LONDON – In April 1989, Queen Elizabeth II just finished lunch with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who was in England to discuss relations between the Soviet Union and the West. However, the king has another guest to prepare for.
Monty Roberts, a famous American horse trainer, has just arrived in Windsor, England, from his ranch in Solvang, California. Months before, the queen had read articles about Mr. Roberts training techniques, in which the animal is taught to see the rider as a member of its herd, not as an owner. She sent one of her horse trainers to California to observe Mr. Roberts’ methods, and soon afterwards invited him to see her.
Mr Roberts, 87, recalled his visit to see the queen – and their friendship that spanned three decades later – in a later phone interview her death last week at the age of 96.
During that April 1989 trip, Mr Roberts, known as a jockey, demonstrated his techniques to the queen using 23 royal family horses, including one. belongs to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. He recounted that the Empress Dowager was very touched by his work and she cried.
“Then it all started,” Mr. Roberts said, referring to the friendship that developed between him and the queen.
A few weeks after his visit to Windsor Castle, Mr. Roberts, back in California, awoke to a call at 2:30 am. It was the queen, phoning him from London to ask who the name of the English coach he had mentioned was. studied Mr. Roberts’ methods. Mr. Roberts named her Terry Pendry, and she quickly hired him.
Mr Roberts said he began visiting Britain six or seven times a year in hour-long meetings with the queen to advise her on her horse training programme. They mostly meet at her royal residences in Sandringham, in the back rooms of Windsor restaurants or in her Windsor Castle office, “with the coyotes all around us,” he said.
Conversations between the queen and Mr. Roberts sometimes extend beyond the horse. They will discuss ways to improve mental health treatment for veterans. She will ask him for his advice on the problems she is having with her corgis. (For example, barking too much.)
In 2011, the queen appointed Mr. Roberts an honorary member of the Royal Medal of Victory for his service to royalty, queens and racing establishment. The award, photos of Mr Roberts and the queen, and letters from her are on display at his 100-acre ranch, Flag Is Up Farms, which has about 90 horses.
Mr. Roberts said that whenever the queen was near a horse, she felt a sense of calm. On his first trip to Windsor Castle in 1989, Mr Roberts saw a woman in horse riding clothes, beating a horse in a stall and thought she worked in the stables, until the crown said Roberts, “You have to realize this is Queen Elizabeth II. “
Mr. Roberts said: “When the queen is with horses, she is a horseman. “She doesn’t want to be queen.”
Mr. Roberts recalls a day when they rode together. Through the gates of Windsor Castle, a visitor called out to them and said, “Do you work here?” The queen stopped her horse and replied, “Yes, I certainly do,” and he rode with the queen and laughed.
Mr. Roberts recalls saying, “Your Majesty, that woman will never know she spoke to Queen Elizabeth II,” to which the queen replied, “I don’t want people to know when I walk around. Who am I – I just want them to know I love horses. “
The queen’s love for horses began when she was a little princess. She learned how to ride on one Shetland pony named Peggy, which King George V, her grandfather, gave her when she was 4 years old, and over the years she became an avid equestrian. When President Ronald Reagan visited Windsor Castle in 1982, him and the riding queen.
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The Queen, who has her own livestock and racing operations, has attended most of the events Royal Ascot races in England every year starting in 1945 and owning 24 winning horses.
Mr Roberts said the queen never missed one of his calls to discuss her horses. Once, about 15 years ago, when Mr. Roberts called to update her, an aide said the queen was not present because she was on a visit to Northern Ireland.
Then he heard the queen’s voice over the line saying, “Monty, how are you?” He said he replied, “Your Majesty! I heard you were in a meeting in Northern Ireland.” She said, “When your calls come in, I’ll take them no matter what. .”
“Can you imagine how this cowboy felt when that happened?” he say.
Mr Roberts will soon travel to Britain again to visit the queen, this time as one of 2,000 friends and dignitaries at her funeral.
“It was a miracle to meet her,” he said.