Monty Roberts is a real-life horse whisperer--an American original whose gentle training methods reveal the depth of communication possible between man and animal. He can take a wild, high-strung horse who has never before been handled and persuade that horse to accept a bridle, saddle, and rider in thirty minutes. His powers may seem like magic, but his amazing "horse sense" is based on a lifetime of experience. Roberts started riding at the age of two, and at the age of thirteen he went alone into the high deserts of Nevada to study mustangs in the wild. What he learned there changed his life forever.
Monty Roberts has spent his whole life working with horses--schooling them, listening to them, and learning their ancient equine language. In The Man Who Listens to Horses, he tells about his early days as a rodeo rider in California, his problems with his violent horse-trainer father, who was unwilling to accept Monty's unconventional training methods, his friendship with James Dean, his struggle to be accepted in the professional horse-training community, and the invitation that changed his life--to demonstrate his method of "join-up" to the Queen of England.
From his groundbreaking work with horses, Roberts has acquired an unprecedented understanding of nonverbal communication, an understanding that applies to human relationships as well. He has shown that between parent and child, employee and employer (he's worked with over 250 corporations, including General Motors, IBM, Disney, and Merrill Lynch), and abuser and abused, there are forms of communication far stronger than the spoken word and that they are accessible to all who will learn to listen. This inspirational and gentle man, first introduced to the American public on Dateline NBC, is part James Herriot, part Bill Gates, and part John Wayne. And his story is one you will never forget.
Monty Roberts is, as they say, the real horse whisperer--even if he does revile the last third of Nicholas Evans's romance. Yet Roberts also makes clear from the start that listening and close attention have more to do with gentling an animal than soi-disant whispering. As far as he's concerned, silent communication can "effectively cross over the boundary between human (the ultimate fight animal) and horse (the flight animal). Using their language, their system of communication, I could create a strong bond of trust. I would achieve cross-species communication." And achieve it he does. After one short session, he has even the wildest stallion nickering with ungulate abandon.
Roberts's descriptions of "joining up," as he calls it with horses--as well as with the deer who cavort on his California farm like so many hyperintelligent Bambis--are inspirational in the best sense of the word. Surprisingly, though, it took him long years to persuade most of the humans in his life that pain and punishment are not the way to go. Indeed, the author expends many a page on past mistakes and disasters, familial and professional. Yet The Man Who Listens to Horses remains a powerfully positive document--and not just for Mr. Ed. Best of all, when it comes to his life's work, Roberts is far more practical than mystical. Instead of portraying himself as Equus's messiah, he'd rather share his hard-won knowledge. Having overcome years of rejection and ridicule, the author is certainly not short in the self-esteem department, as some passages in this book demonstrate. No matter. He always checks his ego before entering the corral. --Kerry Fried