Horse Whisperer Buck Brannaman Talks About Being the Subject of a Sundance Award-winning Doc

Veteran Interviewer and Pop Culture Chronicler
Posted: 06/19/11 03:10 PM ET

Legendary horse whisperer Dan M. “Buck” Brannaman considers himself lucky despite the hard life he endured as a kid. He found a calling that some might call mumbo jumbo, but to a vast number of horse owners, trainers and grooms, he expresses an uncanny skill at natural horsemanship. Read complete interview

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  1. Brenda York says

    Great film! Read both of the books and this film does not disappoint, in fact it is something all people should see not only us, the horsey set, but others. Great job! And what an inspiration Buck is, whether he wants to be or not.

  2. Does anyone know how Bucks brother turned out?

    • pammiles says

      Thanks for your interest in our film.

      Smokie wasn’t in the movie as he wasn’t at any of the clinics while we were filming. He had a successful career in the Coast Guard, and his children have all grown up and moved into their own places… his foster Mom, Betsy Shirley, talks about Smokie in the DVD version of the film, which we expect to be released sometime in the Fall.

      Buck and Smokie’s dad continued to haunt them with his abusiveness from afar in letters as the boys grew up at the Shirley’s until Johnny France, the sheriff, ran him off and out of the area. Buck wrote him a letter saying he didn’t hate his dad, and he died a few years later. You can find out a lot more detail about Buck’s life by reading his book “The Faraway Horses”.

      The film was intended to focus on Buck and his amazing ability to overcome a tremendously difficult childhood and to highlight his words of wisdom that apply to natural horsemanship as well as life lessons that anyone can be of benefit to anyone. There are 298 hours of footage that didn’t make it into the film – we decided to hone in on an inspiring message – and leave people in a hopeful spirit.

      Thanks again!
      executive assistant to Cindy Meehl
      All the best,

      Cedar Creek Productions LLC

      “Like” Buck the Film on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@Buckthefilm)
      and of course to be first to hear about the theatrical release of the film, by joining our mailing list via the Cedar Creek Media website!

  3. Wonderful, moving and startling film. It brings back memories of my co-facilitating EEL (Equine Experiential Learning) workshops in Longmont, Colorado from 2004-2006. My workshop partner Bonnie (now deceased—formerly of—site still up) would mediate a non-verbal human and horse interaction: that of mutually sensing one another with a person standing still, facing the horse. During this time, the horse would physically act-out the precise emotional issue of the respective person. We had some stunning experiences.

    As a synesthete and artist /illustrator, (I see color and form around sentient creatures, prompted by a creature’s shape and sound), I would sit on the sidelines and sketch-out the ’round-pen’ exchange in a language of color and geometric form—-which I would interpret to further amplify the session. Interestingly, each participant unconsciously chose a horse-to-work-with that matched their exact ‘frequency’ colorations. Yellow-energy people chose the yellow-energy horse, and so forth!

    I’m back on the east coast now and seeing the film made me realize how deeply I’ve missed the work….and the EEL horses. While here, I still ‘read’ horses and people, though currently, it’s outside the magical ’round pen’ context. I’m just so pleased to know that on a much larger scale—through the work of Buck Branneman and this film—more and more ‘horses with people problems’ continue to be noticed, credited and simply, felt.

    The only discrepancy I found in the film, was the calf-roping sequence. The sight of a young calf immobilized by a rope around its neck and another around its hind leg was nearly unbearable to watch after all the preamble about creatures ‘being afraid for their lives.’ It didn’t resonate at all with the rest of the film.

    That said, I applaud Mr. Branneman’s call to ‘feel,’ at least where humans and horses are concerned. And,
    I applaud the documentary.


    • Pamela Miles says

      Hi Patricia,

      Thank you for writing! Your work sounds fascinating! I would love you to come and do a session with me and my horses!

      I am very understanding of your reaction to the cow scene. It is often hard for me to watch the roping, however, I do understand what a valuable service he is giving here. As long as people are going to eat beef, we will need to raise cattle. People are so removed from the reality of the animal by shopping in supermarkets. We would like to have free range beef that is raised out on the range. That being said, cows will sometimes need to be doctored if they get attacked by a wolf, caught up in a fence, develop an infection, etc. When you are 20 miles out on the range, it is not the time to stop and practice roping a sick animal. What Buck teaches in that arena is so much more humane than how it is often done. The alternative of using brute force when it comes to catching a calf/steer for doctoring, branding or castration (all of which are the reality of raising cattle), is much less appealing than a controlled clinic environment. Lots of things can go wrong quickly when you have a struggling steer on the end of a rope that is dallied onto your horse. It takes incredible horsemanship to position the horse properly and not get him or your helpers tangled up in those ropes which can seriously injure the horse as well as the rider. Done well, it is truly an art form. So, I believe that for the reality of a beef eating society, what Buck is teaching in those clinics is invaluable.
      Hope this helps!
      CIndy Meehl
      Director of BUCK

  4. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Buck’s own narrative of his abusive childhood indicates forgiveness is a Godly principle. We were grateful to see Buck did not repeat the
    cycle in his own family.

