Monty Roberts the Monty Python of Horse Trainers

by Shane Maverick

The following has been compiled from Monty Roberts’ own words from his Postscript in the British paperback version of “The Man Who Listens to Horses”. His passages describe the letting loose of a wild mustang and then recapturing it for the British Broadcasting Company’s documentary of the episode. Monty Roberts may indeed fight for the humane treatment of horses but only when it doesn’t interfere with his own glory and ego!

1. On adopting mustangs for the BBC documentary: “I needed three horses. A first choice, as GOOD LOOKING AS POSSIBLE FOR THE FILM CAMERAS, and then a back-up, plus a second back-up.”

2. On chasing the mustang down through private ranch land: “Fences would be my most horrible fear. Mustangs have no knowledge of fences, so they don’t respect them.”

3. On setting loose a mustang in rattlesnake territory: “…the rattlesnakes had come out three weeks early. They killed two horses before the shoot even began. They strike at body heat and when they first emerge from their dark winter dens, they’re cranky and unpredictable – a disaster waiting to happen. A STRUCK MUSTANG AND WE MIGHT GET BY WITH OUR BACK-UP NUMBER ONE OR TWO. A SADDLE HORSE STRUCK AND IT MIGHT BE REPLACED. BUT MYSELF STRUCK – THAT WOULD BE THE END OF IT.”

4. On the long journey ahead: “…I’d have to suffer during what would probably be a day, a night and another day’s continuous riding, non-stop wear and tear.” (so would the horse only he wasn’t asked, was he Monty?)

5. On the release of the mustang: “…I was the dominant mare running at the adolescent, driving it away to show I was displeased and asking for it to show me some recognition and respect. EXCEPT, INSTEAD OF TAKING TEN MINUTES, THIS FLIGHT WOULD GO ON ALL DAY.” I HADN’T RECKONED ON THE LEVEL OF PANIC CAUSED BY THE HELICOPTER. …THE HELICOPTER RAN US TO DEATH. WE COVERED NEARLY 100 MILES IN THAT FIRST DAY, THE MUSTANG IN FULL GALLOP FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF.”

6. On the continued chase of the mustang: “It was killing, to stay at a full gallop for an hour and a half, … I was unsure of the ground and one stumble at that speed could have been FATAL. SO THAT DAY WAS TRAUMATIC – I PRACTICALLY RAN MY FIRST HORSE, THE CADET, INTO THE GROUND. AND THE FENCES WERE A HORRIBLE WORRY… THERE WERE TWELVE MILES BETWEEN FENCES, BUT MUSTANGS DON’T KNOW BARBED WIRE, THEY DON’T SEE IT…”

7. On his second saddle horse: “I made the decision to ride through the night on a horse called Big Red Fox. Big Red Fox was a thoroughbred, retired from the racetrack, and kept in shape on Flag Is Up for his owners … HE WAS NOT A PRETTY HORSE, SO IT WASN’T TO BE USED IN DAYLIGHT ON CAMERA.”

8. On the dangers facing Big Red Fox: “It was a minefield of badger holes, but we didn’t fall into any of those. Right at daybreak, around 4:30, he TOOK ME ON A HIGH SPEED CHASE FOR 15 MILES. IT WAS AS HARROWING AS ANYTHING I’D EVER RIDDEN. ..I’D BEEN IN THE SADDLE FOR NEAR ENOUGH 24 HOURS NON-STOP…”

9. On the terrain the horses had to travel: ” ..they started filming from half a mile away, just as I was coming down this valley, with treacherous ravines and boulders troubling us in the bottom of it.”

10. On riding long hours: “I’d ridden non-stop for 36 hours, but I was OK.” (Monty is being sued by the owners of Big Red Fox for abuse after the horse suffered numerous injuries, including a broken leg!)

11. On ‘joining-up’ with the mustang: “It was a very emotional moment for me.” (for me too, Monty – I almost threw up, reading what you did to all those horses just so you could shine on camera!)