Directed By: Cindy Meehl.
Buck Brannerman is a quiet man who has found his niche. He can train horses better than just about anyone else, and unlike many, he does not use force, whipping, abuse or cruelty to do it. Instead, he gains the horse’s trust, and makes them feel a part of what is happening. You can get a horse to do anything if you make them scared to make mistakes. But for Buck, who was abused mercilessly by his father as a child, he would prefer to do it the kinder, gentler way. And if you love horses, who can you possibly disagree with him? His horses can do anything that any other trained horse can do – in fact they can do more than most – and not only that, but they actually seem to love him as much as he loves them.
Buck relates everything to horses. When he talks about the abuse he suffered as a child – that got worse once his kindly mother died, and his father, already a mean drunk, just got meaner – he relates how he was after he got out of that situation to how horses, who were trained the wrong way, reacts. When he first met his new foster father, he was scared, and the foster father didn’t talk to Buck about it, just gave him a pair of gloves, and went off to work on a fence with him. Just that simple act helps Buck come out of his shell – just like a horse who was abused.
Buck spends 9 months of the year on the road giving 4 days horse training clinics to whoever will have him. He knows full well that for some his clients the cost is a throwaway and others save up all year just to be able to afford it. He treats everyone the same – he believes that the horses can tell you a lot about their owners. But while Buck is a great horse man, he is also a great husband and father – completely opposite of his own father as he offers help and encouragement to his youngest daughter, who accompanies him for a few months every year. He sees himself in her, and there is some regret in that – because she is outgoing and friendly and he doesn’t speak much – he wonders if the abuse he suffered has made him what he is.
Buck reminded me a little of another documentary from 2011 – Bill Cunningham New York. Both films are about men who have found their passion in life, and have devoted everything they have to it. Buck is more open about his past that Cunningham was – and better able to deal with it. Buck has made peace with his past, and moved beyond it – and been able to become a husband and a father. Yes, like Cunningham, his profession is something he does because he absolutely loves it. But Buck has more introspection that Cunningham has. If Cunningham is gay, he is not able to admit it on camera. He has shut himself emotionally from the world – he doesn’t admit to ever having a romantic relationship, and literally does nothing except work – at a job he loves yes, but there is more to life than that. Buck moved me more than Bill Cunningham New York did, because Buck understands himself a little better than Cunningham does – or at least allows us to see him more clearly. Buck Brannerman loves horses – but he has lived a full and complete life, never allowing his past to dictate his future, even if he can never forget it.