Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vets, whispers, and a little horse sense

BY REES LLOYD (Reposted by author's request)

A great gift to give to veterans with stress this Christmas or for the new year is information about or sponsorship in the unique “Join-Up”® equine therapy program of Monty Roberts, the internationally famous horseman, horse trainer, and humanitarian known as the “Horse Whisperer.”

Roberts’ “Horse Sense & Soldiers” workshops, through his International Join-Up® Organization, are being credited with transforming the lives of veterans wounded by service-related post traumatic stress injury by teaching them to use his unique method of working with, and ultimately “joining up” with, untrained horses without the use of any violence whatsoever.

There are more than 3,000 veterans in the San Gorgonio Pass, many of whom suffer from post traumatic stress and could benefit from Roberts’ “Join-Up”® workshops, which he offers free to veterans.

On Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, 2012, Roberts, put on his first “Horse Sense & Soldiers” workshop to be carried out in conjunction with the Patriot Outreach organization, and the American Legion Department of California Patriot Outreach Pilot Project. The three day program was held Dec. 7 through 9, 2012, at Roberts’ “Flag Is Up Ranch” in Solvang, CA. A second is planned for Jan. 11 to 13.

The Pearl Harbor Day workshop began with the lowering of the Flag and silence as Taps was played by Banning Bugler Robert Morgan, in remembrance of the veterans who were killed or wounded in the Japanese Empire attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec.7, 1941. Morgan, now 20, is a former Banning Eagle Scout and VFW’s “Scout of the Year 2009-10 (from among 60,000 nominees). He has bugled for three Memorial Honor Detail teams at Riverside National Cemetery since he was 12, in almost 1,000 military services. Now a college student headed for a military career, Morgan went through the “Join-Up” process at the invitation of Monty Roberts to learn just how it works.

Roberts is now internationally renowned as “The Horse Whisperer,” the name Hollywood gave to the movie based on his remarkable life. He has been celebrated by monarchs and presidents ranging from Queen Elizabeth II to President Ronald Reagan, and applauded by literally millions throughout the world who have seen his performances demonstrating that untrained, and even wild horses, can be trained by his “Join-Up” method of understanding and using the horses’ body movements as a discernible, predictable, and effective language he calls “Equus,” without “breaking” them by brutality and violence.

His autobiography, “The Man Who Listens To Horses,” has sold over 6.5-million copies. Over 10-million of his various books have been sold all together. In addition to the movie “The Horse Whisperer,” his life has been the subject of documentaries, television features and programs. He is in demand to teach his Join-Up method across the globe, from England to Germany to Brazil.

But he expends his time, money, and resources to also put on his “Horse Sense & Soldiers” workshops for veterans, whom he regards as “special people, who answered the call of the country to serve in order that the rest of us might remain free.”

When he teaches in a workshop to veterans of how debilitating post traumatic stress can be overcome by “joining up” with the horses in a non-violent partnership by using the silent body language of the horses, Equus, Roberts talks “down” to no one, and embraces everyone, with humility and gratitude for what he has learned from the some 70,000 horses he has worked with in a lifetime. “It’s not me who is teaching,” he says. “It’s the horses. Everything I know the horses have taught me. Everything I am, I owe to the horses. My only aim is to leave the world a better place for people, and the horses.”

Although he was rejected for military service because he is totally color blind, Roberts is a man who can speak of post traumatic stress because he knows it up close and personal: Among other things, his ultra-brutal father broke 72 of his bones in beatings when Roberts was a boy. He knows what it is to be in the depths of despair, even though he is now world renown. Learning the language and the lessons of the horses, he overcame his own post traumatic stress, and is engaged in great humanitarian work for veterans, abused children, battered women, autistic kids. There was a great quote about him at the veterans’ workshop from his wife, Pat Roberts, a noted sculptor, artist, and humanitarian herself: “I married a cowboy and got a missionary.”

Roberts is, indeed, a man on a mission—a mission to help vets overcome stress, and he is achieving results, as attested by those who attended the Pearl Harbor Day workshop.

