Books by Monty Roberts

SHY BOY by Monty Roberts
Released: May 5, 1999

Roberts (The Man Who Listens to Horses, 1997) deploys melodrama in the interest of common decency in this tale of gentling a wild mustang into the domesticated community of horses, then giving him a choice: stay with your new friends or run free to the herd. It is Roberts's wish to "make the world a better place for the horse—all horses, including free horses without names." He has made it his duty to show that the brutality typically employed to break a horse is simple cruelty, and there is a much kinder method. He calls it "joining up—: forging a relationship of trust and generosity through communication and fair treatment. As ably spelled out here, this is achieved through a kindness of voice and touch, and a body language he calls Equus, "ingrained in the genetic, tribal memory of all the world's horses." To demonstrate that his technique can succeed even in the wide open spaces of the Sierra Nevada, he convinced the BBC to film him starting (Roberts' term for breaking) a mustang from the wild. So unfolds the story of Shy Boy, a creature Roberts paints as an American icon, noble and romantic in extremis: strong and free, wild and graceful and sensitive. Evidently stung by allegations that all was not kosher in his first book, Roberts, in an unappealing defensive tone, makes sure there are plenty of independent experts on hand to observe his every move as he and Shy Boy get to know each other; the book has nearly as many pages of photographs as text. Roberts takes detours in the book to excoriate abusers of humans and animals, before breathlessly, and hamfistedly, charging to the climactic moment when Shy Boy must choose between the herd and a home with Roberts. Roberts may be relentlessly self-righteous and not above going weepy to ingratiate himself with his readers, but his mission is too laudable to be ridiculed. (100 color photographs) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 18, 1997

The surprisingly complex and lively memoir of a successful and influential horse trainer who helped pioneer nonviolent methods of breaking horses in. Some of the book's vigor and pace may have to do with the fact that Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face, 1994) is the coauthor. The narrative begins in 1948 when Roberts, then 13, spent time studying wild horses in the Nevada desert. He applied what he learned there to radically new ideas about how wild horses could be trained and came to be an important figure in horse racing circles. His portrait of the business of breeding and training horses is frank and fascinating, but the book's most memorable passages cover the rodeos and horse business in the west as it was in the author's youth, and include a haunting portrait of his violent, racist father and of some of the other remarkable figures Roberts knew (including a young James Dean). Over and above everything, though, is Roberts's surpassing love for horses, captured here in his evocations of the horses he has trained over a career spanning four decades. (Author tour) Read full book review >