When I witnessed a Join-Up of a horse for my first time it seemed strange to me that the horse was being chased around a round-pen scared on the verge of exhaustion. It didn’t make sense that the horse was given only two choices, continue to look for an escape outside of the round-pen or join with the person who was doing the scaring. Yes the trainer dropped his pressure when the horse looked at him which signaled to the horse (horses learn from the release of pressure not the pressure itself) you got the right answer, only to be run around in another direction if the horse didn’t follow the trainer as if on a lead. To me it was not a choice of trust for the horse, just one choice out of fear.
Round penning or Join-Up as it is also called, seemed a trick of force without compassion. I was appalled by what I witnessed that day, yet inspired to seek a compassionate way to invoke a horse’s instinct to want to be with me as their herd leader. I knew the saying “he who moves the other’s feet first is in control” was where I needed to start, so I set off to observe natural herds. What I discovered was that the herd leader would move another horse’s feet by taking over a pile of food or choosing to take over an area by moving off the horse with a gesture of her head, ears pinned or sometimes a nip at the rump or shoulder if the horse was not responding. Never did I see a herd leader chase a horse relentlessly into exhaustion forcing the horse to submit. When a new horse came into the herd the herd leader moved that new horse from place to place in between nibbles of grass until the new horse demonstrated submissive behavior asking permission to be with the herd leader. Sometimes I witnessed a cocky young horse try to walk up to the herd leader with a high head out of curiosity and inexperience, only to find himself run off with a few strides. The young horse simply ran off, and then came back with a lowered head gently waiting for the herd leader to acknowledge his submissive behavior and all was peaceful thereafter. The new horse’s instinct had been invoked by the herd leader moving his feet, but never with relentless fear and exhaustion.
Witnessing natural herd leading was the foundation of my Wholistic Joining technique. Wholistic Joining is my initial introduction to a new horse in training and on occasion used to remind a horse that I’m their herd leader. Wholistic Joining invokes the horse’s natural instinct to recognize me as their herd leader without the use of fear, force or exhaustion. *Finally research is bearing out that round penning or join-up as it is sometimes called, uses inhumane fear tactics under the guise of body language. To learn how Wholistic Joining can work for you and your horses you can watch FREE the Wholistic Joining Playlist below
*Links to research articles calling into question round penning and join-up: