Thursday, December 10, 2009

Monty Roberts: Yay or Neigh?

I know I know corny title but sometimes I can't help myself!

I first saw Monty Roberts some time in the 90's at a clinic. My trainer at the time was pretty rough and old fashioned. I- like all children-- viewed horses through romantic rose colored glasses, and was not satisfied with the horsemanship I was being taught. Seeing Monty blew my young mind and set me on the path of horsemanship I am on today. I have never read any of his books, I think I may have seen one of his documentaries on PBS, but later down the line of my education I lumped him with all of the natural horsemanship trainers. What do you think about Monty Roberts? What do you think of the "natural horsemanship" trainers?

My view of the movement is that I am happy that people are moving in that general direction. However I feel that a lot of the good training advise they could be giving is hyped up, mystified and ritualized. I feel like the majority of their audience is missing the point. Chasing a horse around a round pen all the time is not what horses need. They do not need fancy halters, saddles, or carrot sticks either. Some of this stuff is harmless and helps beginner horse people enjoy their animals more, sometimes though I have seen it backfire and make things worse. The other thing I do not understand is how expensive it is! I would love to read into some of these trainers and learn about their methods and really give them a fair shot but why are their merchandise priced like that? When I see the prices on the Pat Parelli website it just screams scam.

Well I digress- My point is Monty the same? What do you guys think about him as a trainer.
He has started a new website with video and audio training instruction. I am intereset I think but for that price, not so much! Am I being cheap here or what? Check it out

Bodhi News
Bodhi has been amazing as usual. We have been continuing our work with lead changes as it has been our only gateway to the left lead. He gets it now consistently with the aid of a ground pole. He has now started to get his left lead from the trot as well with the aid of the ground pole. Right now I am pretty sure he thinks the ground pole is magic so I will have to devise a method of slowly removing it. He thinks he needs it but we know he doesn't!
I took a spin around the arena yesterday bareback and *gasp* bridleless. I attached a stirrup leather around his neck because I am a chicken and I enjoy having an oh "sh*t handle". Overall he was a good boy. He still had amazing halts with out the bridle and he would even give me tempo changes within the trot. We did a bit of canter and preformed a halt from the canter. What a good boy! What he would not do is turn. We will have to work on that! Any suggestions. He knows how to turn using my legs and my body. I can drop the reins and do serpentines. For some reason it is a different story with out reins.


  1. Wow that is awesome! I would be way too nervous to ride Tucker without a bridle -- I give you lots of credit! Go Bodhi!! I got no advice for ya on that one, I am just super impressed.

    As for Monty Roberts, I read his first book and I liked it. I thought he had a very kind and understanding way of describing our relationship with horses.

  2. Bodhi sounds like he has been enjoying himself. I give you lots of credit too for riding him without bridle and saddle. Seems you don't need much help because you'll figure it out on your own.

    As for Monty Roberts, I like him but I don't know if I would pay for anything on a website. I think you get the best training in person on a one to one basis. But if it's something you want to do give it a try. I tend to agree with you about all the natural horsemanship gurus too, so I don't really have a comment about them. If I did I would probably say something I shouldnt.

  3. Courage, hah I really am a big chicken. Bodhi is just that sweet. I really love riding bridle less, I feel like it helps develop balance and an independent seat even more than bareback or lunge work does! It highlighted some areas I really needed to work on for sure.
    Marissa- thanks for the book review. Maybe I should try a book first! A more inexpensive way to be curious (99 dollars for a one year subscription to a website!)

    Grey horse- I have a hard time paying for anything online as well, I am sure online businesses hate me but it just does not feel right. As for some harsh words about the gurus--you won't offend me! haha.

  4. I'm new to your blog...would like to tell you what I have learned taking care of geriatric horses. My oldest horse lived to 36, and I currently have : 30, 29, 24, 20 and 11. Two things are good for weight and health, especially when they are thin. Beet pulp (soaked pellets) and soaked hay cubes. What are you feeding this horse you have taken on?

    Your horse is BEAUTIFUL and I love it that you use a bitless bridle.

  5. Thanks for the comment Lori! Ty is currently getting Triple Crown Senior along with alfalfa cubes soaked. I think you are right, and I am going to add beet pulp soon. I don't want to shock his system by throwing everything at him at once, though I really want to!
    Congrats on the 36! That is an achievement for sure! It is great to hear you have so many older horses in your care, they are lucky to have you.
    Thanks for stopping in :)

  6. Monty Roberts was also my first introduction to the natural approach to horse handling. Honestly, I love Monty. I have read a few of his books and I recommend them all. Monty's methods stem from his time spent watching wild horses as a young boy. His father was a traditional trainer, and 50 years ago they were sacking horses tied to posts to get them used to being 'backed'.
    I think the best way to learn anything about a horse is the way that Monty learned - by observing. Watching the way the stallion treats his herd, the way an alpha mare controls the youngsters, the way the horses play and learn. This is where you will begin to understand WHY the horse does what he does.
    Anyway, I like Monty! I met him in person and he was like a big, shy grandpa. Gave me a hug, too!
    Parelli has a knack for talking. He obviously has a wonderful way with horses, but is unwilling to share that gift freely with others. He's out to make a buck. They all are.

  7. I tend to be skeptical about natural horsemanship TRENDS. While I agree with some concept and the person I sent Granite to for some groundwork training at 2yrs, I feel like most of it is over commercialized and directed and beginners to the equestrian sport who tend to throw money into the natural horsemanship gimmicks. Also, many of the natural techniques don't translate into the show ring and tend to decrease a horse's value. Parelli trained horses have such backwards cues that I could never take one straight into a show ring. I also find the trick training like standing on on pedestalsto be completely useless. I think some zealous natural training reduces the value of horses which ultimately is negative for the breeds.... Just my 2 cents for whatever it is worth...

  8. I'm neutral about Monty. I used to be a fan, and did get to chat with him for a bit when I was younger. While he has done a lot of good about changing overall attitudes toward the horse, the way he accomplished it was a bit much for me. There are a lot of skeletons in his closet and too much about showmanship rather than actual horsemanship.

    I believe in fair, solid training that produces horses.

  9. I dislike Monty Roberts and most of the other "natural horsemanship" gurus that have cute gimmicky equipment that most people don't know how to use properly even if they do read the books and watch the video tapes. I tend to gravitate to trainers/instructors such as Tom Dorance, Ray Hunt, Jane Savoie, Linda Tellington-Jones, Sally Swift, Mary Wanless, and Mary Tenponies to name a few.

  10. I tend to agree with you about the gimmicky equipment and sales pitches being a turn off. I also agree with the trainers you do admire. A good bag. I tend to have mixed feelings about Tellington-Jones as her methods of reading horse personalities on physical characteristics is reminiscent of the old ways of judging people-- and may be misleading. I am interested in looking more into her though. I am glad that you mentioned Tenponies. I have one of her books called Backyard Dressage or something. It's great!

  11. I too, agree with you, and most of the commenters about the whole natural horsemanship movement. Some good points, some very good points, but way too commercialized.

    As for Monty Roberts, I read his book when I was pretty young, and loved it. But then someone told me that they had known Monty Roberts in his younger horsetraining years, and he was just as brutal as everything he vilifies in his book. Now, I have no idea how much truth their is to this rumor, and frankly, I can't even remember who it was that told me this. Still, I would approach Monty Roberts (and anyone who claims to be able to "whisper" horses) with a skeptical eye. Especially if that person stands to make a lot of money on it.