Monty Roberts is a real horse whisperer. Nicholas Evans'
runaway bestseller, The Horse Whisperer, and the Robert
Redford movie by the same name, were based in part on the celebrated
equine handler's character and technique. As popular as the film and
novel have been, neither can touch this autobiography in terms of sheer
power of story and triumph.
Monty Roberts could, by his own estimate, ride before he could walk.
Born into the world of horses, Monty was a child of the Great Depression
from Salinas. One hundred miles south of San Francisco, this California
town was home to John Steinbeck -- indeed, that celebrated author set
many of his novels in the region. Horses figure prominently in the
Salinas River Valley, and in the life of the oldest son of Marvin and
Monty's father managed (and housed his family on) rodeo competition
grounds, at the time the largest equestrian facility in North America.
Marvin and Margeurite also operated their own riding school on the grounds.
Under the critical eye of his father, Monty became a top contender in
junior rodeo competitions. He also doubled for many child actors in
films: Roddy McDowall, Mickey Rooney, even Elizabeth Taylor in "National
Velvet." That Monty never personally received a penny of his movie
earnings is indicative of the strained relationship between the father
and his eldest son.
Marvin Roberts trained horses to carry riders in the traditional way --
"breaking" horses by breaking their will, almost torturing the animals
into submission. Monty Roberts knew at a very young age that there had
to be a better way to come into communication with these animals he
loved so much. This fundamental disagreement on methods was a major
contributor to the ever-widening rift between Marvin and Monty, and
provided the impetus that would drive Monty to the success and acclaim
that are finally his.
With a distinctive, down-to-earth voice, Monty relates the path his
life has followed. His humble beginnings in Salinas were the birth of
his groundbreakingly humane techniques of "join-up" -- the peaceful,
respectful method Monty employs to establish and cement communications
with even the wildest of horses. Full of awe-inspiring scenes of equine
"language" in the wild and in the arena, The Man Who Listens to Horses
also treats readers to cameos of the rich and famous, from James Dean
to the Queen of England.
Monty Roberts' life has been one of horror and grace, of love and
unbridgeable distance. Most touching are the struggles with seemingly
irredeemable animals. Roberts' successes with mistreated and phobic
horses illustrate beautifully the possibility of communion between humans
and horses. This man's life work is a testament to the level of stewardship
that humankind should strive to attain with the creatures who share our
home. This man's life is a shining example of what any person can
accomplish, despite physical and emotional abuse, despite the cruel folly
of associates, if he only clings to the correctness of his convictions
and belief in himself.