Monty Roberts at the Royal Stud




Despite his many successes and the Queen’s acceptance, the most difficult part remains to convince the people of the racing industry. When Monty Roberts proposed to help the trainers in Newmarket for free, they turned it down as all of them wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.

“In Newmarket they have a bucket with carrots and two lounging sticks. But the last thing you want a horse to think about at the stalls is food. Their guts are all tight. If you put a twitch on them or if you kick them, then it’s a predator coming after them and they’re difficult to get in.  If you hit them they will startle and stop before they run which can cost you about three quarters of a length. But if we could get over this, we could stop all this business of waiting and horses fighting over the rails. Then it would also be safer for everyone,” he shrugs.


“Latin America has just gone.. unbelievable. It’s the fastest improving area to get violence out of training in any place on earth.”


At Sandringham it’s Monty Robert’s ability to read the yearlings in a few seconds that impresses the grooms the most. He always knows which one will buck, and which one needs a dummy before its first rider.

Several of the unruly ones are chestnuts and for a good reason. Reds are more sensitive than the others, he explains.

“Their nerve ends are closer to the skin so when people handle them or whenever something touches them, they feel it stronger. In the old days, on the bottles with astringent it said to only use half a dosage for chestnuts.”


Observing the horses is something he’s been at all his life.

“If you go to a really good psychologist they can sit you down and know your profile in two minutes. You answer a few questions and they’re off. They’re well educated and they’re on track in no time at all. The guy who is 76 is a great psychologist, he looks at you and he doesn‘t need to ask you a question, he already knows a lot. So you do enough horses and you’re 76 and you’ve been doing it since you were four that’s a big advantage. But without the education I’d be empty; I wouldn’t be able to do this.”




Throughout his career Monty Roberts has influenced some 70,000 horses. For a while it was more than a thousand a year. 12 to 14,000 horses is just for the first saddle and rider, he tells.

On a universal scale, it is impossible to know how many people are using Monty Roberts’ methods. The most recent study said that about 40 percent of the world’s horses that are broken in find some part in them, whether it is taking the violence out of the training or Join-Up.

“In 2011 Latin America has just gone.. unbelievable. It’s the fastest improving area to get violence out of training in any place on earth.

I have some footage that I tried to get for twenty years of the typical way that they break horses. South America, Central America and Mexico; they all break them the same way; it’s like a uniform.

They had a contest with teams from different farms to show an audience how they break the horses. A veterinarian was there to make sure that the horse was OK. His eyes were swollen, his ears were hanging down, he had cuts everywhere and a huge laceration, so the vet gave them some cream to put on the cuts and said he’d be fine. You can’t go against tradition when you are a vet, otherwise you don’t get any calls. I showed it to the girls that I work with here. For them it was unbelievable, they were getting sick.”

Now things are changing. The turning point was when the Mexican polo players, Carlos and Memo Gracida came to Monty’s place to learn what he was doing.

“The first guy that they got to change was Adolfo Cambiaso, the number one from Argentina who has 1,100 horses. Now Brazil is sending people over to be educated.”

“They went home and said, “Hey boys, we’ve been wrong”, and people started listening to them. The first guy that they got to change was Adolfo Cambiaso, the number one from Argentina who has 1,100 horses. And then they had 6,000 horses just in Argentina using my methods. Now Brazil is sending people over to be educated by me. The Gracidas made them change in Mexico.”




Today, he travels around the world to demonstrate his work. He only spends one or two months at home at his ranch, Flag Is Up in Solvang, California, where his wife, Pat, is an equine sculptress.

Their daily routines are stark opposites to the violence that Monty grew up in Salinas. His father would literally break in the horses – exhaust them and tie their legs together before he put on their first saddle.

Money was always an issue. So when Monty was four his father took him to Hollywood to work as a stunt rider.

“My father saw an opportunity to make money and he kept it all. I made a lot by those standards, $20-30,000 a year, I suppose. He was making $3-4,000 as a policeman during the war. I didn’t know about money as a child. I know they bought a new car and this and that but I never saw any of it. I loved the movie industry and today, I miss some parts of it even if it’s so phony and filled with so many horrible personalities.”

Recently he consulted on the theatre play, War Horse in London but he was not involved in the actual film.

“That was strange, but just like with the Horse Whisperer; they did not want me around. They’re Hollywood and they do it their way. They don’t want me to say no whips, because they’re gonna beat the hell out of the horses. They think I’ll get in their way and slow them down,” says Monty, who was instrumental in banning the use of whips in the movie industry.

“You don’t even want to know what it was like when I was a kid. I’ve seen so many horses filmed dead. Then they drag them out with a tractor. Broken necks. They were paying 20-30 dollars per horse; they didn’t mean anything. Now you see them make these movies in Hungary or the Czech Republic where they can break the law. But it’s possible to get a horse to play dead without the whips and without beating them up, because I’ve done it.”




Making the horse flee






Continues next page


Previous page Next page