By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
When Nicholas Evans went looking for someone on which to
model the horse trainer and healer Tom Booker for his 1995 best selling novel
“The Horse Whisperer” he found Buck Brannaman. Then Robert Redford hired Buck
as an equine technical advisor for the film version, and according to this new
documentary, Buck was his double in certain scenes.
This documentary is one of the finest I have ever seen
because it tells a compelling and
inspiring story that leaves the audience with the sense that they have seen a
truly great film – and met a genuine human being.
Buck and his brother were trick rope wranglers from an early
age. Their mother, a wonderful woman by
all accounts, was a waitress. She died very young but even before she died, the
boys were terrified of their father. After her death, he beat them regularly. A
school coach saw the marks on Buck’s back and reported it. The boys were placed
in a loving foster home; the couple raised thirty foster children – all boys -
in their lives.
The film follows Buck through a series of four-day horse
clinics that he teaches for nine months of the year. We meet his spirited
foster-mother, Mrs. Shirley, and understand the nurturing influence she and her
husband had on Buck and his brother, Smoky (though we don’t learn much about
him in the film, Smokey spent twenty-five years in the Coast Guard, married and
has a family with grown children. Buck said in an interview that Smokey “has
had a good life.”) We even meet the sheriff who rescued the boys, one of Buck’s
best friends growing up, his wife, and the daughter who has become an excellent
horsewoman and trainer herself.
This is a film about hope, resilience, self-knowledge and
awareness, self-control and respect. If a person develops these character
traits, he or she will be successful with horses, other pets, and most of all,
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