‘Horse Whisperer’ provides clinic
By Patrick Lacombe
World famous horseman, Buck Brannaman was in Belton this past week holding his horsemanship clinics Friday through Monday at the Bell County Expo Center. All classes were fully booked for the four-day event. The people who were not able to book a class with their horse had the option to audit from the sidelines for a small fee.
For those who are not familiar with Buck, his work with horses was the inspiration for the 1998 film “The Horse Whisperer” starring Robert Redford. Brannaman was also a consultant on the film and Redford’s body double in several scenes.
Instead of using leather whips and stress to mold show animals, or paying a vet to drug them into submission, Brannaman’s way is to control horses with soothing words and understanding — what some call “horse whispering.”
“The horses need to respect you,” Brannaman said. “But sometimes people confuse respect and fear. They’re not the same at all.” Brannaman said that the relationship between man and horse is similar to the bond between parent and child.
“It’s the same with kids, you see some of these people with their kids, instead of being a little more engaged, and seeing when things are going the wrong direction, and redirecting them, they wait till they’ve done something wrong, and then they want to beat them up, or whip them for something that’s already happened and people still do that with horses too,” Brannaman said. “I’ll be doing this the rest of my life, trying to convince people that that’s not the way to go about things.”
Leslie Danielecki of Weatherford heard about the Belton clinic from a friend. She said that she wanted to audit the classes, “to see the connection between horse and rider that Buck does so well.” She explained that, “you will see problem horses and problem riders and I like to see them come together not fighting, but communicating.”
One of the clinic workers, Bonnie Conway of Belton has ridden with Buck in the past. She explained that Buck’s philosophy was strongly influenced by two of the most knowledgeable horsemen that ever lived, Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance. She went on to say, “a rider has to be a partner to their horse and understand what the horse thinks. Buck uses methods that a horse understands and that’s why he is so good at what he does.”
A 2011 documentary titled “Buck” won the audience award for best documentary at the Sundance film festival in the same year. The film examined the life of Brannaman including his early years and how horses helped him overcome the years of physical abuse by his father.