San Francisco Chronicle
Roberts' story is more fascinating and profound than any told in fiction.
New York Times Book Review
Riveting and inspirational. . . Will first break, then mend your heart.
Horse and Rider
Fascinating. . .reads like the most thrilling adventure story.
Extraordinary. . .wisdom born of a tough and immensely varied life.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This book is important reading for those interested in communication, particularly interspecies communication and linguistics. Growing up in the late 1940s on his father's horse farm, which also had a rodeo area, Roberts began to develop his revolutionary view of horse behavior in his early teens by observing the wild mustangs in the Nevada high desert. He came to know what a horse was thinking, he claims, by noting the position of its body, head, tongue, ears, legs and tail, as well as the focus of its eyes. He held firm to his insight despite the violent opposition of his father, who felt his son's notion threatened everything he had built his business on, namely that a horse had to be 'broken.' On one occasion, Roberts' father beat him so badly that he had to be hospitalized. But in time, the son scored many successes with horses he had 'started' (trained) rather than 'broke,' and he began to acquire followers. Among them was Queen Elizabeth II, an ardent horsewoman, who witnessed Roberts' demonstrations, became a convert and instituted his system for royal mounts. Roberts, who has worked as a movie stuntman since he was two and performed in rodeos, has 'reformed' many problem animals. How he learned to listen to horses, to communicate nonverbally, is the central feature of his convincing book, which will certainly elicit controversy.
Wash. Post Book World
Quite a story. . .He takes us from the moment he learned to listen to horses through the development of his skill at 'gentling' them.
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 is the co-author. 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.
Read an Excerpt
'It all dates from those summers alone in the high desert, me lying on my belly and watching wild horses with my binoculars for hours at a time. Straining to see in the moonlight, striving to fathom mustang ways, I knew instinctively I had chanced upon something important but could not know that it would shape my life. In 1948 I was a boy of 13 learning the language of horses. . . .' -- From The Man Who Listens to Horses