Monty Roberts

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Monty Roberts
Monty Roberts at Equitana in Essen, Germany, March 2003
Monty Roberts at Equitana in Essen, Germany, March 2003
BornMarvin Earl Roberts
(1935-05-14) May 14, 1935 (age 86)
Salinas, California, United States
OccupationHorse trainer, author
SubjectHorse training

Marvin Earl "Monty" Roberts MVO (born May 14, 1935) is an American horse trainer who promotes his techniques of natural horsemanship through his Join-Up International organization, named after the core concept of his training method. Roberts believes that horses use a non-verbal language, which he terms "Equus," and that humans can use this language to communicate with horses. In order to promulgate his methods, Roberts has authored a number of books including his original best-seller, The Man Who Listens to Horses,[1] and regularly tours with a live demonstration. He runs an Equestrian Academy in Solvang, California and an "online university" to promote his ideas.

Early life[edit]

Monty Roberts was born in Salinas, California and is the son of horse trainer Marvin E Roberts, who authored his own self-published book, Horse and Horseman Training, in 1957.[2][3] Roberts claims that his father also beat him as a child, although other family members, including his younger brother Larry, dispute this version of events, with his aunt and cousin, Joyce Renebome and Debra Ristau, specifically refuting the allegation in the book Horse Whispers & Lies.[4]

Roberts competed in rodeo and won his first trophy at the age of four.[5] He attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo ("Cal Poly")[6][7] and riding for their rodeo team, he won two National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) National Championships, including National NIRA Champion Bulldogger in 1957, the NIRA Champion Team Roping in 1956.[8] He graduated from Cal Poly in 1959 with a degree in animal science.[5]

Roberts describes in his books and web site how he was sent to Nevada at the age of 13 in order to round up horses for the Salinas Rodeo Association’s Wild Horse Race, and there began observing mustangs interact with each other. He writes that he realized that they used a discernible, effective and predictable body language to communicate, set boundaries, show fear and express annoyance, relaxation or affection, and that he came to understand that utilizing this silent language would allow training to commence in a much more effective and humane manner, encouraging true partnership between horses and humans.[9] Roberts describes this language as Equus, and refers to this frequently in his books, tours and other materials.[10]



Roberts' first book, The Man Who Listens to Horses was published in 1996 and is autobiographical. It spent 58 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list, and was subsequently translated into more than 15 languages, selling more than five million copies worldwide.[11] Roberts has authored a number of further books, including best-selling Shy Boy: The Horse That Came in from the Wild (1999),[12][13] Horse Sense for People (2001),[14] From My Hands to Yours (2002),[15] The Horses in My Life (2005)[16] and Ask Monty (2007).[17]

Live demonstrations[edit]

Monty and Pat Roberts with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in 1996
Monty Roberts doing a live demonstration.

Today, Roberts travels around the world, demonstrating his method of horse training to paying audiences, all well as volunteering time for audiences such as incarcerated youth in juvenile detention facilities. An event that would change the direction of his life was an invitation in 1989 from the offices of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and an avid horsewoman. She had heard about Roberts' work and invited him to come to her country and show her staff his "Join Up" method.[18] After watching his demonstration, Roberts claims that the Queen urged him to write a book about his nonviolent horse-training methods. That book became The Man Who Listens to Horses.[1]

Monty Roberts also teaches his techniques to students at his Equestrian Academy in Solvang, California and acts as a consultant at schools with disciplinary issues in the UK and the US,[19] and advises executives at Fortune 500 companies.[20] He also runs the "Equus Online University" to promote his ideas.[21]


Three documentaries on Roberts have been released. The first was the 1997 documentary BBC/PBS Monty Roberts: The Real Horse Whisperer. It showed Roberts as he set out to tame a wild mustang without enclosures, and his developing relationship with the horse later known as Shy Boy. Other documentaries include the 1999 film Shy Boy: The Horse That Came in from the Wild and a 2005 documentary[22] on Roberts' work with wild horses and another about his work with aboriginal youth on Palm Island, Australia.[23] In 2006, a DVD series with 17 episodes, named A Backstage Pass! was completed and broadcast in the UK.[24] The series has also been broadcast in the US on the HRTV cable channel. He has his own show on Horse & Country TV, Backstage Pass with Monty Roberts.


In 2002, Roberts received an honorary doctorate in animal psychology from the University of Zurich in Switzerland and in 2005 he gained an honorary doctorate in animal psychology from the University of Parma in Italy. In 2004, the Girl Scouts of the USA commissioned a special Join-Up badge and training program in honor of Roberts’ work, and in 2005, he became the first foreign-born and first American to receive the German Silbernes Pferd (Silver Horse) Award for outstanding contributions to promoting the love of horses.[23] In the Dec. 2008 issue of Your Horse, a major British equestrian magazine, readers named Monty Roberts Personality of the Year 2008.[25]

In 1966 he assisted in the founding of Flag Is Up Farms, of which he is now the full owner. From 1973 to 1986, he was a leading consignor to the Hollywood Park Two-Year-Old Thoroughbreds in Training Sale. In 2004, Roberts’ German-bred horse Sabiango won major races throughout the US.[26]

