Make A Change

You’ll never get your horse right until you get yourself right, writes Monty Roberts as he recounts a turning point in his life.

As a younger man I was a competition rider, worked hard, stayed fit and ate a lot. Past injuries started causing pain in my adult life so I significantly reduced my physical activity but my appetite remained in place.

Monty Robert
Monty Robert

One would not believe the list of excuses I utilised to justify my appetite with reduced physical activity. ‘Oh I’m very heavy boned. I really don’t eat that much, but my metabolism has changed. I carry my weight well, and it doesn’t bother me. I am drinking diet beverages now.’ I used all these and more. The facts will show that I was obese and my horses told me so.

In the racing industry there is a category called the handicap division. Races within this segment provide for the horses to run with various weight assignments that they are to carry on their backs. I have heard world class trainers scream to high heaven when an official assigns two or three more pounds to their horse than they believe appropriate given the competition for the day. It is the goal of the official handicapper to apply weight to the runners in an attempt to cause each horse to reach the finish line at the same time. This method significantly increases the gambling potential on the race. Typically, the race official works with approximately 10 to 12 pounds (5.44kg) in this effort. One might ask, ‘Is a horse really that sensitive?’ They are. Over centuries racing people have come to know that as little as two or three pounds can make a huge difference. It is my intention to bring several factors to mind that will cause readers to reconsider any preconceived notions as to weight and the effects of it on horses and humans. I have not always been a good role model when it comes to body weight but good sense and certain individuals in my life have encouraged me to make a change.

Would you believe that my life insurance was more expensive at age 63 than what it is today at age 76? Why do you think that is? It’s because the computers at the various medical offices in charge of examining me concluded that I have a better chance to live through the span of my policy then I did 13 years ago. The medical community is overwhelmingly impressed with this outcome. The significant change I made was in diet. I can drink anything I want and as much as I want so long as it’s water. No alcohol, fruit juice or sweet drinks, only water. My diet consists of steamed, boiled or raw green vegetables (as well as tomatoes and onions), brown rice, and white chicken or white fish (spices and seasonings are OK). That’s it, three times a day, seven days a week, with the only snacks being cashews or almonds.

The doctors told me to eat this food with a significant amount of water. To me, this constituted a soup, or some might call it a stew. Each meal consists of approximately one litre of these ingredients. That’s a lot of food, which means I’m eating like a horse!

Love is a wonderful thing, and I firmly believe that each of us must begin with loving ourselves. Many horsemen like the Dorrance brothers and Ray Hunt expressed the theme, ‘You’ll never get your horse right until you get yourself right.’ I whole heartedly agree with this statement. I also believe that we will never get ourselves right until we succeed in liking ourselves. Once we love ourselves we open the door to loving not only the people closest to us but our horses as well. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones and our horses to maintain health to the fullest extent possible so that we assist our bodies to remain vital for the maximum amount of time. It is not only length of life that should concern us but the quality of life as well.

The horses that I ride now (and I certainly ride more than I did when I was overweight) like me better and perform far more generously than when they carried that extra 75 or 80 pounds. I feel sure that I did my body significant damage with years of obesity. I am just as sure that I am adding time to my existence since coming to my senses and choosing a better quality life. The joy that I feel for having made this decision should encourage every reader to think hard on their goals for life and certainly the best interest of their horses if they are a rider. I am working harder than I’ve ever worked in my 76 years, but I don’t consider it work. I am having more fun than I have ever had as well. I love what I do and this means that I never have to ‘work’ another day in my life.

RidingMonty Roberts