Debra Ann Ristau & Joyce Renebome
(February 22, 2000)
Monty Roberts recently made a statement regarding Horse Whispers & Lies on his website. It is a forty-six-page document addressing ten issues.
1. Did Monty’s Father beat him?
2. Did Monty’s Father Abuse Horses?
3. Did Monty attack Gilbert Lucero?
4. Did Monty fabricate the story involving Lyman Fowler?
5. Did Monty exaggerate his college football abilities?
6. Did Monty fabricate his experience with Don Dodge?
7. Did Monty fabricate his story about Barlet?
8. Did Monty lie about raising foster children?
9. Did Joyce Renebome’s daughter accurately describe her mother as having “gone off the deep end,” and have they both lost touch with reality?
10. Did Monty fabricate his story about James Dean?
This won’t take 46 pages:
Monty insists his father beat him ‘just like he beat the horses.’ He offers questionable testimony from questionable sources and excerpts from his father’s book that have nothing to do with starting a horse. He wisely does not address the issue of Shy Boy nor his supposed weeks observing wild mustangs.
Monty’s continued affirmation of abuse by his father is an integral part of his persona and of the program he sells. He must rebut this issue as best he can or lose favor with his followers. Specifically, the benefactors of his Learning Centers might stop funding if not convinced of Monty’s integrity. After that Monty defends his gross exaggerations rather than his outright lies.
Questionable Testimony and Sources:
Monty quotes two people in his prepared response. Gilbert Lucero, who went to school with both Monty and his brother Larry, and a woman named Dawn Beatty, who says she had a friend who boarded horses at the Roberts stable. Monty also offers statements from Donald Roberts, Penny Schoner, Merv Leckbee, and John Strong.
We offer the following information about Monty’s witnesses and statements.
1. Gilbert Lucero: Monty sent Gilbert a personal invitation and VIP pass to his demonstration in 1998. Following Monty’s preferential treatment and VIP recognition, Gilbert recalled that Monty’s father was abusive to horses. After reading HW&L, Gilbert says he doesn’t remember Monty throwing a hay hook at him. Three witnesses independently referred to the incident as an example of Monty’s temper.
2. Dawn Beatty: We have yet to find anyone who knew or saw this woman in Salinas. Her friend is just as elusive. None of the people who were at the stables on a regular, daily basis knows who she is or who her friend was. We ask her to call 1-877- 806-4819 to share her memories.
3. Donald Roberts: Donald Roberts was also invited to attend one of Monty’s demonstrations. Donald suffered a stroke that has left him disabled. Through his tears he told family members that Monty offered to help pay his rising bills… Monty also asked Donald to write a letter… In the letter Donald says he saw Monty ‘spanked with a belt and sent to the car’ for misbehaving.
4. Penny Schoner: This woman says she she didn’t know Monty, but overheard people say his father pushed him to excel. She says she heard people refer disgustedly to Monty’s father having beaten Monty because Monty would not use his father’s training methods. She says she heard his father hobbled and whip-broke green horses. Schoner adds that her college roommate in the early 1950’s attended clinics put on by Monty in Salinas. Schoner says that Monty told her roommate that his father beat him.
a. Monty didn’t put on clinics in Salinas in the early 1950’s.
b. There is no direct knowledge in this letter to corroborate Monty’s accusations.
Why can’t Monty find someone who was around him almost every day of his life to corroborate his accusations? There are hundreds from which he could choose . . . if he were telling the truth.
5. Merv Leckbee: This man writes in prose that is totally inconsistent with his speech pattern. It is nearly incomprehensible for anyone who has met Merv Leckbee to believe he authored the statement on Monty’s website. However, if he is believed, Leckbee states only that he saw horses tied to a big post in a pen, with their front leg tied up. He says that while he never saw Marvin lay a hand on Monty, he heard a lot of screaming and cussing and implies it was Marvin. Marvin was notorious for his quiet demeanor.
6. Betty Dolan Kent: Monty says he doesn’t remember this woman. We contend that Monty’s denial of any memory of Betty Kent is further proof that his memory is either not reliable or one of convenience. Betty’s scrapbooks are filled with rodeo programs, photos of herself and Monty, newspaper clippings, and ticket stubs from events she attended with the Roberts family. Her scrapbooks are like giant diaries – filled with notations about the events of her life. The Roberts family features prominently on many pages.
