THE COWBOY and THE QUEEN at the Santa Barbara Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) has for the past 35 years become one of the leading film festivals in the United States attracting 100,000 attendees, fulfilling their mission to “engage, enrich, and inspire people through the power of film.”

The 39th Santa Barbara International Film Festival February 7 – 17, 2024 will host the documentary THE COWBOY and THE QUEEN February 11 and 12. The film is directed by award winning Andrea Nevins who provides the remarkably authentic story of the 30+ year friendship of two horsepersons who happened to be renowned in their own vocations. Monty Roberts, a California horse trainer now 88 years old shares his life with horses going back to age three, working in Hollywood westerns of the 1940s, coaxing horses to excel in different disciplines in partnership with him. Rejecting his father’s demand to follow the traditional methods of “breaking a horse’s spirit,” Roberts discovered his own gentle approach to human interaction with horses and then set out to win championships.

The stars aligned and Queen Elizabeth II read of Monty’s concepts and called him to demonstrate for her at Windsor Castle in April of 1989 and she was deeply impressed, recognizing that there is a better way. A friendship ensued between the cowboy and the Queen that lasted until her passing. They both inspired others to educate and transform horse training standards worldwide.

The Cowboy and The Queen will be making its West Coast premiere among the festival’s films at the February 11 and 12 screenings of The Cowboy and The Queen. The 30+ year friendship is chronicled beautifully by Director Andrea Nevins, joining Monty for a question and answer session after the screening on the 12th.

Royal Biographer Sally Bedell Smith called the film “…powerful, moving, and enlightening.”


When an old-time California rodeo cowboy discovers a way to train horses non-violently, he is rejected by the traditional horse industry, nearly losing his livelihood, until he meets a most unlikely fairy godmother, Queen Elizabeth II. She challenges him to prove his methods, and by winning her endorsement, she catapults him to world-wide fame. Monty Roberts’ reflections about why their experiences of World War II as children might have fomented a meeting of the minds at mid-life becomes a rumination on authoritarian norms, as well as on the cumulative effects of small acts of kindness on the greater world. Weaving present day footage, exquisite archival, and never-before-seen moments of Her Majesty found in Monty’s cluttered garage, The Cowboy and The Queen is the inspiring, cinematic origin story of a true horse whisperer and his magical, 30-year relationship with the longest reigning monarch.


Andrea Nevins is an Oscar-nominated, Emmy-Award-winning documentary filmmaker with a career-spanning interest in finding hope and humor in the human condition. Her subjects range from punk rockers and professional football players to plastic toy icons, female comedians to iconoclastic cowboys.


“I met rodeo cowboy Monty Roberts while interviewing him for another story entirely. But no matter how hard I tried to divert him that day, he kept going back to his own epic life history. I drove away from his ranch on the central coast of California and realized I was completely captivated. This was the film I wanted to make. It was the middle of the pandemic and a month later I would be diagnosed with breast cancer, but despite the masks and fear and all the slings of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, I knew that if I didn’t capture this 87-year old’s life quickly, I might lose the chance. So I convinced my old crew that we’d ascribe to all COVID health restrictions, and, with my family as my support team, making sure I drank enough water and kept a hat on my balding head, we filmed. One reason I felt so passionately was that I, myself, was longing for some elemental truths. The world had grown politically, environmentally, physically and psychically quite dark. And here was a story of perseverance against the strong winds of a negative prevailing culture. Monty’s iconoclastic, pacifist methods despite a highly authoritarian American Western culture inspired me. And I was struck that it took a woman, a female monarch, to grant him acceptance on a world stage. I loved the fact that these two unlikely allies, people who’d come from seemingly opposite worlds, rodeos and royalty, found common ground, a platform for their beliefs, and an enduring friendship in their shared love of animals. On one of our last days of filming, Graham Clark, who was doing sound, but had become a writer since our last film together, said he saw the roadmap. He saw clearly where the story could go. So we created a virtual editing room and set about making this movie together. We found our deep dive into Monty’s life through his personal archives, as well as the rich public archival material, to be tremendously moving. As we got to really study Monty’s gentle way of using body language and breathing to “talk” with horses, we found the experience, as so many — including many who’ve experienced deep trauma — who’ve seen Monty work, including The Queen, to be quite healing. We are so excited to share this beautiful story of love and respect, cowboys and queens.” Andrea Blaugrund Nevins



The New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned horse trainer Monty Roberts is available for interviews.

 MONTY ROBERTS first gained widespread fame with the release of his New York Times Best Selling book, The Man Who Listens To Horses; a chronicle of his life and development of his non-violent horse training methods called Join-Up®. Monty grew up on a working horse farm as a firsthand witness to traditional, often violent methods of horse training and breaking the spirit with an abusive hand. Rejecting that, he went on to win nine world’s championships in the show ring. Today, Monty’s goal is to share his message that “Violence is never the answer.” Roberts has been encouraged by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with the award of the Membership in The Royal Victorian Order, as well as becoming Patron of Join-Up International. Other honors received were the ASPCA “Founders” award and the MSPCA George T. Angell Humanitarian Award. Monty is credited with launching the first of its kind Equus Online University; an interactive online lesson site that is the definitive learning tool for violence-free training.

 JOIN-UP philosophies can be seen at work with both humans and horses across the world, from farms to major corporations. To learn more about Monty Roberts or the many applications of his Join-Up training methods, visit

Photos available upon request

Media Contact: Debbie Loucks
Monty and Pat Roberts, Inc./Join-Up® International
(949) 632-1856