By John Dolan
Special to USA Views
Monty Roberts, the celebrity horse trainer and best-selling author of the book “The Man Who Listens to Horses”, is being sued by two separate parties for fraud, animal abuse and bad business practices.
Those not familiar with the California-bred trainer should know that he has gained fame and fortune from his worldwide demonstrations in which he takes an allegedly unbroken horse and gentles it to bridle, saddle and rider in a mere 30 minutes. He says he has trained horses for the Queen of England and he has quite a following in Europe where people there are unaware or simply don’t care to know about the controversy that is brewing about this man here in the United States.
In addition to the lawsuits, the 63 year old Roberts has been facing more charges in the press by some in his own family. Aunt Joyce Renebome and her daughter Debbie Ristau have penned a book called “Horse Whispers and Lies” that is soon to be published in which they counter many of the stories in Mr. Roberts own book as being downright false. “Horse Whispers and Lies” was written with the blessing of Mr. Roberts’ own brother, Larry. Each of them say Monty Roberts has embellished and lied repeatedly in his autobiography in which he wrote of abuses by his father Marvin and told tales of his own prowess and achievements both in and out of the saddle.
Monty Roberts is being sued for threats, animal abuse and fraudulent business practices by the owners of Big Red Fox, a saddle horse that Mr. Roberts used in his capture of a mustang described in his book and shown in a British Broadcasting Co. video. The saddle horse suffered a broken leg as well as numerous other health problems while being in Roberts’ care during the filming. The second lawsuit involves a mustang that was left for training at Mr. Roberts farm (Flag is Up Farms) in Solvang, California for nearly six months that was in fact never trained and subsequently trampled its owner nearly to death. Roberts and his staff lied to the owners, saying they had trained the horse, but after the incident, they admitted that they had not trained the horse because as Monty himself stated “mustangs can’t be trained”.
Now, as opposing information about Monty Roberts, his life and business practices comes to light, Monty Roberts has taken to defending himself full-time. And, of course, he would, his very life – or at least his financial good health, depends upon it.
Monty Roberts has filed a ten million dollar lawsuit against “Horse & Rider” Magazine which printed a very interesting article about him in February 1999. Consequently, his website is now filled with 50 or more pages, defending himself against that article as well as accusations against him with regard to the film “The Horse Whisperer”. He had fashioned himself into the role model for the Tom Booker character and as a consultant for the book and film while all involved deny that Roberts had anything to do with either project. Roberts, meanwhile, has painted relatives: aunt, brother, cousin as vicious loonies out to discredit him.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Roberts’ defense comes at a time when his relatives’ book is about to be published. It is his way of quashing the competition as well as keeping his God-like image rust free. It is even more interesting to note that his web article on mustangs comes at a time when Monty is being sued by the owners of a mustang. Suddenly, Monty has a whole new perspective on the issue of mustangs – a very long one at that.
Monty Roberts has worked with horses, touted that they should be treated well and respected, has alerted other people to his good deeds all around. All well and good. What Monty fails to understand is that while everyone believes his message is an admirable one, it is the callousness with which he operates toward others, the hubris, the threats to bring people down that has turned people against him. All the people now opposed to Mr. Roberts were once his biggest supporters and fans. They did not do a sudden turn-around just for the hell of it. They did it because Mr. Roberts’ message took a dark turn itself. He abused their trust for the sake of his own glory. And that is where the biggest shame is.
A psychologist from Chicago named Jonathan Radcliffe has pinpointed Monty’s hold on people. It is a cult effect, he says, and Monty is the leader. “There are those people who need and want a father or God-like figure in their lives to lead them to the promised land. Monty’s story, as outlined in his book, depicts him as just such a person. His message is clear and worthy; his rhetoric is smooth, his look fresh and spirited. Lead on, Monty, and we shall follow.” But, Radcliffe continues, “Monty has betrayed certain people in his faction and now he must fight them tooth and nail otherwise they might turn the others against him and tumble the empire. So Monty has fashioned a furious campaign to destroy them first. It’s very Biblical in nature. We see it all the time.” Unfortunately, in our society, Radcliffe says, “might really is right rather than the other way around, and Monty will always have his supporters because people are often too eager to look the other way when their heroes are found to be unworthy of the pedestal that they’ve put them on. Besides, Monty, with all his money can turn his opposition into mincemeat and he knows it. That’s where the 10-million dollar lawsuit against that magazine and young lady author comes into play.”
Mr. Roberts fails to realize that the ends do not justify the means. And that’s why some people will always be against him and he will spend the rest of his life having to defending himself. (original post approx 1999)
Citizens For Justice: More Monty Roberts, Horse Trainer, Fraud Reports