at someone is a threatening gesture, to which the mare responded correctly. If Monty Roberts really refers to predatorial
behaviour he wouldn't have understood the background of his own
method. A threat by an attacker causes fear and the flight response. If the horse is unable to flee, panic arises. The best learning result, what a good educator aims at, is achieved in a relaxed atmosphere. If Join up is practised gently and not in a way that the horse stops running at some stage being sweaty all over and completely exhausted, then it can be used for some horses and in certain therapeutic approaches. But for heaven's sake it is not a method suitable for everybody. Due to Monty Roberts public demonstrations people get the impression that you only need to chase around your horse properly and it'll be as meek as a little lamb after max 30 minutes and all problems will be resolved. Fallacy!


Dr. Evelyn Hanggi, Equine Behaviourist and President of the Equine
Research Foundation in Aptos, California.

Round pen training and Monty Roberts are not one and the same. Proper use of a round pen by a good trainer is not nearly as stressful as what you see with Roberts. He uses halters that create pain. He uses a buckstopper and right there he loses any credibility of non- violence. Horses do not learn well when they are fearful or in pain.


Dr. Marthe Kiley-Worthington from the Eco Research & Education Centre in Devon, UK, is the Grande dame of Animal Behaviour Research and she founded in 1959 the Research Stud Druimghiga.

It is awful that Monty Roberts refers to the behaviour of a predator.
I have seen some shocking results of this. It is madness to frighten
a frightened horse. This daft idea of "dominance" comes from the male competitive cultural society in which we all live. The fact of the
matter is that the equine societies do not need to be based on
dominance or competition, their food etc is either available for
every one or no one, only at sexual times there is need for
competition between males, and even that rarely occurs in the wild,
as the mares rather like their own stallion and are not prepared to
put up with intruders.
Dear old Monty does not seem to understand learning theory if he
rejects totally feeding as a reward. There needs to be some positive
reinforcer to make the horse learn. If Roberts only works with
negative reinforcement - that means stopping to chase the horse
around as a reward, this does not work as well as behaviourists know already for quite some time.


Andrew McLean, founder of the biggest Centre for Equine Behaviour in Australia, and member of the International Society of Applied
Ethology. He trains problem horses, rides Dressage and Military and
is completing a PhD thesis on the mental processes of the horse and
its consequences for training.

It has been clearly demonstrated by researchers that unlike other
behaviours, fear responses are not subject to extinction. Any fear
responses that are provoked by humans (like e.g. chasing it around a round pen, the editor) will indelibly etch on the horse's memory -
the horse associates fear responses with the perception of humans.
The trouble is, these associations are not always evident
immediately, they come back to "haunt" the relationship at a later
point when stress levels are raised. All sorts of chasing horses
should therefore be questioned.
In our early training and in the rehab of horses at our centre, we
avoid all forms of chasing such as driving or lunging especially when
the horse is fearful.

Go here for the Vid if you are interested.



Join Up.  1 Hour 29 Minutes


This Video examines Join Up with a variety of Horses of different profile and personality traits. 5 Different systems of Join Up have been employed including two that were invested on the spot, to prove the point that there is nothing a Horse can't adapt to. These systems are my systems. You can bet on the fact, as with Grand National odds that the systems matters not to, for Horses have extreme intelligence with only the Humans ever holding back success.



I must take issue with one of the Scientists., who says.....

"Any fear
responses that are provoked by humans (like e.g. chasing it around a round pen, the editor) will indelibly etch on the horse's memory -
the horse associates fear responses with the perception of humans.
The trouble is, these associations are not always evident
immediately, they come back to "haunt" the relationship at a later
point when stress levels are raised. All sorts of chasing horses
should therefore be questioned. "

This predisposes the reality that McLean knows of other systems and can do them well, as well as tested them and documented the results and observations. I doubt he has for at the 2008 Equitana, the McLean system was put to the Test over Two Days during the 'Way of the Horse'  and it failed to catch the unbroken Horse as well as it turning the Horse into a potential Man Eater from a previous normal unbroken Australian Stock Horse. :(

You will have ample opportunity to observe the "True Unity' and genuine Friendship, between the Horses in this Video and myself, no matter their story or their Life's turmoil, as against Monty's Join Up where you can go and use your skills of observation and look into the minds of those Horses.

"Listen to Your Horses"

John O'Leary



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