Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Buck" Wins Audience Award at Sundance

A documentary about legendary horseman Buck Brannaman won the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival. According to Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog, the film has been picked up for distribution in North America. I plan on being the first person I know to see this film.

I am dead serious when I say that Buck Brannaman changed and probably saved my life. In the very least, he saved my relationship with Jazz, my 11 -year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred. When people ask which "natural horsemen" I study, I reply that I learn something from watching everybody, even the BS'ers, but whenever Buck Brannaman opens his mouth, I stop and listen.

In my view, Brannaman's approach demonstrates that most of the "natural horseman" stuff is a marketing phenomenon. The best trainers, such as Brannaman, simply practice "horsemanship." I wouldn't even call him a "horse whisperer" — he transcends the cowboy/horse trainer paradigm, by being an effective translator, a voice, for the horse.

There's a poignant moment in the trailer where he tells a the owner of an aggressive palomino, "This horse tells me quite a bit about you." Brannaman's observation is backed up in another scene where the same horse is driving his owner off by charging the edge of a round pen. [Translation: "I'm done putting up with you and your emotional baggage. Come back when you are ready to get your own sh*t together."] The good news is that horses always forgive us, even when we fail miserably, and that much of Brannaman's life work has been more about rehabilitating humans than training horses.