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  • The Man Who Listens to Horses
  • Written by Monty Roberts
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780345510457
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The Man Who Listens to Horses

The Story of a Real-Life Horse Whisperer

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Monty Roberts is a real-life horse whisperer–an American original whose gentle Join-Up® training method reveals 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. In The Man Who Listens to Horses, Roberts reveals his unforgettable personal story and his exceptional insight into nonverbal communication, an understanding that applies to human relationships as well. He shows that between parent and child, employee and employer, abuser and abused, there are forms of communication far stronger than the spoken word that are accessible to all who will learn to listen. This new edition features engaging photographs, a chapter that traces Roberts’s amazing experience gentling with a mustang in the wild, and an Afterword about the remarkable impact this book has had on the world.

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Call of the Wild Horses
It all dates from those summers alone in the high desert, me lying on my belly and watching wild horses with my binoculars for hours at a time. Straining to see in the moonlight, striving to fathom mustang ways, I knew instinctively I had chanced upon something important but could not know that it would shape my life. In 1948 I was a boy of thirteen learning the language of horses.

In the wilderness of Nevada, the soil is silky and cool to the touch at dawn, and at midday will burn your skin. My summer vigils were marked off by the heat of the day and the cold of the night and a profound sense of solitude. It felt right to be there under those vast skies on that dove-gray moonscape in the company of wild and wary horses. I remember, especially, a dun mare with a dark stripe along her back and zebra stripes above her knees. Clearly the matriarch of the herd, she was disciplining an unruly young colt who had been roughing up foals and mares. I vividly recall how she squared up to him, her eyes on his eyes, her spine rigid, her head pointed arrowlike at the adolescent. No longer full of himself, he knew exactly what she meant. Three hundred yards from the herd, the outcast would know by her body position when he could return to the fold. If she faced him, he could not. If she showed him part of her body's long axis, he could begin to consider it. Before her act of forgiveness had to come signs of his penitence. The signals he gave back to her--the seeking of forgiveness--would later be fundamental to a technique I would develop to introduce young horses gently to saddle and rider. It was the mustangs who taught me their silent body grammar, and the dun mare was my first teacher.

I grew up in Salinas, California, where wild horses were annually put to other uses. In 1948, the Wild Horse Race was a featured part of the Salinas Rodeo. And because I lived in a house on the rodeo grounds (or competition grounds, as I called it) where my parents ran a riding school, rodeo was part of our lives. Normally, wild horses were cheap and plentiful. Doc Leach, a short, bespectacled man who was our dentist and also president of the association that governed the competition grounds, would have called the usual people and said, in effect, Come on, folks, I need a hundred and fifty mustangs to be delivered to Salinas by July the first and it would happen. But with horsemeat used so extensively during the war, mustang numbers had dwindled significantly, and by 1947 the herds in northern California, Nevada, and southern Oregon had diminished by as much as two-thirds, with the horses now located almost exclusively in Nevada. That year Doc Leach's calls had fallen on deaf ears. What mustangs? the Nevada ranchers had countered. You come up here and see if you can get them yourself. The wild horse race was usually no race at all but a kind of maniacal musical chairs played with mustangs, but that year the Salinas Rodeo Association had to scrape together what they could find, and so it was a fairly tame wild horse race, with too few horses and too many old ones to put on the show required.

The following year I saw an opportunity to provide Doc Leach with a service that would both salvage the reputation of the wild horse race and save the lives of a hundred or more horses. I was only thirteen; he might not listen. But I was driven by both a fierce young entrepreneurial spirit and my love of the horses. In previous years, after the rodeo, the mustangs were sent to Crows Landing to be slaughtered for dog food. If I could somehow make them worth more than that...

What if, I proposed to Doc Leach, I go to Nevada and get the mustangs? Doc Leach's eyebrows popped up above his glasses. How you going to do that, walk? No, I've made a lot of friends from trips to horse shows there. I know I can ask for help from the Campbell Ranch. Bill Dorrance, a remarkable horseman in his mid-fifties who would become my mentor, had contacts at the ranch and would make the arrangements. Ralph and Vivian Carter, good horse people and friends of the family, had business to conduct near there and had agreed to help. Finally, I had a truck driver lined up. Good for you, Doc Leach came back, a hint of mockery in his voice. I was, after all, little more than a boy. I'd ride up to the ranges with some of the day hands from the Campbell Ranch, and I bet I could secure one hundred and fifty head. Head of what? Chickens or horses? He had a sophisticated sense of humour. Strong and healthy mustangs, Dr. Leach. I explained to him that my younger brother, Larry, and I could care for them at the competition grounds until the rodeo was held. They'll be ready on the spot, with the pair of us on hand to see they're all right. Doc Leach shifted his pipe from one corner of his mouth to the other and blinked a couple of times. That meant he was cogitating. Finally he asked, What's in it for you? I was thinking, sir, that after the rodeo Larry and I could break in the mustangs and maybe have an auction sale, so they'd be worth more than Crows bait. That was the euphemism for animals taken to Crows Landing for slaughter. This year, I told him, he would not have to send any animals to the abattoir. There'd definitely be more than a few that would go through the sale ring ridden by my brother or myself and maybe provide someone with a useful mount, sir. He was still cogitating, so I went on. And perhaps the rodeo association could show a profit at the end of the day, more than the slaughter value anyway. Doc Leach weighed the arrangement, turning it over in his mind. He was like the buyer of a used car, kicking the tires and looking for the hidden defect. When he could find none, he agreed.

He offered to call up Irvin Bray and contract him to provide me with transport for the return journey. Finally, we agreed that the net proceeds of any sales were to be divided equally between the rodeo association and the Roberts brothers.

I was on my way to Nevada to gather 150 head of mustangs. It would prove to be the most important opportunity of my life: to study horses in their natural groups, in the wild. For the next three years I would be crossing the Sierra Nevada to the high desert beyond, to live alongside wild herds for several weeks at a time. From that experience I would begin to learn a language, a silent language which I have subsequently termed Equus. With that as a springboard, I would assemble a framework of ideas and principles that would guide my life's work with horses. I would have none of this were it not for my time as a teenager spent in the company of mustangs.


From the Hardcover edition.
Monty Roberts

About Monty Roberts

Monty Roberts - The Man Who Listens to Horses
Monty Roberts was born in California in 1935 and won his first riding trophy at the age of four. Winning championships while attending university, Monty spent most of his working life as a professional horse trainer. His autobiography, The Man Who Listens to Horses, was published in 1996 and sold over 3 million copies worldwide. Monty is the author of two other international bestsellers: Shy Boy and Horse Sense for People.
Praise

Praise

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“Riveting and inspirational.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“Absorbing . . . engrossing . . . [Monty] Roberts’s story is more fascinating and profound than any told in fiction. . . . [The Man Who Listens to Horses is] the kind of life-altering book you never want to finish.”
–San Francisco Chronicle

“Observing Monty’s philosophy and method of working with horses and people is one of the most profoundly deep, awe-inspiring, and heart-opening experiences I’ve ever witnessed. I highly recommend this book to everyone.”
–Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

The Man Who Listens to Horses has a style that’s every bit as graceful as Roberts’s horse-gentling. . . . Roberts’s rememberings will touch the hearts of any who ever have known a deep love and respect for an animal.”
–Lexington Herald-Leader

“A groundbreaking account . . . All occupants of this earth would be wise to listen to Roberts, who offers a road map to a kinder, gentler place.”
Tulsa World

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