Monty Roberts: Celebrity Horse Trainer Sued

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


31 responses to “Monty Roberts: Celebrity Horse Trainer Sued

  1. I have read Monty’s books including the chapters about him having been abused by his father. He might have abused Monty or he might have not…A shame he is dead and cannot defend himself. Anyway, I think we should not look at their relationship from today’s perspective. Children at that time used to be beaten by their parents more often that nowadays. 1930’s and 1940’s were difficult times not only in Europe but in the States as well and Monty’s dad must have been very much afraid that his sons would not be able to cope with their lives if they are not hard-working and tough. This was his message to Monty and his brother and a very important lesson to them – “no pain, no gain “. I think this is exactly what he wanted to teach them when he made them clean the box stalls in their stables every morning before they went to school. In my opinion Monty owes his success in sport and business at least partially to this breeding and the opportunities his parents had given him. I very much dislike his attitude – telling the whole world that he owes everything just to himself and how much he hated his father is unfair.

  2. Amithys Sampaio

    In one of his visits to Brazil Monty Roberts oriented some people to make a movie of a horse being beaten under his supervision. It’s not necessary to be smart to know his intentions (to show the world how good he is and his capacity to change people’s methods). All the people involved in this cruelty should be punished but Monty don’t show that we do have wonderful professionals and that most people in Brazil use rational methods with their horses.

    • We have viewed both links showing Monty encouraging horse torture by Brazilian cowboys. And these videos are proof positive that Monty Roberts is just a criminal.

  3. Mr Roberts training efforts are perfectly admirable, ‘Everyone has million dollar ideas, the millionaires are the ones who act on them’ is a statment perfectly applicable in the siuation. Mr Roberts has said on neumerous occasions that his methods are not new, they are not invented by him and he is not the only person ever to practice in such a way, it is unfair to suggest such. Both sides to the situation are rational, well worded and persuasive, either could be true, so it is therfore a matter of opinion which party you choose to believe. It is perfectly acceptable to choose either side (or neither), you cannot be wrong in this situation as there is no evidence to overthrough one theory or the other.

  4. I have been to Monty’s Flag is up Farm for a competition being held there. 2011. It is a gorgeous place in the most expensive part of the Santa Barbara horse area. The Monty assistants who were tasked with assisting people with getting settled in the place were cold, completely unhelpful, and seemed put off by the fact that they were asked to assist in this manner. Yes, it was quite beneath them! The atmosphere there was the worst I have ever felt. I remember grooms roundpenning horses just for exercise, but none of the Monty student/assistants did anything with the horses that were worked with. I could not wait to leave.

  5. I’d like to leave a reply on this. I am Italian and I make my living out of breeding and train horses. Being Italian, I had never heard of this Monty Robert before 2006, when a fellow trainer told me to attend an event in UK that involved the presence of a “horse whisperer”, the horse whisperer being Mr. Roberts. He did start a horse and put a saddle and a rider on it, although I don’t know whether the horse had been previously handled (he claimed it had not never been touched, but after 30 years of starting colts and judging by the horse behavior I have a pretty good idea it was not new to human touch). But even if we assume the colt had never been touched, what really was interesting me was the claim that Mr. Roberts would use a language he had developed to communicate with the horse. Then…….well, then he proceeded in the round pen in doing exactly what my father, my grand father and his father before him used to do with each horse in a round pen! Nothing more, nothing less. Increase the pressure with the help of a cue (my Dad tosses a light rope behind the horse to get it to move), make the animal comfortable, release the pressure immediately when the animal responds, reward him and relax him. This process takes several days until the horse is confident enough to being introduced to the saddle and so on. It is not something this man has invented, it has been around a long time although each person will have their own “style” (I don’t copy exactly what my father does, I do my own variations when starting a horse). So, in this respect I don’t believe this man has developed any language – he banked on the experience of generations of horsemen who have been doing this all along (although not all horsemen would start a horse this way, i have witnessed horrific methods, of horses tied to posts and beaten around the face when they tried to buck their first rider off and this was for the “trainer” a normal procedure). What strikes me in this website is the great length the blogger goes to discredit this man. Perhaps Mr. Roberts is lying. He has for sure portrayed normal training techniques as his own. Maybe he never done all that he claims he has done in his life and so on. However, the venom, the sarcasm, the reference to websites that look as an authoritative source of information (citizen for justice, for example, where all comments are AGAINST Mr. Roberts) but when in fact you read through it carefully seem to be run by the same person who writes on this website (or at least he has an active participation in both webs) leave me with a funny taste of an anti-Roberts campaign bordering close to slander for some reasons unbeknownst to the audience. Perhaps while Mr. Roberts built his popularity on the back of previous trainers, the anti-Roberts crusaders are wanting to build their fame on Mr. Roberts? I dont know and surely I am wrong. What I say is, the world is full of charlatans. If you are fool you believe them. If you are not, then you make your own decisions. Before I stumbled in these websites, I was somewhat skeptical of Mr. Roberts achievements. After reading all this material, I kind of like the man a little bit more. If the author (or authors) wanted to shed any doubts on Mr. Roberts sincerity, the inconclusive proof they present here and in other web-sites is in fact counterproductive. And no, a book about his alleged lies, is NOT a proof that in fact he lied. A court ruling against Mr. Roberts would be more reliable, but I haven’t seen any so far. Perhaps I missed it.

