The Man Who Listens to Horses: The Story of a Real-Life Horse Whisperer

Monty Roberts is a real-life horse whisperer–an American original whose gentle training methods reveal the depth of communication possible between man and animal. He can take a wild, high-strung horse who has never before been handled and persuade that horse to accept a bridle, saddle, and rider in thirty minutes. His powers may seem like magic, but his amazing "horse sense"  is based on a lifetime of experience. Roberts started riding at the age of two, and at the age of thirteen he went alone into the high deserts of Nevada to study mustangs in the wild. What he learned there changed his life forever.

Monty Roberts has spent his whole life working with horses–schooling them, listening to them, and learning their ancient equine language. In The Man Who Listens to Horses, he tells about his early days as a rodeo rider in California, his problems with his violent horse-trainer father, who was unwilling to accept Monty’s unconventional training methods, his friendship with James Dean, his struggle to be accepted in the professional horse-training community, and the invitation that changed his life–to demonstrate his method of "join-up"  to the Queen of England.

From his groundbreaking work with horses, Roberts has acquired an unprecedented understanding of nonverbal communication, an understanding that applies to human relationships as well. He has shown that between parent and child, employee and employer (he’s worked with over 250 corporations, including General Motors, IBM, Disney, and Merrill Lynch), and abuser and abused, there are forms of communication far stronger than the spoken word and that they are accessible to all who will learn to listen. This inspirational and gentle man, first introduced to the American public on Dateline NBC, is part James Herriot, part Bill Gates, and part John Wayne. And his story is one you will never forget.


  • 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 (327 customer reviews)
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3 thoughts on “The Man Who Listens to Horses: The Story of a Real-Life Horse Whisperer”

  1. 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.Read more ›

  2. 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.Read more ›

  3. 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, 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.Read more ›

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