Monty Roberts Dangerous Training Gimmicks

Marjorie Hansen

Lately I have been reading of so many accounts of the use of synthetic training devices (gimmicks) that very often inflict harsh pain to the horse. Most often, the articles involve Monty Roberts at his demos. My heart still aches for the colt that I saw treated so abruptly with a gimmick rush job of 27 minutes of thoughtless handling/training efforts to get a rider up on him for the very first time at Las Vegas in December 1999. resorting to the use of a gimmick halter (Dually Halter) on an 18-month old colt so indiscriminately is a LARGE clue to the so-called “mystique” of Monty Roberts. He was only concerned with the quick fix.

If it took some (premeditated) intentionally applied head pain to get a faster response from this immature colt, then as far as he was concerned, he did it. Now, Monty claimed never to have seen this colt prior to the demo. He didn’t even experiment with a conventional halter to check out the colt’s leading ability. He just started out with the heavy guns. What is probably worse, or even dangerous, is he tries to sell this gimmick halter to anyone who will buy it. People who don’t even know how to use any halter could be purchasing this bastard headpiece.

The harsher forms of equine restraint are reserved for extremes of behavior. Horses with a malicious history, injured animals that are in severe pain that need emergency treatment, etc. Certainly those 19 horses in the recent Kentucky Derby, mostly, if not all stallions, needed in most cases, a chain over the nose and an extra handler. Think about it, 19 stallions milling around in each other’s space? Good horse trainers use training procedures and equipment appropriately. Most often, at their training facility by experienced hands. Above all, they don’t try to pedal these pieces of training knowledge to an inexperienced novice.

Monty Roberts does just that. Has he ever given any thought to product liability? A horse going over backwards is just one of the severe side effects of the misuse of a halter that tightens up on the horse’s head when it goes against the feel of it while leading or when startled.

These gimmicks that apply force (Dually halter and the Buck Stop or lip string) hardly belong in an non-professional setting. They should be a seldom used last resort. The so-called “buck stop” only serves to repress the bucking habit or response. The horse is not allowed to experiment and find out for himself that bucking is nonproductive. All of our colts go through unsaddled ground work prior to saddling. Then, they wear their saddles daily and freely in a round pen until they are through with trying to buck it off. The desire to buck is what must disappear before weight is added to their back, in the form of a live human being. They learn by experience not by avoiding pain and being trapped into one body position.

Horses vary from very insensitive to extremely sensitive. Some are so fine skinned with so little hair that they will switch their tail at an ant crawling on their back. I have had to groom horses that couldn’t tolerate a soft brush on their head, a brush that I could brush along my own cheek easily. I really feel that horses are more sensitive around their heads and elsewhere than many of us are. They have no hands on the ends of arms that can fly up and protect most of the head and face in an instant. Their other senses are so much keener than ours, why not the sense of feel too? They are also very emotional animals. They get angry, feel joy and seem to now how we actually feel about them.

A true horseman knows when and how to use the proper training equipment and which horses will benefit most from their use.

Hopefully, the uninformed clinic followers will some day realize that Monty Roberts’ equine demo subjects are victims being exploited solely for his personal gain.