7. John A. Strong: This man makes harsh statements and claims Marvin abused horses and people. He says Marvin’s horses “worked out of fear and pain and would be dangerous the rest of their lives.” This is nonsense and everyone who ever had Marvin train a horse, or watched Marvin train a horse, knows it!
8. Lyman Fowler: There is little we can say regarding Monty’s letter from Mr. and Mrs. Lyman Fowler. We interviewed Kent Fowler, who signed a statement of truth, regarding the words and feelings of his aged father, Lyman. Monty offers discrepancies in his story regarding Mr. Fowler and that is the reason it was mentioned at all. We stand by our sworn statement from Lyman’s son and believe it to be reliable. We also believe the elderly Mr. and Mrs. Fowler were happy for Monty’s success.
9. Monty’s Football Career: Monty devotes three-and-one-half pages to prove he played football at Hartnell Jr. College as more than a bench warmer. We don’t disagree. We even agree that he had some shining moments on the field. Our point is – Monty did not get a full-ride football scholarship. Our point is – he lied. In three-and-one-half pages of defense, Monty doesn’t mention the scholarship.
10 Joyce Renebome: Monty states that “Joyce said that she would lie, cheat, steal or do anything that she could to destroy me.” This is wholly untrue. Joyce wants Monty to stop saying he was abused and to stop saying that Marvin abused horses and others. These are false statements that Monty makes about Joyce and his parents. Joyce’s determination has never been to destroy Monty. Her determination has been to restore honor to the names of Marvin and Marguerite. She believes she can do that by showing that Monty lied.
11. Don Dodge: Monty says he thinks we misquoted Don. We didn’t. Pat Roberts says that Joyce said Monty didn’t know Don. Well that’s not true at all. We know very well that Don and Monty knew each other. We said that according to Don, Monty did not work for him like Monty says that he did. According to Don, Monty lied about that.
12. Leon Harrel: This horse trainer speaks highly of Monty and ill of Monty’s family. He says he believes Monty told the truth. He talks about Monty being a champion rider and trainer. He mentions Monty’s champion horses, Johnny Tivio and Night Mist. He doesn’t say that Johnny Tivio was trained by Harry Rose and Night Mist was trained by Johnny Brazil. He doesn’t speak with any personal knowledge of Monty’s private life. It appears he believes Monty because Monty says it is so.
13. Billy Patrick: This man suffered a serious head injury many years ago. His speech is labored and he is severely disabled. When we interviewed Billy on November 2, 1997, his mother told us Billy’s memory was not reliable. She was surprised that we wanted to talk to him. She asked us to understand that he was not the same man he used to be.
Billy was excited at the mention of Monty Roberts. He told us he had been to Monty’s demonstration and that Monty was very nice to him. He told us they talked about Monty showing a horse for Don Dodge. Billy said that Don had wanted Billy to show that horse, but since Billy got hurt and couldn’t ride, Monty showed instead.
Don Dodge confirmed that Monty showed a horse for him. But Don also said that, “Billy Patrick was a stable hand. He cleaned stalls and exercised horses. Billy didn’t show and I would never have let him show a horse for me.”
Throughout our interview with Billy he was unable to confirm or deny that Monty worked for Don Dodge. When pressed, Billy insisted only that Monty was nice to him. He repeated that it was he, Billy, who had worked for Don. “Monty showed horses,” he insisted.
The interviews included in Horse Whispers & Lies came from individuals competent to sign a reliable statement of truth.
14. Linda Griffin: By her own testimony, Linda was a “kid” staying with Monty and Pat from 1961 though 1964. She writes that Monty showed Barlet for Martin Clark and that he won with him. No one ever denied this. Clark claims Monty is the one who caused Barlet’s behavior problems. If Linda was a “kid,” we question her knowledge of how Barlet’s behavior problems came about. She offers a speculation that has nothing to do with knowledge.
15. Foster Children: Linda Griffen says she was one of their “kids. Bruno DeBerdt said he was not a foster child, but now claims that he was. Both stayed with Monty and Pat and rode horses. Bruno was paid. Monty says that each of his foster children had cause to falter and that most came from dysfunctional families. Bruno didn’t. He wanted to be a jockey and went to Monty’s to ride. We wrote that a former school official could not recall any foster children enrolled by Roberts. That official recently clarified his statement to say he didn’t know the children who lived at the farm and were enrolled in the work experience program were considered ‘foster’ children. Our questions remain the same:
1. Were these ‘foster’ children or students learning to become jockeys and horse trainers?
2. Were these ‘foster’ children or cheap labor?
3. Were these ‘foster’ children or ‘exploited’ children?
(The work experience program offered through local high schools provides employers with inexpensive labor for on-the-job training.)
