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My Join-Up® Experience

It's never as easy as it looks!

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed

I have a 2-year old SWB gelding. For the purpose of this story, we can call him "Mr. Smartypants".
He is generally good-natured, easy-going and not easily daunted, so in many ways a dream to handle. However, he is also a bit cheeky and too clever for his own good, so when he was 7 months I called in backup from a friend who is very good at NH - mainly the Parelli methods - to help me with teaching him stuff like "get out of my face" and "move that butt, Buster!"
That part sorted out, our companionship improved greatly, and I wish I could show you how quickly he learned to load later that spring. (Thank you, Monty, for the vid-lessons on that! xox)
Now, a year later, it is time for him to start learning to be long lined, and I bought myself a Dually-halter to use as a side-pull to save his mouth for another year.
Not wanting to try that halter for the first time on my young horse, I enrolled his dam - a 20 year old lady - into this - and had excellent results. The fact that she is really well behaved and docile probably played a part in this...
So, on to Mr. Smartypants, who accepted this new contraption without objections, and off on a walk to get both him and me used to the feel of the Dually halter.
This is were I realize with some embarrassment that - to paraphrase Monty from one of the vids - he leads but I'm not really leading.
Mr. Smartypants ambles along behind me, stops (beside me) when I stop and turn when I ask him to - but soon as I try to walk a bit faster, I turn into a tow boat, and "standing still" is just not on his list of things to do - there is after all some grass down there to nibble!
So I thought: "OK, good! Time to put the halter into effect!" I had stopped counting the times I have watched Monty's vids on the subject, so I hoped that chances were that I would get this right. Well, right-ish any way.
Starting with the standing still, I went to school him back a step when he moved a foot.
Mr. Smartypants gave me an affronted glare as the halter rattled around his nose bone, and promptly grabbed the halter rope with his teeth to stop the annoying dangle. This makes him look like a naughty puppy - as in too cute to get mad at - but it also (as well he knows!)leads to a stalemate and possibly damage to his lips if they get caught in the snap hook.
So I dangled the rope some more to make him drop it, which he did, but since a dangling rope means back up, he also did that and the Dually halter did what the Dually halter does and squeezed his nose again.
On reflex Mr. Smartypants caught the rope again and go the hook in as well. Abandoning my rattling, I moved in to pry it out of his mouth, and while that was easy enough, Mr. Smartypants knew where his chances to win this lay, so he started chasing the rope with his mouth, and more or less caught my shoulder instead.
He never bit or even bruised me, but it was a good reason to practice back out of my space, and this time the message got through.
Mr. Smartypants was surprised and sulked a bit, while I scolded myself for spoiling him this past winter, letting him get away with too much.
Having established my personal space and momentarily discouraged his Retriever tendencies, I decided to move on to ask him to speed up when I wanted to go faster.
Up and down the gravel driveway we walked, me trying to start at a run and Mr. Smartypants literally towing behind with his head in the air to avoid the halter's pressure.
I can imagine that we were quite a sight with little me making kissing noises like mad, tugging a little horse that behaved like a stubborn donkey.
After 15 min. of this tug of war, I was beginning to despair of us getting it right ever, and that I would end up with a confused and biting horse that never would let me put a halter on his head ever again. Just reaching in to correct and loosen the halter now resulted in suspicious snatches away from my hand and a new attempt to catch the rope.
I was convinced that I was doing something seriously wrong - obviously this wasn't working the way it did in the vids - but I just didn't know what. I wasn't snatching, but kept the line loose and let Mr. Smartypants yank it himself if he didn't follow me, and I tried to keep the pressure constant until he lowered his head and came off it. I also tried not to face him to avoid unintentionally asking him to stay back, but rather call him forward which I know he knows.
I am ready to call defeat and give up when Mr. Smartypants in sheer frustration tries the one thing he hasn't tried to get away from the pressure - he bounds forward! For a second I worry that he will run into me with those waving forelegs, but he stops right in front of me and snorts as if to say: "Are you happy now?"
Yes, I am happy! If cautiously so. My stubborn little boy is apparently of the phlegmatic sort, and running is not first on his list apparently. *LOL* Corrected the noseband and praised lavishly. But if I thought he would get off it again next time, I was dead wrong.
But the reaction time did improve the second time and then, all of a sudden, he started off at a trot with me as easily as if he didn't have a problem in the world. Oh, joy! More praise and Mr. Smartypants looks like we haven't had a serious argument at all and everything is fun.
We did it a couple of more times just for the sake of repetition and then we went inside for food and rest - both very happy!
I am sure other people will see lots of mistakes I made, and some may recognize themselves in the same situation: "It doesn't work! What am I doing wrong?" and that is pretty much why I wrote this down. Because horses are different and it takes different approach. I think the key is not to give up at once and constantly check that you are doing the right thing and not lose your temper.
Have fun!


