In the 1990s natural horsemanship techniques were thrown into the spotlight with the Robert Redford film “The Horse Whisperer.” Buck Brannaman was the real horse trainer, or some might say people trainer, that inspired the lead character in that film. Although several people have claimed to be the inspiration for the film, author Nicholas Evans said, “The one who truly inspired me was Buck Brannaman. His skill, understanding and his gentle, loving heart have parted the clouds for countless troubled creatures. Buck is the Zen master of the horse world.”
About 30 years later, the documentary “Buck” took a closer look at Buck Brannaman and introduced him to a wider audience than the devoted horsemen that follow him once again. “A lot of times, rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems,” he says at the beginning of the documentary.
Some call him a New Age kind of clinician whose teachings go beyond horses. “All your horses are a mirror to your soul,” he said. “And sometimes you might not like what you see in the mirror.”
Brannaman believes in building respect but not fear in the horses he trains. Having grown up a child of an abusive father, Brannaman has talked about how he found comfort in the friendship of horses. The compassion he sought as a child he now channels into his training philosophy. “The horses need to respect you,” he said. “But sometimes people confuse respect and fear. They’re not the same at all.”
A student of Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, Brannaman now teaches clinics worldwide and this fall he will be in our region for two clinics.
From Sept. 30-Oct. 3 he will be in Walkertown, North Carolina, (about 2-hr drive from Roanoke) for a Colt Starting and Horsemanship clinic at Sullivan Farm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
From Oct. 7-10, he will be in Lewisburg, West Virginia, (less than 2-hr drive from Roanoke) at the State Fair of Virginia grounds for a Foundation Horsemanship and Horsemanship clinic. Call 828-899-2051 for more information.
“I often tell people in the clinics, the human possesses the one thing that means more to the horse than anything in the world, and that is peace and comfort,” Brannaman told ABC News in 2012. “That’s all they want.”
A deep plunge of cold air is coming just in time for Valentine’s Day this year, which may not make you enjoy heading out with the horses quite so much. But if your heart yearns only for horses, no matter the weather, you can still feed that hunger.
VIRGINIA HORSE CENTER
The Polar Bear Horse Show is a very aptly named event this year. The hunter schooling show will be held in the East Complex at the center. The event includes classes on the flat and over fences and begins at 8:30 both Saturday and Sunday. Casual attire is permitted except in the equitation classes. Find the schedule of classes here.
TAKE A ROAD TRIP
Clinic: Lana Affemann Performance-Horses and Stark Performance Horses will be holding a clinic on grooming your horse and showing in halter and showmanship Feb. 14-15 in Smithfield, Va. (4-hour drive from Roanoke.) For more information or to RSVP, contact Hillary Stark at Hrstark184@yahoo.com or (757)705-3648.
Gymnastics Clinic with Paul Ebersole at Morven Park’s indoor arena in Leesburg, Va. (3-hour drive). Lessons will last one hour for groups of three or four riders, for all levels from Green horses and going up through the Eventing levels (Baby BN, BN, N,T,P,I) Ebersole will also offer a cross country clinic Feb 28-Mar 1st at Morven. Cost is $90 per horse which includes Morven’s ring fee. Auditors are welcome to watch at no charge. To sign up, please email Pat Palmer at email@example.com.
If you’d rather just stay wrapped up in a blanket inside during this bitter weekend, thankfully these days you can do so and still be at the horse show.
The USEFnetwork is streaming several events live this weekend from Ocala, Florida. Thursday at 2 p.m. is the $34,000 FEI Thursday Prix. Friday at 1 p.m. watch the $200,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup. Forget the packed restaurants on Valentine’s Day and make your reservation with your computer for the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular at 7 p.m. instead. On Sunday, close out the weekend with the $150,000 FEI Ocala Grand Prix CSIO4* at 2 p.m.