Horse whisperer Monty Roberts works wonders
A crowd of 1,200 packed into Easton College's equestrian centre to watch legendary horse whisperer Monty Roberts work his magic with four young and troubled horses.
The event was a fitting anniversary to celebrate three years since the opening of the centre and equestrian manager Hilary Francois was there to introduce the evening's event.
Roberts was joined by the UK's leading Intelligent Horsemanship trainer Kelly Marks, as well as Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Associate Bridget Hughes, who is based in Ingham.
Hughes is accompanying Roberts and Marks on this year's tour – a real honour for the trainer. 'I've been interested in Intelligent Horsemanship since 2006 and have been a Recommended Associate (RA) for Kelly Marks for two years,' she said. Hughes was invited on the tour by Marks and has just spent a week and a half alongside Roberts at the Queen's Sandringham Stud, working with young thoroughbreds.
'What has really stood out for me on working with Monty is he has this theory about accelerated learning,' said Hughes. 'I know it's possible to start a horse in half an hour, but most of the time we don't. But when you're able to really progress with training you get them really excited about learning as opposed to switching them off by doing lots of things they get bored of.'
Roberts is now 77 years old but has the energy of a man much younger.
The first horse was introduced to the crowd to kick off proceedings. Duke, a three-year-old Suffolk Punch was incredibly laid back considering the size of the crowd and the atmosphere in the arena. Having never had a saddle on his back, within half an hour Roberts had him saddled and Hughes was on board and steering the horse around the pen. Duke was an incredible ambassador for his breed, responding well to Roberts' body language and techniques.
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The second horse was a different ball game. Andalucian Perita was far more sensitive and spooky and Roberts explained that the horse had been abused in his native Spain. He quietly worked with Perita, demonstrating his 'join-up' technique. Perita joined up with Roberts beautifully, showing calm behaviour and eventually walking calmly over a large blue tarpaulin.
After the interval, a coloured cob that had fear problems came in and worked from the ground, resulting in the successful introduction of a saddle and dummy rider. Then Albert came in, a horse with loading issues. He was strong and very disrespectful to the handler on the ground but after a short session and plenty of repetition Albert was soon following Roberts calmly in and out of the lorry.
Roberts' polished performance is not just show business – the results he gets speak for themselves. His techniques work, and no doubt every single member of the audience came away with some new ideas to try with their own horses.