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Monty Roberts Visits Waterfall Farms



Bill and Sandra Johnson’s Waterfall Farms, Shelbyville, Tenn., played host to famed horseman Monty Roberts on March 19, 20 and 21.

Known as “The Man Who Listens to Horses,” Roberts gained international fame by developing a method of communicating with horses using their natural body language and a technique he calls Join-Up®. Founded on a consistent set of principles, communication, and trust, Monty’s methods assert that violence is never the answer.

Invited personally by the Johnsons, Roberts worked closely with trainers Justin Jenné, Mickey McCormick and Keith Blackburn. In addition, Roberts performed an awe-inspiring round-pen demonstration with a nearly un-touched, fractious yearling filly. After a 40-minute session, the filly, who’d taken five men 15 minutes to load before the Join-Up® session, walked back into the trailer as though she’d done it all her life.

All who witnessed his techniques, including hall-of-fame trainer Larry Edwards, were impressed. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Edwards. “That filly started out scared to death, trying to climb over the pen, and when he finished with her, she was as gentle as she could be.”

Jenné, who will be starting the filly as part of Waterfall’s Colt Training Division, echoed Edwards in his praise of Roberts’ techniques. “We just brought this filly up out of the pasture and she’s barely had a hand laid on her,” said Jenné. “We’ve talked about how nervous she is and when Mr. Roberts volunteered to work with a green young horse, we figured she’d be the perfect candidate. It was amazing the calming affect he had on her.”

The Johnsons also hosted a dinner for Roberts, his daughter Debbie Loucks and his apprentice, James Meurer, who hails from Sydney, Australia. Some 50 invited guests were also treated to an after-dinner speech by Roberts, followed by a question and answer opportunity. Celebration CEO Ron Thomas and his wife, Cathy, were among the invited guests. Mr. Thomas took the opportunity to speak to Roberts about the Celebration and its economic impact on the local community, as well as the role it plays as the industry’s world championship event.

Roberts indicated he would be marking the 2006 Celebration dates in his calendar in hopes of attending this year’s event.

The best-selling author also visited Mickey McCormick’s training barn on two separate occasions during his visit to Shelbyville. He came away from the entire experience with a great impression of the Tennessee Walking Horse, and described the horses he worked with as amazingly talented and athletic. In his opinion, the Tennessee Walking Horse market is still widely untapped and he plans to work with Waterfall Farms to help promote the breed worldwide.

Bill Johnson is excited about the “bigger picture” aspects of this new-formed relationship. “Monty Roberts is known and respected throughout the world,” said Johnson, “and if we as an industry are ever going to reach our full potential, it’s vital we gain the respect of people like him.”

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