I had a very similar experience with my chap when he was a 2yo (also a smartypants) and your post made me giggle when I saw myself all too well. Well done for keeping your patience and persevering. You must be so proud of your achievement and progress and of course the understanding you and your horse now have. I didn't manage to crack the problem and called in an RA for assistance - it was the best thing I ever did. She was so helpful, put in a few ground rules and gave us some homework. In just a few weeks my boy was completely different to handle and lead - I just question now why I left it so long before calling for help!


Oh, boy! your "troubles! made me giggle as well but it is great to read such stuff because soon I shall be in similar situations with Willow, my 22 month old filly. So far she is absolutely trusting but also extremely playfull and I cannot imagine how she will react when I start with "the lessons". I half fear she will take it as a tag game.....But, I´ll be patient and try to learn from her. This morning I decided to see what she thought of me throwing the line in her field, not particularly at her. Sure enough she was curious but as soon as I turned towards her and slapped the line on my legs she moved away! So that raised my hopes.


Well, we did it!....
I had been postponing our first Join-Up, I guess, for fear I wouldn´t do it right. But today, a grey, damp day in the north of Spain I grabbed the line, two posts to close off a more or less round area of Willow´s field and called my husband to watch and take photos but keep quiet, please.....
I had to bribe Willow with a carrot and she definately doesn´t like the long black line but, holding her by her halter I got her in the "working area" and orientated her to the compas like Monty says... Then, I backed up a little and opened my arms and slapped my body with the line. She went off as if we were playing but I got her running in one direction and then the other more or less at a steady pace. She was giving me "the ear" so pointedly she was turning her whole head in by the time I noticed! Then it was the chewing and licking -FIRST TIME SHE EVER DID THIS IN FRONT OF ME - and the head down and very much slowing of the pace and reducing the circle. She was great and she looked so concentrated that I forgot everything else. I didn´t open nor close my arm, I was loud, as I was urging her on, I nearly got tangled in the rope myself I was so excited...
When I finally realised she was giving me all the signs my husband called "10 minutes" and I stopped pushing her. She stood still, quite composed, looking at me so I went to her. But she turned her back to me so I just went away myself, gave the long line to my husband and went back to Willow with another carrot. She came for it, I patted her on the forehead and backed away so she felt whatever we had been doing had finished. She just put her head down to the grass. A few minutes later I went up to her, took hold of her halter and drove her to her stable where she went to her evening feed as if she had worked all day, the rascal!
Now, she was great, it was me who got it all mixed up because I was so excited when I saw the signs that I forgot the rest of the lesson. She certainly knows what we are supposed to do, I still have about 50% to improve. but for the first time ever with a horse I am pretty happy.
There is one thing I would like to share.... Ever since we have been " a team", Wiilow and I, this eye contact has occurred... She looks me in the eye and I look at her directly. Granted, sometimes I do notice a reaction but not always. There are moments when we get lost in "liquid eyes".
As I did the -70% successful- Join-Up though, I was being more intent.... Does this happen to you too?
I won´t be able to Join-Up again until Thursday, weather permitting! and on Friday and the weekend... Wish me luck so that I get it right! And good luck to everybody else!


Good start! It is really hard to coordinate everything! I've only just figured out how to handle a lunge line after years of trying, and dropping, and knotting, and tangling, and . . .

I also had trouble getting my horse to move off to the left until I started staring him in the eye. Interesting effect!

So, how did it go?


Hey, chbeard!
I tried again and it turns out I´m too slow with the line. Nevertheless i had all the signs in no time but when it got to the Follow-Up she just started eating. Of course, the thing with our fields is that the grass is coming strong now and I guess it is appetizing.... I´ve only doen it twice becaue I tried video with my digital camera and the video just didn´t work so every time I come back to watch the Join-Up lessons over and over.
Also, because it is the season for grass I have moved Willow to another field for fresh feed so I shall try again this Thursday. But thanks, it is encouraging to know that someone with experience still found the line tricky1