Monty Roberts Bad Reputation-Fast Not Right

by Marjorie Hansen

Go to one of his well advertised demos and see for yourself. After annoying an apparent “green” horse for several minutes in a round pen, he makes no attempt to gradually educate both sides of the horse as it continually breaks eye contact by turning away from him when changing direction. Many horses don’t join up, they give up and come into the center where they are no longer chased and can catch their breath. This technique is a shoddy form of “hooking On”. “Hooking On” was used and perfected by Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt long before Monty ever came upon the clinic/training scene. The first 2 men mentioned do it right and time is the last consideration. This is the “real” way of establishing communication with the whole horse. Very frequently, in Monty’s demos and tapes, he works the horse only in one direction, the direction that the horse chooses. It is usually to the left. Monty seems to have no understanding of teaching the whole horse.

Horses see the world in a much different way than we do. If a trainer doesn’t understand the workings of the horse’s vision, the basic “hooking On” process will be flawed and the horse will be only partially trained. Just for openers, the result will be an insecure one sided horse. A partially trained horse is an accident in progress. Not only should both sides of the horse’s visual field be accustomed to “our” presence, the front and back of the horse also need conditioning to new and changing sights and sounds. Eye switching can be accompanied with alarm in the horse until it understands that there is no threat. Developing feel goes hand in hand with these “hooking On” training sessions also.

A horse with it’s ears pricked forward (binocular vision) does not see behind itself. In an instant though, a horse can change that (ears and eyes work together) and see nearly to the middle of the top of its tail or dock. With an ever so slight tip of it’s head in either direction, this reverse vision enables the horse to see behind him, but only with one eye at a time. The way they use their eyes is an interesting wonder. Binocular, monocular and panoramic all blending together. In order to partially simulate the “shy” reflex in the horse, put your index finger up about 6 to 8 inches from your nose. Alternately open and close left and right eyes, while focusing on your finger. Your finger appears to move about 12-inches against the background. In the horse, when it sees an object out of one eye and then turns quickly to see it with the other eye, the object appears to move, thus causing the “shy” reflex in the untrained horse.

Spending a lot of time treading water with an unqualified horse trainer simply makes the horse’s life very complicated and unsatisfactory. In the case of the horse, their life span is pitifully short, too short to waste learning years. I wonder just how many potentially exceptional horses have been discarded because of inadequate schooling methods, forced on them by self styled “Equine Geniuses” purely for financial gain and ego stroking?

We humans owe the horse a great debt. It is highly unlikely that we would be where we are today without their constant help in the early settling of this country & before, for that matter. They have also become the main ingredient in a billion dollar industry that is growing by leaps & bounds.

There has to be a way to help the beginning horse owner to select a good trainer. Hopefully, some kind of reputable seminar can be presented with a panel of experts, not necessarily clinicians, but by trainers who have spent quality time with each horse & have turned out a reliable finished product over a period of months or years. Trainers from all disciplines who can instruct and direct from actual experience. It is time to get real.