Anyone who has read the Heartland series of books probably knows a little about joining up. But, does such a thing exsist? Yes! Although it is not exactly like it is in Heartland, it comes close.
     For those of you who are not
Heartland readers, joining up is a way to gain a horse's trust. It does not involve discipline but, horse communication. It gives your horse a chance to say, "I trust you and am willing to listen." It also gives you a chance to listen to his body language.
     So how do you join-up? Let's get started. It is best to perform joining up in an arena. Halter your horse and take him to the arena. Bring a long line with you. Introduce yourself to your horse (even if you are already familiar with him) by rubbing his forehead. Now that introductions are over, let's move on to the actual join-up process.
     Walk near the rear of your horse (stay out of the kick zone) and pitch the long line at his hindquarters. Don't worry, the long line will not harm your horse in any way. Usually, most horses will start to trot or canter around the pen. Bring your horse to a canter by pitching the long line at his hindquarters until he picks up his canter. Now,
there are two very important things to remember when joining-up. Always keep your eyes focused on your horse's eyes and your shoulders square to his. How do you keep your shoulders squared? Stand like you would if you were lunging your horse.
The woman above has her shoulders squared to the horse's shoulders.
    Keep your horse cantering in the same direction for a few circuts. Pitch the long line at your horse regularly to keep him moving. After your horse has cantered five or six circuts one direction, reverse and repeat.
     Now, after you have reversed, pay special attention to your horse's body language. He should start to show signs that he wants to stop working and be in the center of the ring with you. What are these signs? His inside ear (the one closest to you) may tilt inward. This ear may also stop moving or slow its movement. His other ear should be moving, observing the sounds around him. Your horse's head will tip to the inside, with his ears pointed in and his
neck slightly bent toward you. Your horse will probably lick and chew, running his tongue around the outside of his mouth. Finally, he will lower his head. What do these signs mean? The ear and tilting to the inside mean respect. The licking and chewing says that he does not fear you. Lowering the head means that he is willing to put you in charge.
     When your horse gives you these signs, immediately turn your shoulders at a forty-five degree position. Lower your eyes. Do not look at your horse. By doing this, you are inviting your horse to come to you.
     If your horse comes to you, that's great! However, your horse may just stand and face you. If he does, you may move toward him but, not in a straight line. Walk in arcs or semicircles. If your horse leaves you, send him around the ring again. Once he shows the signs again, move toward your horse with mostly your back to him. He should move forward and touch you with his muzzle. Now you have joined up!!
    After the join-up, it's time for the "follow up". Walk away from your horse and see if he follows you. One way to do this is by walking in circles. Walk in a ten meter circle to the right or left. Your horse should follow or at least move to keep his head toward you. If your horse does not follow you, work him around the ring again.
     Your join-up is complete! Joining up is a great way for training younger horses. After you join-up with them, they have trust in you and will probably allow you to do more with them. Just remember to take things slowly.
     I hope you enjoyed learning about joining up! Try it with your horses!
Introducing the horse to the saddle, goes along with this article.