Horse whisperer Monty Roberts puts on a captivating show at Easton College
PUBLISHED: 14:22 18 October 2012 | UPDATED: 09:55 19 October 2012
When Perita, the troubled and badly scarred Andalucian whose owner had never been able to catch, stopped in his tracks, turned and head bowed, walked towards the man in the red scarf you could hear a pin drop.
When Albert, the two year old that had taken four hours to load to bring to the arena, walked straight onto the lorry at the first attempt, there was an audible gasp of amazement.
Yes, this was a display of incredible horsemanship that undoubtedly the 1200-strong audience that gathered at Easton College last night (Wednesday) would never forget.
We had come to see “the man who listens to horses” Monty Roberts, the Californian horse trainer who took the equine world by storm when he first demonstrated his unique methods of non-violent schooling using a silent language learned from studying horse behaviour in the wild.
It was a night that was both captivating and inspiring, a mixture of laughter and tears as we watched four horses respond to the gentle touch of the man who has become known to millions as “the horse whisperer”.
Perita was probably the most challenging of the night. Imported from Spain he had been bought by owner Sandra Miller from Newmarket who was told he was a “sensible” horse although a little bit nervous.
“I thought when I got him home and into a routine he would be fine.” But six-year-old Perita, who still bears the scars on his face from cruel Spanish training aids, was frightened of his own shadow, spooking at everything and so wary of people he was impossible to catch.
But within seven minutes of gentle rubbing and desensitising Monty was able to run a flapping bag over Perita’s whole body.
“This is why I still travel 130,000 miles a year,” he said. “It is so gratifying how quick they learn.”
Then in a demonstration of his Join-Up technique, where he first sends the horse away circling the round pen and then gradually brings him in using a series of body language manoeuvres, Perita came to him and followed him at his shoulder in total acceptance of his presence and leadership.
There was hardly a dry eye in the house as he walked with Perita, with no ropes or lines, over a huge blue tarpaulin that the horse would have done its utmost to avoid just a few minutes earlier.
Two-year-old Albert, Monty deduced, was not interested in forming a partnership with humans and this had led to his refusal to load. By making him back up every time he tried to rush forward on the lead rein and taking him over a wooden board on the ground and then through an increasingly narrow walkway he got Albert to accept his lead. At the first attempt, although with slight Bambi legs, Albert went straight up the ramp and into the lorry.
“I could not believe it,” said owner Joy Soar afterwards. “He would always just stand at the bottom of the ramp and refuse to move. He is home bred and the first horse I have had that I couldn’t load. Hopefully when we start riding him I can actually take him to shows.”
It was a suitable finale to an extraordinary night where we also saw Duke, a Suffolk Punch, accept a saddle and rider for the first time, and Lily, a horse that previous trainers had recommended be shot for her tendency to rear every time a bridle was put on. Monty got her circling the pen with saddle, bridle and dummy rider, showing no vices at all.
But in one touching moment it was clear that despite all the thousands of horses that Monty has trained and helped there was still one man whose acceptance he craved all his life but failed to win. “I wish my father was here tonight,” he said. “He had broken 72 bones in my body by the time I was 12 and used the same violence with horses. There is no need for violence and no need to be the boss in a relationship with horses, just two willing partners.”