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The Man Who Listens to Horses: The Story of a Real-Life Horse Whisperer Hardcover – August 5, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 323 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (August 5, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679456589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679456582
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (323 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #620,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For me, it is a book about communication. I have no particular interest in horses, horsemanship, horse training, etc. That's not why I read this book, nor why I have since recommended it to many of my friends. No, the book's appeal to me is what it has to say about people. Monty tells a story that illustrates a simple yet profound truth: You can best communicate by imagining yourself in the other's place. For Monty, the most obvious "other" is a horse. Monty was able to communicate exceptionally well with horses because he could imagine himself in their place. Unfortunately, Monty could empathize with horses that his father "broke" because his father treated Monty in the same harsh way. Monty sought an alternative way to train horses that was based on understanding and on compassion, and he found it.
The story's appeal is largely emotional. Since reading it, I have found it difficult to explain to other people what it meant to me, and yet I have found its message useful in my business consulting practice. I think that fact reflects the richness of Monty's story and helps to explain the breadth of its appeal to many readers. You needn't read too much between the lines to see that this book is about listening, about empathy, and about human warmth in all areas of human endeavor. It is much more than a biography, or a story about horses.
Apparently, there has been some debate about the accuracy and the balance of this biography. Did all the events that Monty Roberts describes really occur? Did he originate all the innovations in horse training that he claims? Well, if you read what his critics have to say then I'd suggest you be sure also to read his reponses, which can be found on his web site.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating autobiography of one of the most sought-after horse trainers in the world. Monty Roberts takes us from his childhood, growing up on a ranch in California, all the way up through the years right before the book was first published in 1996. He learned to ride at a very young age and was quite successful on the rodeo circuit and in reined cow horse competitions. But what really gave him his ambition to develop a method of communicating with horses was the abuse with which he saw his father treat horses, and the the abuse he himself received from his father. Convinced that there must be a better way to train horses, he observed the behavior of mustangs, and ultimately came up with a technique he calls 'join-up'.
'Join-up' involves working with a horse in a round pen, first encouraging the horse to flee around the perimeter by making steady eye contact and assuming an imposing stance. The handler then watches for three tell-tale signs that the horse wishes to communicate - first the horse will lock his inside ear on the handler, then begin licking and chewing, and finally lower his head near the ground as he travels around the pen. Once the horse has given these signals, the handler takes his/her eyes off the horse and shifts away from from the animal. At this point the horse will usually come up behind the handler and stand very close, allowing the handler to touch him. Then the horse can be saddled, bridled, and at last, mounted and ridden. (This is a very truncated explanation - the book goes into much more detail.)
Of course Roberts was not the first to use methods like these. Some other reviewers here have complained about this fact, accusing him of taking undue credit. But Roberts himself admits this in his book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first saw Monty Roberts' book The Man Who Listens to Horses when I was in my local bookstore browsing for reprints of James Herriot's beloved books. I didn't buy it then, because I had never heard of him and didn't know what to expect. I later was reintroduced to him through a video in my ethology (study of animal behaviour) laboratory class and after watching one of his demonstrations and discussing his unique quality to differentiate light movement (due to his color blindness; as similar feature has been noticed in predatory animals such as dogs and wolves), was motivated to go and buy his book.
I have to say that I was sufficiently impressed with Monty's book. I hadn't become aware of the controversy and legal issues surrounding him until today through other people's reviews on Amazon.com, and investigated these claims to get further depth on him.
What I have found has led me to believe that yes, maybe there are untruths. Maybe there aren't. One cannot clearly say, particularly the public, simply because we were not there when the events transpired and all we have to rely on is what people say, and whatever we decide, people will believe what they want to believe. Human memory isn't perfect.
All I know is that the book that I read was a beautiful, compassionate autobiography illustrating a few of the human qualities that we rarely see expressed in our chaotic society today. The world may never know the truth of Monty's stories, but he has still managed to touch and inspire so many people of all ages (must significantly our generation, the younger generation) through his writing, stressing on the values of compassion, love, gentleness, respect, and understanding that are so seldom preached in the mass media today.
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