“In this particular discipline, if you want to be great you have to be a sensitive person. That’s why so many of the people that are good at this are sometimes tortured souls,” is how one person describes the true American Cowboy and philosophical horseman Buck Brannanam. Brannanam is the subject of Cindy Meehl’s documentary “BUCK,” a visually stimulating and touching film that offers an alternative approach to horse and human relationships.
Meel follows Brannanam as for a year on the road as he host clinics for humans and their horses. He is the basis for the book, “The Horse Whisperer,” and proved it even more so while consulting on the film version, directed by Robert Redford.
The film is a story about redemption. Under a highly abusive father, he started doing trick roping as a kid, and has since been training horses for the past 30 years. Having had a troubled childhood, Buck transformed those experiences as a young boy into an incredibly gentle, passionate man. His patience and understanding, for both humans and horses reaches far beyond just the typical horse lover. It is a story of forgiveness and compassion, which moves the viewer to a better space in how they experience horses, and themselves. Nowadays, he can do more with an ornery horse in a few minutes than most of us could in a month.
Buck doesn’t approach training as “breaking” a horse, but as “starting” one. The film shows how instead of installing fear, he teaches (the humans) how to empathize with a horse, approaching it from it’s perspective on them as a trainer. In his a quintessential Western mountain drawl he says, “A lot of times, rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.” He came about this method by spending years observing the teachings of Ray Hunt – one of the founders of the natural horsemanship movement – who greatly affected Buck’s unique style and beliefs behind how horses and people relate.
Most of the voices in the documentary are the people whose lives Buck has influenced, if not changed. One of the greatest lines in the film is from Gary Meyers, a ranch owner who appears in the film states, “God had him in mind when he made a cowboy.” After shooting the film and the entire buzz around it, being a cowboy in the saddle is exactly what he wanted to do. Our feelings are more than mutal here at Black Mountain Ranch. Saddle up, cowboy!