16. Cheri Little: Monty shares private letters written by Cheri. Arranged to appear that she can’t make up her mind, he suggests she lost touch with reality. Rather than discuss the reason for Cheri’s changing sentiment toward Monty, his analysis of her message is focused on an accident involving Cheri’s daughter. Neither Cheri nor the authors suggest that Crystal Little was injured using Monty’s techniques. She was injured because her horse got scared, threw her to the ground, and stepped on her face. It happened that the horse had never been sacked out. Cheri felt the purchased gelding was not properly started. He was afraid of noise and fluttering objects. His training, or lack of it, had nothing to do with Monty.
Cheri struggled with her feelings. She didn’t believe that her beloved Uncle Marvin was the man Monty described. But Monty pulled at her heart. She ached to think Monty had lied. She wrote with love in her heart as she tried to understand how he could say such things if they were not true. She didn’t judge. She had a barn full of horses and tried Monty’s training methods. Her reward was instant gratification. She shared her success in another letter to Monty. Those were written in 1996 and 1997.
By the Spring of 1998, Cheri was tormented with conflicting emotions regarding Monty Roberts. By that time she was aware that her relatives and people from Salinas were saying Monty was not abused. She chose to remain non-judgmental. She loved her cousin and didn’t want to jeopardize her relationship with him. She worried that her mother was overly concerned with the reputation of Marvin and Marguerite. She reasoned that Marvin and Marguerite were dead and nothing was going to bring them back.
A few months later Cheri wrote to Monty again. Her tone changed from love and respect to frustration and anger. Why?
Monty wants you to believe she ‘lost touch with reality.’ We contend that perhaps she finally faced reality.
After months of saying Monty’s lies should be ignored, Cheri realized that the truth did matter. She realized that people had a right to know the truth about Monty, his videos, and demonstrations. Cheri took him off the pedestal on which she had placed him. She looked to her heart and found the courage to stand against Monty. She was frustrated and angry with her cousin.
Cheri did not imply that Monty’s training methods were the cause of Crystal’s accident. We shared her story because it directs attention to the potential dangers faced by anyone not riding a well-mannered and well-trained horse. Marvin trained horses for riders like Crystal.
17. Did Cheri or Joyce lose touch with reality?: Cheri was tormented. She wanted her mother to stop defending Marvin and Marguerite. She wanted Monty to stop saying Marvin abused him and the horses. She wanted happiness to return. Joyce wanted to share the truth about Marvin and Marguerite. Sharing the truth meant telling the world that Monty lied about the character of his parents. Most people could not believe he would lie about that. That is why we interviewed, questioned, and documented so many avenues of his life. It shows the pattern of his personality.
18. James Dean: Marjorie Burden’s letter does not state that James Dean lived with Monty prior to filming East of Eden. Monty cites the book, “James Dean, Little Boy Lost” to verify an association with Dean. The author of that book says Monty was, “four years Jimmy’s senior and already the veteran of about ninety films.” In actuality, Monty had just turned 19. All information regarding Monty and James Dean came from Monty Roberts. An East of Eden co-star was questioned and remains ready to testify that Dean never lived with Monty.
19. Reliable, verifiable, undeniable resources: The many interviews and statements included in HW&L are from people who were close to Monty and /or his parents. With a deluge of contributors to defend the honor of Marvin and Marguerite we let a few voices speak for the multitude. These are the people who lived in the Roberts household, were with them on a daily basis, and who have direct knowledge of the issues they address. A signed statement of truth accompanies every interview and testament.
A Final Statement:
Joyce Renebome asked Monty to stop saying he was abused and to stop saying his father was cruel to horses. Joyce never, ever, ever, threatened Monty.
It has been an arduous journey to defend the good name of Marvin and Marguerite Roberts. Progress has been both monumental and minuscule. We would sincerely like to thank the many, many people who helped along the way. We may never get the message to everyone, but we have given it a valiant effort and feel that Marvin and Marguerite would be pleased to know how many people loved them enough to care.
This journey was not made without learning tremendous lessons along the way.
There are a very few copies of HORSE WHISPERS & LIES left in our inventory. A condensed version will be available over the internet this Spring. We thank everyone who cared and wish you the best. If you want to have another reunion, let us know.
Please remember to send your contribution to Joanne Church Taylor Johnson for the Red Pony Memorial at the National Steinbeck Center.