    Regarding the dangerous and unruly stallion; we were saddened by the situation and recognize some folks are not qualified to own a goldfish let alone a stallion. One can only hope the owner learned a valuable lesson and followed up with getting her other 18 stallions castrated. Dan was lucky to escape with only stitches, a busted hat, and bruises. This is also an example of why some horses need to be put down. There was just no fixing this dangerous animal. If was not IF but WHEN someone was going to get killed.

    Thanks for the film. It was a classic and we will be buying the DVD.

  5. Hi there, we were fortunate enough to watch ‘Buck’ last night, in a little town on the East Coast of New Zealand. As much as I was moved to tears and just celebrated the fact that at least Natural Horsemanship was being exposed to the public, I had a few not so ‘aha’ moments and am asking for some clarity on them. None of this , in any way, is intended to be negative or too questioning…. I really, really want to know.
    I heard Buck say in the beginning at one of his clinics that we are seen by horses as being likened to a Lion, we smell different, we mount them in the exact place a lion would have attacked, and then we want to throw over a piece of dead leather………… etc, etc, which I completely get. What I didn’t get, was the work he did with ‘Kelly’, the horse that ended up being put down. Why did you guys opt to work with such an incredibly problem horse being slotted in with an existing clinic? Surely it would have more sense to focus on him with far more time. i.e. to probably have suggested gelding him first?
    Then to put him into an arena and chase him around, whilst lassoing his back foot? How ultimately predatory is that? All that happened was the horse was pushed to absolute exhaustion and only let the guy mount him cause he had no more life in him? There appeared to be no evidence of basic horse savvy with this horse? Before an iota of relationship building or bonding was contemplated, a saddle blanket was then thrown over him (once he had found his second wind)……… again, so predatory! This poor horse was set up to fail on that day! Anyone with any natural horsemanship sense could have told you things were going to go wrong on that day and they did. I absolutely agree that the horse needed to be put down, it was tragic on all accounts…………… but it was one chapter of the movie that honestly disturbed me! It conflicted with the initial message.
    There may have been differences between how cowboys did it in the old days to on that day………………. But I still saw ‘breaking’, ‘controlling’, ‘forcing’ and ‘fear’ in that scene. It left me with a ‘not so warm and fuzzy feeling’, which contrasted with how wonderfully inspiring the rest of the movie was.

    Please, please don’t take this as a bashing……………… I have a questioning mind, is all.

    I’m still a huge fan and would honestly appreciate a direct and productive answer.

    Kind Regards


    • Cedar Creek says


      First of all, thank you for taking the time to watch the film and write us a note. So sorry it has taken me this long to get back to you! Here are some comments to address your concern about the use of the “Kelly horse” footage from the director of the film, Cindy Meehl.

      executive assistant to Cindy Meehl

      Thank you for your comments about the film. We did have 300 hours of footage to edit and we realized very quickly that you cannot teach this in 90 minutes. It was intended to reach a large audience and get them interested to seek out this kind of horsemanship and especially Buck. As a follow up to BUCK I created an instructional and educational DVD set called 7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman, that delves into the “how to” aspects from the same footage.

      As for the troubled horse, Buck could have possibly made some significant changes in the horse if he quit his day job and took it home and worked with it quite a bit. However, he has a lot of people counting on him to show up at clinics to work with horses that are also troubled, but have great potential. Julie decided to put the horse down because she realized that she did not have the skill, time or money to try to rehabilitate such a lost animal. There is a lot more to the story that we couldn’t put into the film unless we decided to make it the entire story. In the end, I applaud her bravery to make such a tough decision. We had to station people around the round pen for the entire afternoon before that horse was loaded. Every time ANYONE walked past the pen, the horse ran at full speed and lunged over the top of the pen at the person. Should we have walked away for even 5 minutes, an innocent child could have walked up to pet the pretty horse and had her hand removed. Humans have to be responsible to other humans. Knowing that you have such a dangerous animal, you could not ever rest knowing that if he got out, or you weren’t around, that he would do bodily harm to another person who was totally innocent. I don’t think there are more than 5 people on the planet that could truly handle that horse, and even then, the brain damage factor is a wild card. I was not even going to use that footage, but we realized the huge life lesson that it brought to the film and also saw the significance of the parallel to Buck and that horse. He could have ended up that damaged if he hadn’t had good parenting in the long run. In test audiences, it was overwhelmingly positive about the value of the scene and continues to be so in the reviews and audiences. Buck was very happy about the whole film and also, realized that we could not teach in 90 minutes what he has taken a lifetime to learn.

      I am sorry that you had such a negative reaction and hope that you will perhaps give it another chance with this new knowledge in mind. Also, hope you will be happy with the educational DVDs!

      Best wishes,
      Cindy Meehl
      Director of BUCK

  6. Nice job Cindy Meehl. I think the scene with the stud horse shouted out an extremely important message…..well done!!!!

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