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The Man, the Legend: Buck Brannaman


Article & photos by LaCresha Kolba

“Stay on something until he gets it,” the gentle voice carries across the arena at Clearview Horse Farms in Shelbyville, Tenn., the weekend of October 13-16, 2016. Buck Brannaman rode his horse along with the attendees while he demonstrated and taught his methods. Around the outside of the arena were eager horsemen and women seeking a better way to communicate with their horse. One thing about a Buck Brannaman clinic: no one is in a rush; it is a calm and peaceful setting that is open to being honest about you, your horse, and your mistakes. But, it is also the environment to learn how to be a better horseman.

Buck made a comment about a woman who had been at one of his previous clinics, “She says to me, ‘I ride English; I want to do classical movements with my horse.’ I replied, ‘Lady, what do you think I am doing here?’” The crowd quietly laughed as he continued to explain that it isn’t about the saddle you are sitting in; it is about the connectivity you have with your horse; the lightness of feel; and spending time working on the basics every day. If you find your horse is surging, slow him down and try again. Get him in balance,” Buck advised. “When your horse is insecure, give him confidence and he will learn to trust you. Get him to do it right, show him he is safe with you, and just watch what he will do for you.”

When someone asked Buck when to start riding with spurs, he answered the question as though he had been asked for the first time. “If your horse is dull to a boot, putting a spur on him can confuse him or get you into a lot of trouble. A spur should be no more than a piece of jewelry. Like how a woman wears earrings, it shouldn’t make any difference if you are wearing a thong, with a tutu over it. Your horse operates on feel. Just wait on him for that desired result, then reward him and say, “Yes! That’s it!” Be consistent with your horse. You may have to go forward and back a few times. Be deliberate, be soft, open that door of opportunity, and reward him when he goes through it. Try to get your legs to mean more – spurs or no spurs. If your leg is not accurate, stay away from spurs. As Ray [Hunt] would say, ‘Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.’”  The ‘Ray’ Buck referenced is Ray Hunt, the man behind the natural horsemanship method who was Buck’s mentor. It was Ray Hunt who turned Buck Brannaman’s life around and helped him accomplish the level of horsemanship which has spearheaded his career.

There is a majesty about attending a Buck Brannaman clinic. Egos are left at the door. Patience is encouraged and rewarded. There is no hype, no showmanship, just pure horsemanship. Buck approaches his clinics, his attendees, his life with humbleness and genuine care and love for the animal.

While his students in the arena worked on a riding assignment he gave them, he came back on his microphone: “I hate the last day of a clinic. You can feel the energy has completely changed from the first day. The first day is full of energy and enthusiasm, like that ‘good karma feeling.’ I can feel people don’t want it to be over. I don’t want it to be over either, but I gotta be at other places.”

Once the dust settled at Clearview Horse Farms, Buck would pack up his tack, his horses, and head down the road to the next clinic to help more horses and horse people.

To find out more about Buck Brannaman and his mentor Ray Hunt, go to his website:

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