The Man Who
Listens to Horses

Monty Roberts
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Get *The Man Who Listens to Horses* delivered to your door! The Man Who Listens to Horses Monty Roberts
Random House
Copyright 1996
258 pages
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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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.

Curled Up With a Good BookMonty 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 Margeurite Roberts.

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.

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