At the age of 83, Monty Roberts is arguably one of the most renowned horsemen of all time. His career has taken him around the world teaching his horse training techniques occupied by education and kindness.
“Violence is never the answer. Violence is always for the violator and never for the victim. No one of us was born with the right to say you must or I’ll hurt you to any other creature … animal or human. And, that’s the policy I’ve lived with. Bringing it over to horses … allow the horse to want to do it. Congratulate him … tell him how good he was,” said Roberts.
Monty started riding at a young age, doubling for Elizabeth Taylor in “National Velvet” a role that would skyrocket her into stardom.
For Monty is stardom would come later, through his philosophy of kindness. A doctrine that put him in the international spotlight.
In the early 1990s, Queen Elizabeth II invited him to England to demonstrate his methods and that relationship has continued to this day.
We were invited to his Solvang training facility and stables recently to watch him work with a wild mustang … the horse was caught in one of the roundups by the government in the upper reaches of New Mexico. To save his life rescuers asked Monty to see if he could tame him in order to make him adoptable.
As a master of his craft Mr. Roberts is never done learning, “I want you to see how brilliant the equine mind can be if properly treated,” said Roberts.
The demonstration (video above) showed how one of his assistants taught Diego to back up by clucking … “and I said well that’s amazing but when you cluck he’s supposed to go forward .. and she said oh yeah that’s true,” recalled Roberts.
Everything they do with the horses needs to make sense to the person and the animal. So, Monty’s assistant came up with a solution not only to get Diego to back up but also to let her get on him.
“She was standing with one foot on each barrel … and she said he will back in between my boots and I can go in the saddle. I said you’re crazy! He’s going to kick you! … he didn’t kick her … he loved her,” said Roberts.
So, to the audio sound of a mechanical backup beeping noise … the horse backs up and lets the trainer sit in the saddle. With patience and without force … she taught Diego to do this in two days.
One of the audience members to the event commented after the demonstration,”That was remarkable. I’ve never saw anything like that. And, I think it was so interesting the trainer came up with that method of helping him to learn to do that,” said Lori Hansen Riegle.
Riegle’s husband and a former U.S. Senator from Michigan also commented on the presentation, “He’s such an extraordinary man. I mean the horse is an amazing horse. But, to devote your life to understanding horses and to continue to learn as he has … and we saw this remarkable thing here today. It shows you the internal brilliance of these horses. And, they know things we don’t know. We know this much about them and they know everything about themselves,” said Don Riegle.
Under saddle, Monty explains everything should be done bilaterally and symmetrically. Everything you do to the right … must also be done to the left.
There is a patience and method to every single thing they do at Flag is Up Farms. And, at 83 Roberts says he has started to think about his legacy, how he wants his Join Up story to continue to be told …
“With my 88 certified instructors around the world that they will carry on with this … that it will be ripples on the pond … each one of those 88 is creating students of their own … the next generation should be 8,088,” said Roberts.
And, as we looked over the estate from above at his home’s backyard … I asked him about a line I remembered reading in his book … about the sound of wild mustangs running across the land and how he said something to the effect that it stirs something inside you that is an unmatched feeling.
“There is no comparison to laying in a sleeping bag and hearing two or three hundred mustangs running by and you look at them as they go and all they’re trying to do is be safe and survive, and yet you have people chasing them with helicopters and changing their natural course of life and it’s wrong,” Monty continues, “I don’t have all the answers but I have more than most because I’ve loved them and I’ve lived with them. And you can tell from Diego that there’s a better way than to have whips and spurs and hobbles used on him … there is a better way. And, not only that but you will reach greater heights with the horse … if you just open the door for them to act in a non-forced manner they’ll be better yet.”