You may have seen the movie – “Buck” — a documentary about the real-life “horse whisperer” and the cowboy trainer Dan (Buck) Brannaman. Or perhaps you saw the 1998 movie that was directed by and starred Robert Redford, The Horse Whisperer. Buck Brannaman didn’t act in the movie but he served as a consultant and technical advisor.
This past Monday, my daughter and I went to the last day of the real Buck Brannaman’s four-day training clinic at an indoor arena in Hollister, California. The clinic was held at a wonderful training center called Gilroy Gaits. Buck’s calm demeanor and his patient approach to his students was very impressive. He frequently mentioned his mentors, Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt.
As we watched him work his horse under saddle, it was obvious that he is a master horseman. About 30 students warmed up their horses in the arena before Buck came in on his horse. Then they gave him space so he could warm up his chestnut. The spectators also quieted down, waiting for him to start the afternoon’s program.
He asked the participants if they had questions. He answered all of them and then went on to direct the afternoon’s lesson. On this last day, he worked on having the riders ask their horses to bend around the their legs, forward and backward, right and left. He asked the riders to soften their hands so they could better communicate with their horses. One of the things he wanted the riders to do was to regulate the speed of their horse’s walking pace. This would allow them to work the trot and canter better. He also talked about the importance for a rider to know which lead their horse is on. He said that many cowboys don’t realize why this is important.
Imagine following a steer at a canter on the left lead. The steer breaks right. If the horse doesn’t change leads, he could fall, especially in the winter when the ground is frozen.
Interestingly enough, this happened to Buck many years ago. Buck Brannaman is an amazing man. It was obvious that the participants were learning a lot from him.
If you get a chance to take his clinic or attend a clinic as an observer, do it. You won’t be disappointed.