Some years ago I went on a week’s intensive course all about horse body language (no, really, I did). The course was run by the fascinating Intelligent Horsemanship organisation under Kelly Marks, the UK’s first lady and star pupil of American equine guru Monty Roberts. Monty Roberts was raised in the brutal ways of the old cowboys, in which horse-breaking often resulted in the violent death of the animal.
Roberts was revolted by it and set about studying the wild Mustang herds in the US. He realised these highly sociable animals have a system of body language-based communication which humans can imitate and, using his new system, he was able to create a method of horsemanship which was 100% non-violent and practically 100% successful in breaking horses in. He took his concepts further and made a truly holistic system by which he can pretty much literally talk to horses. He can help them overcome irrational fears (trauma association), rational fears (abuse) and much more. It is amazing to watch.
Roberts took his system around the world and Kelly Marks, along with some others, founded Intelligent Horsemanship to promote his revolutionary practices. I believe he has even worked with the Queen’s own horses.
Off the back of the massively successful and ironically brutally violent Nicholas Evans novel ‘The Horse Whisperer‘, and the subsequent Robert Redford film of the same name, Monty Roberts was often referred to as the ‘real-life horsewhisperer.’ The title of Whisperer was referred to in publications by people associated with Intelligent Horsemanship, though none of them claimed the title of Whisperer for themselves. Neither did Monty Roberts, who only alluded to it in the title of his own book The Man who listens to Horses.
So far, so good. All are sufficienty equine, so are at least related to the ancient and mystical practice of horse-whispering. Then came the immitators and people seemingly unaware of the word ‘crass’.
I present to you a host of animal-related ‘Whisperers’. Think of an animal and there is probably someone claiming to be able to talk to them. I have ranked them in order of potential credability, with the least unbelievable or least laughable first:
I find it very interesting that the person who pioneered a revolutionary system of human-animal communication is reluctant to take the title of Whisperer. Yet, thanks to the Robert Redford film, the word has sufficient cultural cache to sell a host of questionable books with amusing titles.
Such is the power of a word, abused and over-used as this one is.
Other notable over-uses and abuses of the word are these:
and finally, The Cornish Cake Whisperer
Edited to add:
There are a few examples of acceptable uses:
The Baby Whisperer – acceptable because this system is demonstrably successful.
The Lion Whisperer – because Milton Jones is a comedian and might agree with me about some of the above.
The Dog Listener – not ‘Whisperer’, because the author studied under Monty Roberts and shares his respectful attitude. Her system is also demonstrably successful.