A Calm Approach to Horsemanship

By Beacon Staff

Buck Brannaman can’t wait to get back to being himself.

Phone interviews, film premieres and television appearances have been the norm recently for Brannaman, a Montana native who is the focus of the new critically acclaimed documentary “Buck.”

Directed by Cindy Meehl, the film follows Brannaman as he travels the country giving clinics about his unique method of natural horsemanship, which works with the animal, rather than against it. While many people come to the clinics to learn more about their horses, Brannaman said that most leave learning more about themselves and that horses are a mirror image of their owner. That relationship between horses and humans is a major part of the movie and Brannaman’s life.

Brannaman said he has been around horses his entire life and started to learn the concept of natural horsemanship from one of its founders Ray Hunt.

“Ray Hunt could do more in six minutes than some people could do in six months,” Brannaman said.

In years past people used to “break” horses by using threatening training techniques, but Brannaman said that, like people, horses can’t learn that way. Brannaman uses a calm approach that makes the horse feel safe and secure.

It is a technique that has become the basis for all the training at the McGinnis Meadows Guest Ranch in Libby, according to owner Shayne Jackson.

“The whole idea of this style of horsemanship is that it’s so simple, it’s complicated,” Jackson said.

Jackson has known Brannaman for 15 years and often travels with the trainer for his clinics, calling himself the “student that followed the hardest.” He said Brannaman’s approachable personality is what has led to his success.

“He has an ability to connect with people and horses,” Jackson said, “but at the end of the day, he’s an average guy.”

Jackson said that the idea to film a documentary about Brannaman first surfaced during a clinic on the McGinnis Meadows Ranch. During lunch one afternoon Meehl, who was attending the clinic, approached Brannaman about the idea. He agreed, thinking that it could bring awareness to his craft by being screened locally, perhaps even making it on to PBS.

Little did he know that it would find huge success when the film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Since then Buck has hit the road to help promote the film as it opens in theaters. Last week he was in Houston, Dallas and New York, where he was a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman. It’s a long way from the ranch life he is accustomed to in the West, either at home in Sheridan, Wyo., or in Montana’s Madison Valley, where he grew up. But according to friends like Jackson, this newfound attention won’t change Brannaman.

“Fame won’t change who he is,” Jackson said. “When the dust settles he’ll still be rolling down the road. This isn’t going to change anything.”

Brannaman agreed, saying that this is only a temporary diversion and that he looks forward to getting back to what he does best: helping horses and people.

“I’m not delusional about any of this,” he said. “In a few months this will have run its course and I’ll be back to being me.”

Buck is now playing at Stadium 14 Cinema on Hutton Ranch Road in Kalispell. For more information about show times or the movie itself visit www.buckthefilm.com.

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