I WITNESSED SHYBOY AT MONTY’S FARM
by Gretchen Wieder
First I want to apologize if my English is not so good because I am German. But I want to tell about the time I visited friends in California and I went to the Monty Roberts farm that he writes about in his book. It is called Flag is Up. I was very much liking this man who listens to horses. I had read his book and was very impressed with everything he wrote and described and he had such a hard life it seemed to me. But I liked about what he said about horses needing great care and love.
I visited his farm two years ago during the winter. I remember it was very rainy and my friends said they were having a very rainy winter. But on one nice day we visited his farm because they said visitors would be welcome.
We went all around this very lovely place and I got to see the mustang Shyboy that was featured so strongly in Monty Roberts book. I was very surprised to learn and see how tiny this little horse was, like a pony. He was alone in a very small paddock filled with lots of mud and what little hay there was in it was soaked and padded into the mud. We saw two other tiny mustang horses that were all as small as this Shyboy fellow and I learned that these other mustangs were to be Shyboy’s camera stand-ins in case something went wrong with the filming they were doing for Monty Roberts special video that he was selling. They would use these other little horses instead. But as we all know Shyboy was used. Each of these little mustangs were kept in small paddocks all separate from each other, very far apart with big big hedges all around them so that they could not see out at other horses.
I didn’t say anything then but I thought how cruel it was to take these little horses who had only known life in a herd which was their sole comfort and security and put them away from one another so that they could not even see another horse.
There was no shelter in any of the little paddocks. It was filled with mud from the rain and I wondered how the little creatures stayed warm without their herd mates.
I found out that each of these mustangs had been left in these paddocks for a whole year that way.
Then, I looked down at their hooves and all of them had hooves that were so long that the front of them looked like those funny Arabian slippers curled up at the toes. I did mention this to the man showing me around and he said they couldn’t get near any of the horses to trim their feet.
I thought this was strange because the join-up was supposedly taking place with Shyboy and all that he wrote about. The man also told me that none of the horses were worked or exercised or taken out of the paddocks. This is only because I started asking many questions about what they were doing with the horses.
I felt very sorry for these little creatures. They looked scared and wouldn’t come near the gate when called to. They were so small and all alone.
I wondered then how a man who knows so much about horses and says he loves them so much could separate wild mustangs from their herd and not pay any attention to their needs for friendship and comfort from their herd mates. And why didn’t they have any shelter if they weren’t going to have other horses to which to cuddle against for warmth as they do in the wild or even when put together with others in a pasture?
I saw Monty Roberts that day I visited too. He was being followed all around by a group of camera people (video camera I think they said it was for a television show). He seemed not to care what else was going on around his own farm. He was showing them all how he worked with a race horse afraid of a getting into a gate. Monty Roberts himself was not on the horse. Some other man was in the saddle and Monty Roberts was just bellowing orders to him.
I didn’t care about Monty Roberts making his video interview then. All I could think about was the poor little mustangs left all alone in their tiny paddocks for a year and wonder if they are still there all alone and scared.
Then, when his camera people were not looking and he was walking ahead of them, I saw Monty Roberts blow his nose in his hand without benefit of handkerchief. I realized this is a not very refined man. A farm man, yes, but how can such a man have dinner with the Queen of England?
I will always remember Shyboy and those other two nameless mustangs alone, cold, muddy and wet in separate paddocks with no one caring for them, other than to throw hay in over a gate. I was not left with a very good impression of Monty Roberts then and after all I have read about him I know that the impression I received that day was correct. To allow those mustangs to be left in that condition with their feet and their discomfort was high ignorance. I wish they are not still there like that. I just wanted to tell you my experience at the Monty Roberts farm. I know it’s a small experience, but when I read him talk about Shyboy, I find it very sad. He acts like he cares about this little horse. He did not care for him when I was there nor for a long time before that.