Monty Roberts was raised in the horse business. He learned there was one way to train horses: by “breaking” them. Through domination and force, which at
times included striking the horse with whips or even tying and suspending the horse’s feet and legs, a trainer would impose his will upon the animal until it reached the conclusion that total submission was the only way to survive.
In his early teen years Roberts began to study the behavior and communication patterns of wild mustangs in the badlands of Nevada. He took note of the nonverbal communication among the horses …. Drawing on this observation and his firsthand experience with horses, Roberts developed a breakthrough training technique he first called “hooking on” as opposed to “breaking down” the horse’s will. This new training method was based on a cornerstone concept he eventually trademarked called JoinUp®. Join-Up not only stopped the “breaking” norms of traditional horse training, it showcased how to cooperate with the horse’s own spirit, innate ways, and means of communicating as a member of the herd.
The personality and full potential of the horse emerge through loving freedom and desire rather than domination …. The Join-Up technique invites an untamed horse that has never been ridden to willingly accept the saddle, bridle, and rider. It is a thing of beauty to watch. Monty Roberts enters a round pen with a wild horse. In as little as half an hour, he’ll be riding the horse.
Roberts creates an atmosphere of mutual respect that communicates, “I’m not going to hurt you, and you don’t have to follow me if you don’t want to.” After a brief period of introducing himself and interacting with the horse … Roberts turns his back to the animal and walks away.
At this point the horse trains her eyes on Monty with all-out intensity and attention. She is asking herself, “Where is he going?” and “Do I want to stay by myself?” The horse must choose: “I want to be with you. I want to join up and follow you on the way.” She quickly decides, “My safe place is with you.” Dropping her head (equine language for “I submit to you”) and trotting to Roberts’s side, the horse says, “I choose to follow. I want to be with you.”[i]
Jesus could have decided to break our wills. He could have beaten us, threatened us, forced submission on us. But he didn’t. He comes into our lives, makes himself known, and then he invites us to follow. It’s up to us. Do you choose to follow him, to be with him? He offers you the incredible freedom to decide.
[i] Leonard Sweet, I am a Follower.