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on 4 December 2004
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. He points out that there were trainers in previous centuries that tried (and had success with) similar methods, but that for whatever reason these methods did not take a firm hold on the general equestrian population. So yes, Roberts does do a lot of self-promotion here (another thing some have complained about), but this is because he's attempting to spread the word about his method of training. He is using the book first and foremost to sell his technique, but this is because he wishes to make the training experience a better one for horses.
This book takes us through Roberts' journey of learning, and all the trials and triumphs that led him to where he is today. He tells us of his experience with mustangs, his successful childhood riding career, the encounters with his father that helped shape his own way of thinking, the development (and narrowly-avoided disaster) of his Thoroughbred racehorse facility Flag Is Up Farms, various success stories of his 'join-up' method, his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II of England, his many tours to demonstrate his techniques, and even his succes in using 'join-up' with wild deer. He also introduces us to the horses that have shaped his life and carved a place for themselves in his heart - Brownie, his childhood mount; Johnny Tivio, his all-time favorite; and Dually, his most recent mount.
Toward the end of the book there is a 'How To' appendix describing in detail the 'join-up' technique. Roberts lists all the necessary equipment (nothing fancy is needed - everything is standard equipment that any horse owner should already have; the only thing you may have to 'borrow' is the round pen itself if you do not have one), and takes us through the procedure in a clear step-by-step fashion. He explains the purpose of each aspect of 'join-up' and how the horse will perceive the handler's actions. He also explains the meaning of the horse's responses to these actions. The appendix is very easy to follow and the technique is simple enough that it is easy to remember afterward, without having to lug the book to the arena with you.
The book concludes with an afterword by Lawrence Scanlan, the author of 'Riding High' and co-author (with Ian Millar) of 'Big Ben'. Scanlan describes his experience observing the 'mustang project' that Roberts embarked upon in 1997. This takes us briefly into the story of Shy Boy, a small mustang stallion Roberts attempts to gentle (in the wild, not in a pen) with his 'join-up' technique. The afterword is very short. Roberts went on to write about his experience with Shy Boy in his next book 'Shy Boy: The Horse that Came in from the Wild'. I have not read that one yet, but plan to soon, as I was very impressed with 'The Man Who Listens to Horses'. I would highly recommend it to anyone involved with horses.
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on 10 August 2017
Wonderful book that anyone with an interest in horses should read! I have long believed that forcing and using uncomfortable pressure does not get the best results (for animals or people!), and seeing the work that Monty does reinforces this and reminds us how to work together with animals.
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on 30 November 2014
I enjoyed this book and thought that Monty Roberts makes a great raconteur while telling his stories. I'm not going to write a big long review as lost of others have done that. I imagine that those interested in natural horse-manship would enjoy this book. Non-horsey readers might also enjoy it as a fascinating fairly light reading auto-biography, or holiday read.
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on 20 February 2004
After reading the Horse Whisperer, I wanted to know more about a real Horse Whisperer. And I was delighted to read The Man Who Listens to Horses. I unfortunately do not own a horse, but it made me understand what I have done wrong in the past while taking lessons. This book really puts an emphasis on horses behaviour and I am sure it will help every owner or horse lover like myself. Monty seems such a great and genuine man that I feel now that I would like to visit his ranch "Flag Is Up" for more advice! Definitely a good read.
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on 29 March 2017
Replacement book so already knew how good it was.
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on 16 July 2001
I have had a love/hate relationship with horses all my life. They thrill and terrify me in equal measure with their beauty and power. This book made me understand why horses sometimes behave the way they do and made me realise the great disservice human kind has done this wonderful animal. I could not put the book down and didn't want it to end; it's made me want to learn more and has inspired me to try to overcome my fear of riding horses, to look at them from a different standpoint. A brilliant book!
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on 24 October 1999
This book is a must for anyone not just for people who love horses. Not only is it well written and a great read ,but it also shows you how to train in horses with respect and kindness i have trained in a lot of horses in my life but after reading this book i changed the way i do it now ,And the horses came to hand a lot quicker. The man in my opinion is a GENIUS
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on 24 May 2000
I've only had contact with horses for a year or so, and have always been a little weary, some would say fearful, of their power. So it was with a little apprehension that I sat to read this book. Its the first book I've read cover to cover in less than a week, and it was truly an revelation. I wished it would never end! For those who have broken horses in the conventional manner, you will be ashamed of your actions and enlightened by this book. For those with no contact with horses whatsoever, you will be wanting to get in the saddle before page 50. By page 250 you may have made the best and most satisfying friendship of your life..
This book truly changes your outlook on life. For the better of all species.
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on 22 December 2000
The autobiography of a man who learnt to understand how horses 'talked' to each other by watching wild mustangs as a child. He learned how to interact with them using this language and has become famous for his horse training skills worldwide. There is more to Monty Roberts than horse whispering however,including his extended foster family and film stunt riding. A facinating and humbling insight into a remarkable man.
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on 15 May 2005
I really enjoyed reading Man Who Listens to Horses, Monty Roberts' work is just amazing. I do not have my own horse but when I do I will know how to treat them better now and to understand them move. I could hardly put the book down as I just wanted to know what he done next. I highly recommend reading this book as it really is such a pleasure to read. I have also read 2 other Monty Roberts books - The Horses of my Life, and Shy boy, both are great also, hearing about his life with horses.
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