SYV Star Staff Report

While lying on his belly watching wild mustangs through binoculars in the Nevada desert, the 13-year-old Monty Roberts couldn’t imagine that his discoveries about horses were something he would share nearly 70 years later at one of the world’s greatest riding schools.

This summer, before a full house in the famous Marble Hall of the 465-year-old Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, he became the first outside trainer ever invited to demonstrate his technique at the school.

As a boy, Roberts observed a nonverbal communication between horses, a silent language he would later call “Equus.” He incorporates Equus into his nonviolent training approach called Join-Up, which he demonstrated in Vienna.

Roberts first developed Join-Up to help teach horsemen how to stop the cycle of violence that is typically accepted in traditional horse breaking. Instead, he created a consistent set of principles using the horse’s inherent methods of communication and herd behavior.

Join-Up training methods are most simply expressed in the process of starting raw horses. Without the use of pain or force, a trainer can persuade a raw horse to accept a saddle and rider in less than 30 minutes, said Roberts, whose Flag is Up Farm” in on Highway 246 between Buellton and Solvang.

In 1949, then 14 years old, Roberts was shown a documentary at Salinas Union High School during a class in agriculture about Patton and the famous white Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School. Roberts became obsessed with finding out more about the horses and the severe training he had seen on the film. The documentary was quickly buried due to scenes of violence in the training of the white stallions.

Roberts was in Vienna in July to share his techniques, and the Lipizzaner horsemen of the Spanish Riding School were present to observe. The school brought Roberts five horses of different origins, one untrained, one to gentle, two with problems, and one that refused to load in a trailer. One belonged to the school’s head of communications, Andrea Kerssenbrock.

“I’m in love with my horse, and the bond between us became stronger than before this unique experience. I appreciate so much that we have had these days with Monty,” Kerssenbrock said.

“I always wanted to go see the Spanish Riding School,” Roberts said. “This was a pivotal day in my life. You could call it the pinnacle. I am 82 but I feel 12 years old!”

In the demonstration, Roberts dealt nonviolently with each horse, and each one met the intended goals.

“We were more than impressed that Monty Roberts agreed to demonstrate for the Spanish Riding School and tour the Piber Stud Farm as well,” Chief Executive Officer Elisabeth Gürtler told the audience of 44 press agents and board members of the riding school the day after the demonstration.

“I provided my horse, Jonas, who did a Join-Up with Mr. Roberts that was very impressive. I am so pleased that we brought Mr. Roberts to the Spanish Riding School. The whole night was incredibly impressive,” said the director of the Stud Farm in Piber, Dr. Max Dobretsberger.

The following day, Roberts was escorted to Piber to tour the stud farm where, for more than 400 years, there has been a concerted effort to breed the Lipizzaner stallions for their unique athleticism and intelligence to make them ready for the Spanish Riding School.

“My wife and I enjoyed giving him a tour of the stud farm and the mountain pastures,” Dobretsberger said. “It was an enjoyable afternoon. My wife and I are both veterinarians, and we want the best for the horses.”

With encouragement from Queen Elizabeth, Roberts has demonstrated his principles in 44 countries.