    • The above poster claims to be a horse trainer and admits that nothing Monty Roberts did was exceptional to the training craft or new despite the fact that Monty repeatedly made claims to the contrary in his books, in his horse demos, in interviews and during personal training sessions. Numerous people have told of dealings with Monty Roberts and his personnel deliberately choosing pre-saddled horses for his demonstrations and lying about it. This is not something journalists or web bloggers made up.

      With that said, lying in and of itself is not against the law. So there is no magical lawsuit that’s going to have Roberts declared a pathological liar. That’s why Monty Roberts has been able to tell his tall tales for so many years and get away with it.

      Now, here is a perfect example of a person’s blindness to the Monty Roberts P.R. In the above post, “horsetrainer” says he/she knows that Monty Roberts was not telling the truth on a number of training issues but then decided to basically buy into his lies because he/she did not like the manner in which bloggers and journalists expressed themselves about Monty Roberts. That’s pretty amazing. And if anyone’s credibility is at issue it would be “horsetrainer”, the writer of the post.

      There were several lawsuits against Monty for personal injury and fraud. Those are undisputed facts. Try reading “Horse Whispers and Lies” to find out about the myriad lies on so many issues that Monty told, discussed and attested to by people who knew him intimately. Proof? You will see in that book that the people against Monty are rational, well spoken and truly CREDIBLE.

      You may wish to read the post

    • Everyone would do well to read the book “Horse Whispers and Lies” to understand the extent to which Monty Roberts has lied about absolutely everything. When my friends and I visited his farm many years ago we were aghast at how poorly treated were the mustangs he kept there. We also had the opportunity to speak with several people who boarded horses for training here and they were very unhappy and left after a short time saying they weren’t getting what they paid for. Mr. Roberts is a joke in the horse trade and serious trainers/riders all know this to be true. No one has to fall for his B.S. like some people here.

    • Many thanks to Horsetrainer for his feedback. It was refreshing among this ocean of hate from people whose horse knowledge and qualification are very questionable. I’m a sport horses breeder and trainer myself ; by experience I agree that he has not invented a lot but he has been one of the first to articulate in a modern way eternal principles. I watch his online university and although it’s often redundant, I also learn good things, that I apply with success to my own horses. For sure, they (the so called “horse whisperers) all have their good and “gray” areas, they compete against each other but as you, I’m stroked by the massive efforts that are deployed to dismiss everything he did and to depict this man as an horrible character. One can only wonder about the motivation behind such hatred feelings.

      @others – just so you know – I do not “claim” to be a breeder, I am, and from and old family of french horsemen for a couple of centuries. Does not mean I know the truth, but only that I know what I’m talking about.

  6. As you write “he says he has trained horses for the Queen of England” obviously wanting the reader to think this is another lie, I have a very hard time believing much of the other things you write about Monty Robers, because he has indeed trained her horses, he was specifically mentioned in a BBC documentary about her and her horses just recently. And who knows which of all these accusations are true, well-known people seem to attract all kinds of people with varying motives. As Buck Hannaman says in the documentary about himself, “Buck”, there are enough people who want to prove him wrong and trip him up that bring horses that cannot be trained because they have been totally ruined by their owners, so maybe Monty Roberts has fallen foul of similar tactics. Who knows?

    • Monty Roberts has only been only interested in the “glory” of having trained the Queens horses and cashes on this time and time again. He has always bragged about this. Obviously she was just as sold on his credentials as so many others who didn’t know better or were simply fooled by him — some of those people who sued him for fraud and personal injury. By the way, it’s Buck Brannaman.

  7. Personally I am very surprised that there have not been many more lawsuits against this man for his fraud and various abuses, although I am sure we’d never hear of them since he tries to “drown” the victims calls for help.

    • Not only does he drown his victims as you say but he tries to pay them off so they don’t go to trial and it won’t be publicized. He’s done that repeatedly, that’s why this article is a breath of fresh air to lay out the truth about unscrupulous Monty!

  8. I have witnessed FIRST HAND what little regard this man has for the very creatures that have afforded him the lifestyle he has.

  9. Having just viewed the documentary “Buck”, I feel Montie Roberts has stolen this man’s life story – from the horribly abusive father to having inspired “The Horse Whisper” and collaborated on the film. I’ve read “the man who listens to horses” and while watching this Documentary about Buck I was wondering when he went from being called Montie to being called Buck – even thought he sure had changed from the photos I had seen. After a while it dawned on me it was a different guy. Being as Buck has Robert Redford attesting to the work he did on the film, and family members supporting his account of his life, I don’t think there is much mystery which man is “telling stories”.

  10. I think there are two sides to everything, and a lot of gray area. Not everybody is going to agree with you or approve of your decisions. I’m sure Monty Roberts, like every other person, has made many mistakes, but hopefully he’s learning from them. It’s always difficult to be in a position of fame or power, not only for the endless criticism one faces in the spotlight, but due to the constant temptations of more power. Regardless of the status of Monty’s integrity, he has indisputably helped a good many people and fostered a love of horses in many people. Good and evil exists in everything and everyone, and I believe every story must be taken with a grain of salt.

    • Sadly, Monty Roberts is not a person who has ever learned from his mistakes because he keeps telling the same lies at the expense of many people. And people have indeed suffered as a result of his lies. He was then and still is only interested in power and fame. OF COURSE the message about treating horses with kindness and respect is a good one, no, a great one, but Monty Roberts has been accused of cruelty to the same animals he professes to love and witnesses will attest to that. The people who believe Monty’s message are people who would have believed it no matter who told it — they love and respect horses and most likely always have.

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