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Join Up: Horse Sense for People

by Monty Roberts. HarperCollins, RRP $29.95. 246pp.

Monty Roberts' work with horses is familiar to almost everyone in the Western world. His method of communicating with horses in a language they seem to understand, a language he calls "equus", gets results. Many horses who were previously unmanageable have willingly succumbed to the Roberts training method of Join-Up, and those with no problems have learned to trust and maybe understand humans a little better.

In the thousands of years since horses were first domesticated, little changed in the way they were handled, trained and "broken" to carry a rider -- until the natural horsemanship revolution.

Monty Roberts has for years been a leader in the field, but chose to keep a lot of his knowledge to himself for fear he would be mocked.

It is not so well known to many New Zealanders that Roberts runs a ranch in California where he works with horses and teaches others his methods.

It is also not so well known that Monty Roberts has adapted his horsemanship techniques to also work with people.

Roberts has worked with large and small corporations since 1989 to help executives learn to work with, not against, staff. He is well qualified in the human relationship field -- with wife, Pat, Monty Roberts has fostered 47 kids.

In Join Up, his third book, Roberts talks about his philosophy and how his methods with horses have worked with people.

An ingenious method Roberts describes in his book is called the Blackboard System, which helps parents deal with the undesirable behaviour of their children. In a simplified description of the system, each child has two boards, which are in view of the rest of the family. One board is labelled "positive", the other "negative", and the names of the child and the parents should be on both boards.

On board deals with the positive factors in the child's life, the other the negative. For example, if the child is in the habit of sneaking chocolate biscuits from the cupboard, the parent would write on the positive board "If you don't steal any chocolate biscuits for one week, I will take you to McDonalds."

The negative board would read "If you steal biscuits from the cupboard, you must dry the dishes for a week."

Each party signs the board, and shakes hands. If the child does indeed take the biscuits, they should be watched as they dry the dishes and reminded that this is a negative consequence of their actions. Of course, if the chocolate biscuits go untouched, then you should plan your visit to McDonalds.

In his quest to change the world, Monty Roberts is well on his way.

Interview with Monty Roberts