This documentary tells the fascinating story of Buck Brannaman, a real live horse whisperer whom Robert Redford used as a consultant and as a stand-in for Redford’s film “The Horse Whisperer.”
As children, Buck Brannaman and his brother were trained by their father to be trick ropers who performed for money. Their father abused them, beating them if he thought their performance was not up to his standards. This abuse occurred until the gym coach at school discovered the welts on Buck’s back that he and his brother were taken from their father and placed in a foster home. Their foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Shirley, were so kind to the boys that Buck loved them as true parents.
Buck thought that his future lay in trick roping, but his foster father started him on the skill of shoeing horses. In his work, Buck was able to meet and observe a man named Ray Hunt whose career was to “break” horses. From that time, Buck knew where his future lay and took himself in that direction.
Buck tells his story himself, and we are able to meet his wife and daughter and sense the love he feels for these two females. Buck’s career takes him all over the country holding clinics for cowboys who need to “break” their horses. Buck’s method is kinder to the horses than what his students have been accustomed to. It is a thrill to watch Buck at work, taming the horses gently with a rope, with kind touching, and with quiet talking. The audience can actually feel the strength of Buck while he is at work.
Buck is away from home months at a time, and we witness his arrival home to be with his wife and daughter, both of whom are extremely attractive. His daughter Reata starts accompanying him on his journey around the country when she is on vacation from school.
Robert Redford is also shown in this documentary. He had heard of Buck’s reputation and brought him on the set as a consultant. He was able to portray his character using the same methods of kindness that Buck used. Buck wanted Redford to use Buck’s horse for several scenes, but Redford did not believe that the horse could be trained to step on a specific mark as actors are required to do. Buck was able to train his horse to step on the marks and to follow the director’s orders. Buck was also a stand-in for some intricate riding scenes.
It is interesting that Buck refused to perpetuate the child abuse he received in his youth. Instead, he demonstrated kindness to all humans and animals that he met in his work. In one instance, he demonstrated to his students that conflict or trouble in a person’s life can be seen in the way he treated his horse and in how the horse reacted to that treatment. One female student was in tears when she admitted that she had some serious issues in her life which were reflected in the horse she brought to Buck’s attention.
“Buck” is a film that I want to watch over and over again. There are so many life lessons to be learned from this film. It is so heartwarming to realize that there are beautiful people on earth such as Buck Brannaman who can act as role models for all who observe him.