A behavioral wellness program for active-duty fire service personnel

Fired-Up is a two-day equine-assisted retreat for active-duty fire service personnel, both structural and wildland. The program aims to provide participants with tools to overcome the daily stress and trauma associated with operating in a high-risk environment.

Through the experience of Monty Roberts’ ground-breaking Join-Up® techniques, and other ground-based horsemanship activities, participants, and their accompanying supporters (a spouse/partner, 18+ child, parent or close friend), work through a series of trust trust-building exercises in partnership with the horses, and develop tools for overcoming trauma, improving relationships, better self self-regulation and emotional intelligence, regained confidence, and a willingness to open up and ask for help.

“After learning how to perform a “Join Up” I realized, this was what was missing in my relationship with my wife. You’ve taught me how to invite her in and provided me with a visual representation of how this works and that it can work.” – Participant, July 2022

Learn more about Fired-Up’s story below or use the links for quick section-access.

About Join-Up
The Fired-Up Model
Why Fired-Up Is Necessary
How Can I Help?
How Do I Apply?
Free Crisis Support

About Join-Up®

While tracking wild mustangs in Nevada as a boy, Monty Roberts observed a nonverbal communication between the horses, a silent language he would later call Equus. Monty incorporates Equus into his nonviolent training approach called Join-Up®.

Monty Roberts first developed Join-Up to stop the cycle of violence typically accepted in traditional horse breaking. Convinced there must be a more effective and gentle method, Monty created these consistent set of principles using the horse’s inherent methods of communication and herd behavior. The result is a willing partnership in which the horse’s performance can flourish to its full potential, rather than exist within the boundaries of obedience. These principles are valuable tools to understanding what motivates horse behavior and increasing effectiveness in any application.

Monty Roberts - Join-Up demonstration at a Fired-Up retreat

The Fired-Up Model

The positive results from our Horse Sense & Healing science trial, presented at the Association for Psychological Science May 2020 conference, inspired us to expand our program offering to include retreats specifically designed to focus on our vital first-responder community.

Our Fired-Up program utilizes a combination of the healing power of inter-species communication with horses, and the effective application of Motivational Interviewing (a client-centered counseling approach that mirrors the Join-Up philosophy) to provide participants insight into their life choices, habits, patterns, and other behaviors, helping them overcome post-traumatic stress and other behavioral wellness issues.

Motivational Interviewing (M.I.) is a counseling method (developed by Dr. William Miller and Steven Rollnick) that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings and insecurities to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior. Dr. Miller has written several papers on the parallels between M.I. and the Join-Up process, and the combination of the two techniques has proven effective in allowing participants to discover change for themselves.

A participant meets Eomer, one of our transition horses

Why Fired-Up is Necessary

“The worst day of your life is their everyday”

Suicide has continued to be the number one cause of firefighter deaths, overtaking line-of-duty deaths since 2013.

First Responder Deaths 2017 infographic - source USA Today
  • One in seven firefighters has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.

    Source: Klimley et. al, 2018

  • Chronic stress to the immune system lowers firefighters’ ability to fight infection, cancer and other illnesses.

    Klimley et. al, 2018

  • Firefighters are three times more likely than all other occupations to die in the line of duty.

    Fisher & Etches, 2003; Meyer et. al, 2012

  • Among first responders, firefighters report the highest level of post-traumatic stress symptoms.

    Meyer et. al, 2012

  • A sense of belonging  and social support have been shown to mitigate the development of PTSI in firefighters.

    Stanley et. al, 2018

How Can I Help?

Our Fired-Up program helps active-duty fire service personnel dealing with post-traumatic stress symptoms and other behavioral wellness issues, re-connect with themselves and re-build their relationships, helping to provide ongoing support and resilience against succumbing to the effects of their high-risk environment.

With your help, we can positively impact hundreds of fire service personnel each year, helping improve their health and wellbeing, while they work to keep our communities safe.

You can make a tax deductible donation to the Fired-Up program run by Join-Up International, a registered 501(c)(3) equestrian non-profit, by using the donation form below.

Please contact us for further information or off-line donations.

Fired-Up participant learns to navigate obstacles
Fired-Up participant leads horse through cross bucks
Fired-Up participant leads horse through cross bucks

How Do I Apply?

Fired-Up is currently available to active-duty fire service personnel in Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo county and Ventura county (California).

If you currently serve in the tri-county area, please reach out to a member of your peer-support team or email [email protected] to learn more about enrolling in the Monty Roberts Fired-Up program.

Free Crisis Support

If you are in need of crisis support, please reach out to one of the following free 24/7 365 services: