A close confidante for almost half of Her Majesty’s reign, Roberts called her about 200 times, and not once did she get on the line to talk to him.
— Monty Roberts, “The Man Who Listens to Horses”
The death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022 prompted me to summarize my thoughts on my life. Born in 1935, I was the son of a father who believed violence was the answer to raising a child. Computed tomography and MRI in 1981 revealed a huge number of fractures that were found to have occurred before puberty.
Although there was a lot of violence in my life, I was lucky to grow up among horses. I had no doubts that I would compete in these wonderful animals and I was also lucky enough to win 11 world championships on their backs.
The high school teacher knew my father and advised me to stop blaming him and just move forward towards my life goals in a non-violent way. Sister Agnes Patricia, a nun of Notre Dame, encouraged me to get the best possible education. She suggested that I major in behavioral sciences, in which I now have two PhDs.
At the age of four I won my first competition and was hired as a stuntman because at that time three out of five films featured a horse and a child. I fell in love with my horses and hit a horse for the last time in 1949. It was at my father’s insistence, but after that incident it was never a teaching method.
As a teenager, I worked with American Mustangs, and I discovered that these fragile flying animals can communicate with me, and I can communicate with them. Horses, along with wild deer, taught me to use this language and refrain from any violence in the learning process. These concepts set my goals for life.
In 1965, a wealthy man who had come to California from New York decided that I should take my work with horses into the world of thoroughbred racing. I completed my first university work on PTSD for returning Korean veterans. My racehorses have embraced these principles and have won dozens of titles in the discipline.
My wife, Patricia (Pat), has been very helpful in raising our family, adopting foster children, and helping me design and operate a purebred farm for over 50 years. It was on this farm that the open day led to the publication of two articles in American magazines. These articles explore my work in non-violent racehorse training.
It was through divine intervention that these articles ended up on the desk of Queen Elizabeth II, who, like me, believed that horses could be trained without violence. I have already invaded South America and in 2005 my daughter and I visited Shelbyville, Tennessee, which was home to the Tennessee Walking Horse.
Marty Irby was the manager of a large walking horse business in Tennessee. He saw my work and put an end to his acceptance of violence in the world of Tennessee walking horses. Marty moved to Washington DC to influence legislation to eliminate abuse from these wonderful horses and expanded his spectrum to include all disciplines.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II read these two articles and sent the horse manager, Sir John Miller, to California to inspect the non-violent work for which I was responsible. Sir John came to us and saw me training with untrained purebloods to report to Her Majesty. A date was set, and Pat and I were to hit the road.
When we arrived at Windsor Castle, 23 untrained horses were waiting for us in the fields right in front of the Queen’s windows. I was warned not to go near the horses, and Pat and I were to go with Sir John Miller to his house near Oxford. This was all on a Saturday afternoon, and training was supposed to start on Monday morning.
The first horse entered the arena around 9:00 am, and about 200 spectators were to witness the three-year-old filly take her first saddle and rider. This filly was owned in the name of the Queen Mother and was never trained in anything other than how to handle a leash. The Queen Mother was there and was skeptical but hopeful.
As far as I remember, the first Thoroughbred three-year-old took the saddle and rider in about 27 minutes. The Queen Mother approached me first with tears streaming down her cheeks. The Queen followed shortly thereafter, and both were amazed that the predicted result had been achieved. There were several discussions and then a break for lunch.
While dining at Windsor Gardens, walkie-talkies went wild between members of the Queen’s staff. When we returned to the hall, we found that two three-year-old one-color draft stallions were delivered without prior notice. In the first minutes, one stallion aggressively kicked Sir John Miller out of the round paddock.
Several conversations took place to outline the plan for the rest of the week. First, all 23 horses were to receive their first saddle and rider. Another was to say that Pat and I were to travel in the Queen’s private car to 21 locations in the UK. Her Majesty personally organized the tour, which would have involved 98 horses.
England, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland were on the schedule. All horses passed the test without a single failure. The task was completed in about 30 minutes per horse. Terry Pendry was assigned with us on this tour. At our last stop, Terry Pendry completed the connection with the rider in less than 30 minutes.
While the queen and those closest to the tour offered compliments, many traditional riders made very negative comments. It was not the people who saw the non-violent training that was carried out to accomplish this task. Her Majesty firmly supported my non-violent principles.
At the conclusion of the 30-day tour, an hour-long meeting took place. The Queen was extremely accommodating, but made some scathing comments about what was hoped might happen next. Her Majesty’s first words were: “There must be a book. It should be published in as many countries and languages as possible.” It is happened.
Further, Her Majesty said that I should personally visit as many countries as possible in order to conduct live demonstrations of non-violent work, which I witnessed. I have traveled to 41 countries and worked with horses of various disciplines, including dangerous, healing horses that have been abused in previous training.
Over 3,000 horses lined up three decades of travel for these demonstrations. Covid put an end to the demos, but I continued my work with a few big stables, mostly via Zoom after the Covid restrictions. The stables I represented before Covid have won over 50 championships.
It should be noted that my relationship with Her Majesty included numerous personal visits and over 200 telephone conversations. I am constantly reminded that Queen Elizabeth II was “the wind under my wings.” There was no way I could have reached the whole world without the approval of Queen Elizabeth II.
When one examines the circumstances of more than 30 years of relationships, it becomes apparent that so many miracles to accomplish these tasks could not have happened without guidance from above. I will spend the rest of my days doing my best to achieve the goals that Queen Elizabeth has clearly set for me.
Monty Roberts, “The Man Who Listens to Horses,” is a New York Times best-selling author, multiple world equestrian champion, and founder of Join-Up.® International, who resides in Solvang, California.
Monty Roberts: 2012 Review with HM Queen Elizabeth II