"Buck" brings real Horse Whisperer to movie screens

Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:31am EDT
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In 1998 film "The Horse Whisperer," Robert Redford played a man with a unique ability to train horses that seemed out of control. Few people knew that the character, Tom Booker, was modeled after a real man, Buck Brannaman, a cowboy who escaped an abusive childhood to become a horse trainer of unusual abilities.

A new film documentary, "Buck," tells Brannaman's story, which is about helping people as much as it is horses. The movie won the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and following a limited theatrical debut last weekend, expands to more U.S. cities on Friday.

Brannaman, 49, sat down with Reuters to talk about horses, humans and watching his own story told on the big screen.

Q: How do horses mirror humans beings?

A: "The way a horse responds to you tells a lot about your relationship with him. It also tells quite a bit about how you'd approach relationships with other human beings. If the horse accepts you into his world, odds are you're a pretty desirable human being to be around. If it's apparent he can't stand you, there's probably some things you need to shape up in your life that go beyond the scope of working with horses."

Q: In the course of helping people with their horses, you end up helping the actual person. How does that happen?

A: "Most of the things people have going wrong in their relationship with their horse have a lot to do with the baggage they bring to the table. It is manifested in their relationship with the horse. A horse is so sensitive, it can't deal with a person packing that much baggage. It's not a workable situation for the horse. In order to meet the horse at a place where he accepts you, you have to get a handle on that stuff."

Q: You came from an abusive childhood but did not grow up to become the same way. How did you avoid that?   Continued...