For many of us who have a calling in life, it's something that comes naturally to us at a very young age. This is exactly how it was for a man named Monty Roberts. Horses have been a part of Monty's life since he was a small child. He even competed in rodeo and won his first trophy at just four years old. But this was many years ago, as Monty is now an impressive 85 years young. For Monty, he knew that his relationship with horses was built on mutual respect, patience, and understanding. And above all, that horses should be treated only with kindness, and never punished at the hands of humans.
Light-years ahead of his time, Monty embarked on his life's mission, to become a successful horse trainer that could prove to the world that horses do not need to have pain inflicted upon them in order to achieve their highest potential. Monty is a man that listens to horses and understands them, thus earning himself the name as the original Horse Whisperer. He is the author of The Man Who Listens to Horses, a New York Times Best Seller which was released in 1996, spent 58 weeks on the list, and went on to be translated into 15 languages.
A good trainer can get a horse to do almost anything. The great trainer can cause the horse to want to do it. — Monty Roberts
Many equine enthusiasts are familiar with Monty's impressive body of work, and he's even won the approval of the Queen of England for all that he's done to help others understand the ways of Equus and the importance of the Join-Up. Monty has made it his life's work to teach others how to connect with horses the right way, and his Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang, California is home to countless champion horses of all disciplines. The farm was established in 1966, and Monty and his wife, Pat, have opened up their home to equine enthusiasts for over five decades—seven days a week.
The world is certainly a better place since Monty has proved time and time again that horse training utilizing non-violent horsemanship is the only way in which we should be training at all.
I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with Monty and his daughter, Debbie Roberts Loucks, who works alongside her father to help him advance his concepts and share his innovative techniques with the world. Keep reading to learn more about this living legend and his undeniable passion for showing the world the only way to treat horses—with kindness, understanding, and the utmost respect.
When I asked Monty about the horse racing industry as we know it today, given the most recent controversy, he told me that:
“It makes me feel so good that the table has turned. When a discipline goes wrong, it’s the best time to get it to turn right. South America did this, too. Recent voting proves that. The problems with the whip is the playing field is level. Why would we whip them, because they actually run slower when they’re whipped."
What does your approach mean to you?
"We must move to a nonviolent approach in all the training of horses. A flight animal doesn’t deserve this and this is the stupidest thing that a person could ever do. You care, because they are horses, there needs to be a bottomline of nonviolence always."
How do you feel knowing your practices are being adopted worldwide?
"I am in the high point of my entire career...this is everything I could have ever wanted from the time I was a child."
In regards to their online university, Monty Roberts Equus Online University, I asked Debbie if they've seen a spike in numbers given the most recent COVID restrictions, and she said that they most certainly have. Monty, being the gregarious person that he is, joked with me that the pandemic has given "more time than you could imagine" and it's amazing to think that he hasn't missed a minute and continues to do what he does best—help others to better understand horses. I know that Monty is a man whose passion for horses has helped countless individuals to better understand them, connect with them, and build bonds in which many probably never imagined.
And now, Monty and Debbie have even organized helping what they kindly refer to as "transition horses"—from adopted mustangs to OTTBs and unstarted horses. Monty told me that for these horses, they "find them things to do" and give them a sense of purpose. The Monty Roberts’ Mustang & Transition Horse Program (MRTHP) even helps to find homes for these adoptable horses, sending them on a path to a new life with a purpose. The solution of the program is that, they will, "gentle and start unbacked horses, work through remedial issues with others, and re-gain the trust and desensitize all of these horses to a variety of objects and stimuli – to make them safe and willing partners for their future owners."
My life’s goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it, for horses and for people, too. — Monty Roberts
For more on Monty, his techniques, and to keep up with the latest news, check out Horseman Ship Radio here. You can also find countless resources on his website, MontyRoberts.com. And don't forget to check out the dozens of informative videos on how to be a better horseman by visiting his YouTube channel, too. I'd like to give a special "thank you" to Monty and Debbie for taking the time to connect with me so that I could share their answers with all of the iHeartHorses readers. If you know another horse lover who is a fan of all Monty has done for horses, share this with them, too.
Horse Courses by Elaine Heney
- Listening to the Horse - The Documentary by Elaine Heney & Grey Pony Films
- Shoulder In & Out Training for better balance, bend & topline development with your horse
- Over 110+ Polework Exercises & Challenges to Download
- Dancing at Liberty & Creating Connection with Your Horse (11 lessons) - Grey Pony Films
All Images Courtesy of Monty Roberts / Debbie Roberts Loucks