In the world of celebrity lecturers, Monty Roberts is indeed a horse of a different color. Soothing savage beasts — of both the equine and human variety — seems to come naturally to the world-renowned horse gentler.
In addition to gaining international recognition for successfully starting raw horses in a gentle effective manner with a technique called “Join-Up,” and teaching the value of “trust-based relationships” to more than 250 blue-chip corporations, Roberts has also published three best-selling books, including one aptly titled Horse Sense for People.
On Saturday night, “the man who listens to horses” will add to the almost $2 million he’s already raised for charities, with a fund-raising demonstration of his nonviolent horse-training methods at Earl Warren Showgrounds. The beneficiary is Hearts Adaptive Riding Program of Santa Barbara. Therapeutic riding programs such as Hearts Adaptive, which promote the benefits of the horse for individuals with physical, emotional and learning disabilities, were first brought to Roberts’ attention by none other than the Queen of England.
“This was the queen’s baby — she started therapeutic riding in England about 30 years ago,” he said.
Roberts’ level of international recognition skyrocketed in 1989, when Queen Elizabeth II invited him to demonstrate his training methods at Windsor Castle. She encouraged him to tour with his Join-Up training technique and to write his first book, The Man Who Listens to Horses.
When the queen asked Roberts to support therapeutic riding, there wasn’t much awareness of it in the United States. Roberts did some research and became convinced that “flight animals have a fantastic ability to put people at ease and cause them to relax and set about the working of muscles and eye-hand coordination that otherwise is just not done in a whirlpool or treadmill or something like that.” He now travels the world, doing about 100 benefits of this type every year.
While Roberts has done therapeutic riding benefits at his ranch, Flag is Up Farms in Solvang, this is the first demonstration of this kind that he’s done in Santa Barbara.
“What far outweighs the fund-raising efforts is to leave a community with a greater awareness,” he said, encouraging parents or spouses with a challenged family member to take advantage of available programs like Hearts Adaptive.
Not only does Roberts support these programs at his demonstrations, he also asserts “therapeutic riding horses that are trained in the absence of violence are better than those that are trained with violence.” The nonviolent theme carries through to his work with children. He and wife, Pat, have raised 47 foster children, in addition to their three grown children, Debbie, Marty and Laurel, who all work in different areas of the horse community.
When questioned about the acceptance of nonviolent techniques by the horse community, Roberts said, “I won’t change those old rednecks. You have to try to help the next generation to come along. They say that 200,000 horses will be started by my methods in the next 12 months in the world. … That’s probably more than 10 percent of all the horses that are broken traditionally, so that’s a huge impact. … The greatest change that’s come over the horse industry in 8,000 years.”