In 2002 Roberts again visited Windsor Castle as part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee.[27] Roberts was appointed an Honorary Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in the 2011 Birthday Honours.[28]

In June 2012, the Queen, as Patron of Join–Up International, attended the Guards Polo Club and along with Monty Roberts presented awards to international polo trainers from South and Central America in recognition of their work in promoting the non–violent training of horses.[29]


Roberts strongly disagrees with his father's training methods, which he describes as "almost torturing the animals into submission".[1] However, the senior Roberts' book, on page 55, also describes some training methods similar to the "Join-up" technique,[2] and blogger John Dolan has noted other parallels between the training methods of father and son.[30]

Roberts and Bartell/Dolan have a long-running feud. In 2000 WIPO ruled against Bartell, who had registered, saying he had "engaged in abusive registration" and transferred ownership to Roberts.[31] Prior to this judgement, Roberts alleges that Bartell attempted to blackmail him for $90,000 to transfer the domain name.[32]


  • Roberts, Monty. The Man Who Listens to Horses. Random House, August 1997, hardcover, 310 pages. ISBN 0-345-42705-X.
  • Roberts, Monty. The Man Who Listens to Horses - abridged audio book. Random House Audio, August 1997. ISBN 978-0-679-46044-2.
  • Roberts, Monty. Shy Boy, the Horse that Came in from the Wild. 1999, 239 pages.
  • Roberts, Monty. Horse Sense for People: The Man Who Listens to Horses Talks to People. 2002, 256 pages.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Roberts, Monty (August 1997). The Man Who Listens to Horses. Random House. ISBN 0-345-42705-X.
  2. ^ a b Marvin E Roberts (1957). Horse and Horseman Training (PDF).
  3. ^ "Join Up International". Archived from the original on 2010-04-03. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
  4. ^ Skow, John & Willwerth, James (December 14, 1998). "Books: Horse of a Different Color". Time. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved 2010-09-15.
  5. ^ a b Cal Poly Magazine, Spring 1998
  6. ^ "Cal Poly - Welcome to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California".
  7. ^ "Visit San Luis Obispo County Media - Story Ideas & More". Archived from the original on 2012-04-16.
  8. ^ "College National Champions 1949-1979" (PDF). National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-13.
  9. ^ Roberts, Monty. The Man Who Listens to Horses, p.231. Alfred A Knopf Canada, 1997. ISBN 0-676-97055-9.
  10. ^ "Equus Online University". Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  11. ^ "Independents/Chain Bestseller List". NY Times. 1998-03-15. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  12. ^ Roberts, Monty and Christopher Dydyk. Shy Boy: The Horse That Came in from the Wild. HarperCollins, 2000. ISBN 0-06-093289-9
  13. ^ "Best Sellers Plus". NY Times. 2000-12-24. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  14. ^ Roberts, Monty. Horse Sense for People. Penguin Books, 2002. ISBN 0-14-200097-3.
  15. ^ Roberts, Monty (2002). From My Hands to Yours — Lessons from a Lifetime of Training Championship Horses. Illustrated by Jean Abernethy (1st ed.). Solvang, California: Monty & Pat Roberts Inc. ISBN 1-929256-56-6. OCLC 50204027. Quotes: «A good horse trainer can get a horse to do what he wants him to do. A great trainer can get a horse to want to do it.» —Monty Roberts
  16. ^ Roberts, Monty. The Horses in My Life. Trafalgar Square Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-57076-323-2.
  17. ^ Roberts, Monty. Ask Monty. Headline Book Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0-7553-1722-X.
  18. ^ "The Queen's Corgi Monty Dies". The Telegraph.
  19. ^ ABC Nightline, The Horse Whisperer, Oct. 19, 2005.
  20. ^ Monty Roberts Inc. corporate events. Archived 2008-10-26 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Join Monty's Equus Online University". Horse and Country TV. Archived from the original on 2012-08-02.
  22. ^ 2005 Documentary, ABC News.
  23. ^ a b "Monty Roberts Honored for Lifetime Achievement in Germany". 2005-03-15. Archived from the original on 2006-01-05. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  24. ^ "Monty Roberts — Backstage Pass on Horse and Country". 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  25. ^ "Your Horse, Issue No. 316, 2008". Archived from the original on 2008-12-20.
  26. ^ "Roberts's former charge Sabiango retired, to stand in Italy". Thoroughbred Times. 2005-08-18. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  27. ^ "Monty Roberts & Horse Racing Betting". 2008-01-29. Archived from the original on 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  28. ^ "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 4.
  29. ^ "Horse whisperer makes Guards debut". Guards Polo Club.
  30. ^ "Anti-Monty Roberts Book Review-"Horse Whispers & Lies" - USA Views: The Voice of Reason". USA Views: The Voice of Reason. Archived from the original on 2013-02-28. Retrieved 2012-04-26.
  31. ^ WIPO. "Monty and Pat Roberts, Inc. v. J. Bartell, Case No. D2000-0300".
  32. ^ Roberts, Monty. "Response to Citizens for Justice Website".

External links[edit]