IT was an unlikely relationship that spanned across continents for decades – the Queen and the cowboy.
Californian ‘horse whisperer’ Monty Roberts had “an extremely close relationship” with the late monarch that lasted 33 years, and he was even invited to her funeral.
Monty Roberts met Queen Elizabeth II on countless occasions
The Californian cowboy’s work caught the eye of the monarch
They first met in 1989, when Queen Elizabeth II invited him to Windsor Castle to analyse how he made racehorses rideable without using violence.
At the time, many experts questioned Monty’s work but after he trained 23 of Her Majesty’s animals without “breaking” them, she was in awe and even offered to pay for him to write a book.
It was the beginning of a friendship that led to 200 meetings, visits to Sandringham and Monty even receiving a Royal Victorian Order for his services in 2011.
Their connection was so significant that the self-styled cowboy, 87, stood alongside world leaders, courtiers and close friends at the Queen’s funeral in September.
Monty told HOAR: “I think I was the only US citizen in Windsor Castle at the final session.
“I kept telling myself, ‘You can’t cry, The Queen would not want you to cry’… the Queen and I talked about crying, among various things, and she was not one to cry.
“Nobody on the face of this earth loved the Queen of England more than I did and I don’t care who you mention, not more than I did.
“It was the deepest kind of love anyone could ever imagine and nothing to do with typical love, but deep abiding, respectful love.”
Future of royal horses
Monty and his wife when they attended the Queen’s funeral in September
The Queen’s last ‘favourite’ horse was Emma, who appeared at the monarch’s funeral
Since the Queen’s passing, many have questioned what will happen to the remainder of the royal’s racehorses after 14 were auctioned off by King Charles for over £1million.
Monty was not surprised by the decision to sell some of them, explaining that His Majesty “liked” the animals but was never as invested as his mother.
He said: “I felt pretty sure that Camilla and King Charles would walk away from a lot of the complications of the huge breeding operation that the Queen managed to have.
“It’s kind of sad but I don’t believe that Charles is going to do anything that’s negative for these horses… that’s their business.”
While Prince Philip and Charles were more into polo, Monty says the Queen “was into horses upside down and backward and all the way through to the middle”.
He insists she had no one favourite but did have a soft spot for one family of American Paint Horses – identifiable by their colourful splodges and often seen in cowboy films.
“Over the years, there was one favourite after another and her last favourite [Emma] was that pony that stood at her funeral with her scarf over the saddle,” Monty explained.
“That was her little pony, now it was easier for her to get on and off and she rode her in the weeks before she died!”
Royals’ undercover mission
Monty is known as ‘The Horse Whisperer’ due to being able to train the animals without violence
Monty on his ranch back in 1997
Monty came on to the Queen’s radar after reading articles about his work in Equine magazines.
His technique focuses on equine psychology and behaviour rather than riding skills as well as non-verbal language, which he calls ‘Equus’.
It’s reported that Monty uses movement and sounds to drive the horse around the perimeter of the pen, which allows the animal to trust the trainer.
He says the monarch’s equerry, Sir John Miller, dismissed his techniques as “hogwash” and insisted “it cannot be done” and “the guy is tricking people”.
The Queen sent him undercover to California in 1988 to observe Monty’s work and after watching two horses being trained he was still in doubt.
The trainer recalled: “He asked to pick one out of the fields himself and for me to do that one. I agreed and it actually was the best one of the day.”
By April the following year, he was in Windsor Castle upon the Queen’s request and she watched as he trained the first of her 23 horses in 26 minutes.
After watching him from “a soundproof booth”, the Queen Mother was sent down with some of her attendants to ride one of the animals.
Monty recalled: “She had tears streaming down her face and I put my hands out to sort of console her and then I realised that I wasn’t to touch her and the fellows stiffened a bit and I backed away.”
Monty is believed to have met the Queen as many as 200 times
She awarded him with the Royal Victorian Order for his services in 2011
Monty eventually trained all 23 racehorses in five days, but there was still scepticism among the “dozens and dozens of friends, relatives and military people” watching.
He says he was accused of working on the animals at night in the field or covertly using a tranquilising powder – but the Queen shot down the rumours.
Monty recalled: “She said, ‘My word, if there’s some powder that you could put in your pocket, hook it with your thumb and blow it up the horse’s nose and they just go tranquil and the horse weighs 1,200 pounds, what would it do to him?’ And the fellow couldn’t answer that.
“She said she was a bit angry then because there were quite a few people saying, ‘It’s not real, there’s something going on here, he’s done something’.
“I don’t blame them for that because it’s 6,000 years that we dealt with horses by beating them half to death and calling it ‘breaking the horse.’”
Later, he was invited to lunch with the late monarch and Prince Philip, when she “shook her finger” at the American and told him: “This has to have a book.”
Monty claims the Queen wanted him to “take it out to the world” and explained, “if you need expense money to go, you can have it”.
His subsequent autobiography, The Man Who Listens to Horses, sold in 41 countries around the world.
‘Animals loved the Queen’
Queen Elizabeth fell in love with horseriding during WW2
Monty maintained a friendship with the Queen, who he has several letters from as well as gifts including corkscrews saved from the Windsor Castle fire.
He also says he visited Sandringham “every year for dozens and dozens of years”.
“I don’t believe that anybody in the horse industry was closer to Queen Elizabeth II than me and to lose her has been very, very hard,” Monty said.
Reflecting on the Queen’s love for animals he said: “The corgies and all other animals, would come to meet her every time she walked through the stable.
“They could sense her understanding of animals and her love for animals.”
He claims to have been so close to the Queen that he noticed her personality change considerably during the last year of her life.
He said: “There was no question she was a different lady after Prince Philip was gone.”
Queen and the cowboy
Despite the work Monty carried out for the Queen, he says some royals – who he would not name – distanced the monarch from his work.
“‘He is no friend of my grandmothers’ and ‘He is no friend of our family’, has been used time and time again,” he explained.
“I don’t want to blame those people for that… it’s a natural thing for the Royal Family to say, ‘What? The Queen has taken in a cowboy for crying out loud? We can’t have that!’”
Monty claims the relationship and his life story is being adapted into a film with the proposed title The Cowboy And The Queen.
It will focus on the difficulties he faced as a child at the hands of his abusive father, who he says regularly broke his bones.
Now 87, Monty is reflecting on his life and hopes to be reunited with the Queen one day.
He said: “If there is a heaven, there is a God and I’ve earned my right to go there, I’ll see her again and that love will exist in perpetuity.”