Monty Roberts is, as they say, the real
horse whisperer--even if he does revile the last third of Nicholas Evans's romance
. Yet Roberts also makes clear from the start that listening and close attention have more to do with gentling an animal than soi-disant whispering. As far as he's concerned, silent communication can "effectively cross over the boundary between human (the ultimate fight animal) and horse (the flight animal). Using their language, their system of communication, I could create a strong bond of trust. I would achieve cross-species communication." And achieve it he does. After one short session, he has even the wildest stallion nickering with ungulate abandon.
Roberts's descriptions of "joining up," as he calls it with horses--as well as with the deer who cavort on his California farm like so many hyperintelligent Bambis--are inspirational in the best sense of the word. Surprisingly, though, it took him long years to persuade most of the humans in his life that pain and punishment are not the way to go. Indeed, the author expends many a page on past mistakes and disasters, familial and professional. Yet The Man Who Listens to Horses remains a powerfully positive document--and not just for Mr. Ed. Best of all, when it comes to his life's work, Roberts is far more practical than mystical. Instead of portraying himself as Equus's messiah, he'd rather share his hard-won knowledge. Having overcome years of rejection and ridicule, the author is certainly not short in the self-esteem department, as some passages in this book demonstrate. No matter. He always checks his ego before entering the corral. --Kerry Fried
From Kirkus Reviews
The surprisingly complex and lively memoir of a successful and influential horse trainer who helped pioneer nonviolent methods of breaking horses in. Some of the book's vigor and pace may have to do with the fact that Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face, 1994) is the coauthor. The narrative begins in 1948 when Roberts, then 13, spent time studying wild horses in the Nevada desert. He applied what he learned there to radically new ideas about how wild horses could be trained and came to be an important figure in horse racing circles. His portrait of the business of breeding and training horses is frank and fascinating, but the book's most memorable passages cover the rodeos and horse business in the west as it was in the author's youth, and include a haunting portrait of his violent, racist father and of some of the other remarkable figures Roberts knew (including a young James Dean). Over and above everything, though, is Roberts's surpassing love for horses, captured here in his evocations of the horses he has trained over a career spanning four decades. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.