Col. Antonio Monaco (USA, ret.) is a 38-year Army combat veteran who founded Patriot Outreach to try to reach, by various “Coping Strategies,” the 97 percent of veterans that the Veterans Administration estimates need help with stress but decline to seek it for various reasons, including the “warrior ethic” or fear that a medical record for post traumatic stress could negatively affect employment opportunities. He said:
“Monty Roberts’ ‘Horse Sense & Soldiers’ workshop was a great success. Seeing is believing and what we saw are veterans being transformed, getting their lives back, through Monty Roberts’ ‘Join Up’® program with horses… Miracles do happen.”
Terry Tracy, retired Marine who served as the American Legion Department of California Service Officer for some nineteen years, and is one of the most knowledgeable people in California if not the nation on Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, said:
“I was skeptical when I went to participate in Monty Roberts’ ‘Horse Sense & Soldiers’ workshop based on veterans learning to work non-violently with horses, and ultimately to ‘join up’ with them, in order to help those veterans overcome what Roberts insists is PTSI—Post Traumatic Stress Injury, which can be cured, not PTSD, a ‘Disorder’ veterans are born with which can only be managed.”

“After witnessing veterans following Monty Roberts instructions learning to control and actually ‘join up’ with 1200 pound horses without even touching them, I was greatly encouraged. Then, after hearing those veterans critique their experiences and tell how profoundly it affected them, I left convinced that Monty Robert’s ‘join-up’ method really does work and is an effective way to help veterans overcome debilitating stress, including PTSI.”
James G. Banakus, Chairman of the California American Legion Riders Commission, and a personal friend of Monty Roberts, said:
“Having been involved since the beginning of the idea of using Monty Roberts non-violent Join-Up process with horses to help veterans suffering from PTSI, I have seen remarkable progress in the lives of those who have attended several sessions. Even after their first three day clinic, you can see them starting to come out of the shell they arrived with on Friday morning, to learning to trust in themselves again by Sunday afternoon.”
Stephen Harrison is a former Marine forward observer who served from 1988-1993 and is now an Assistant Chaplain in the California Army National Guard. He is awaiting orders to deploy to Afghanistan, his third assignment to the Middle East. He says he was “transformed” when he experienced “Join-Up”® and has since been working as a volunteer assisting Roberts aid other vets. He said of the Pearl Harbor Day workshop:
“I suffer from and also work with those who suffer from the hurts of this current conflict and have seen most of what military medical has to offer in helping adapt. No pill or group session has come close to working as much as going through “Join Up”® and having Mr. Roberts and his staff introduce me to a new and special type of healing.”
Maj. Gen. George R. Harris (USA, ret.), who is associated with Patriot Outreach’s planned construction of Assisted Living facilities for veterans, including nine scheduled for California, said:
“Monty Roberts’ lifetime of work with horses has unlocked some eye-opening techniques to address post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) suffered by so many of our military. His concepts dig deep and prompt rediscovery of the individual’s capacity for trust - in their environment, in their relationships and in themselves.”
Fred Spain, CEO of “Ranson Green,” the huge, innovative effort of Patriot Outreach to establish a state-of-the-art, hydrogen-powered “green city” providing medical treatment, housing, and jobs for veterans, said:
“Some fifteen of us Patriot Outreach executives witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of Monty Roberts’ techniques as stress-affected veterans engaged with horses in Roberts’ ‘Join-Up’® program. As a result, we are enthusiastic about these efforts and have decided to advance into the teaming effort with Join-Up International to bring active military and Veterans to the ‘Flag Is Up Farm’ for engagement with Monty Roberts’ programs.”
In summary, Roberts’ “Horse Sense & Soldiers” workshop and “Join-Up” program is an experience of a lifetime. It was for mine, for which I will forever be thankful to Monty Roberts and his family, to Col. Monaco and Patriot Outreach, and to the American Legion, for creating the opportunity. I hope veterans dealing with stress, from minor to life destroying major, will seize that opportunity for themselves, and their families, who also suffer.

For more information or to register to participate for the Jan. 11-13, 2013 Monty Robert’s “Horse Sense & Veterans” workshop, go to; or call 805-688-3483.

REES LLOYD is an American Legion Life Member and Judge Advocate Riverside Post 79, Past Commander District 21 (Cal.), Co-founder and Director, Defense of Veterans Memorials Project of The American Legion, District 21, Dept. of California and a longtime California civil rights attorney and veterans activist now residing in Portland, Oregon.

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