Monday, August 24, 2015


As you may know I work for a horse publication, but don't have any real horse experience.  Except I love watching them.  My favourite has been at Cavalia which amazes one how horses are capable of performing at such a high level.  When you look at horses you realize they could easily hurt you without meaning to.  As a youngster I had watched a throrobred race at the rails and honestly although exciting it also frightened me.  Rodeos draw attention by demonstrating how violent some horses can be.

"Buck" was recommended to me by a contact in the course of working for The Rider.   She thought the movie presented one of the best horse trainers and someone she admired.  I am grateful she was strong in her praise and fortunately it was readily available.

One of Buck Branaman's comments was that his role was really dealing with the problems horses have with people.  Most people do not really understand horses and tend to work under the premise that fear (and reward) is what motivates the horse.  This in fact results in a lot of resistance from the horse.

Buck grew up with an abusive father.  He and his older brother were trained as trick ropers and earned money as entertainers.  The two even appeared on a tv show, but more commonly at live shows.  They endured regular beatings and after their mother died the beatings got worse.  Eventually they were given to foster parents who succeeded in changing their lives for the better.

His foster father encouraged young Buck to learn how to fix horseshoes.  Buck advanced his horse education and as a young man pretty much thought he knew it all.  He encountered Ray Hunt, a horse trainer with a different philosophy which was more to work with the horse instead of creating fear.  At first Buck was skeptical, but found himself attending Ray's clinics as often as possible and at one point working with him.

A phrase Buck uses was "starting" a horse instead of the much more common "breaking" a horse.  Instead of breaking the willpower of horse they found ways to work more gently.  He pointed out you can use force to make a horse understand what you want, but it is far better to develop a "soft touch."

I had read the book and seen the movie, The Horse Whisperer and was fascinated with the training methods.  Robert Redford called in a bunch of horse experts including Buck Branaman.  One of the most impressive scenes of the movie was when Robert Redford first confronted a violent horse and exercised some control almost immediately.  As part of "Buck"  Robert explained that they had wasted a whole day trying to do that scene with Hollywood horses.  They were reluctant to take Buck's advice on what they considered a technical problem.  Nonetheless using a few minutes of their time Buck proved he understood the problem better.  There was mutual respect between the two men.

Although Buck was on the road giving horse clinics across North America for about nine months of the year he had good relations with his wife and daughters.  His wife joined him on the road when possible and his daughters actually took part in some of his clinics during their summer breaks.

Much of his advice was pertinent to human relations.  Horses are a very unique wonderful animal, but I suggest anyone could benefit from watching this movie as well just enjoying it.  Horses can teach us a lot.

Cavalia really did leave a strong impression:

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