We just returned from seeing the movie BUCK, a documentary about a horse trainer, Buck Brannaman. Yes, I, too, have loved horses throughout my life — and that is why I was drawn to this film, but the movie’s message can be read to include much more than just horses. It shows the sensitivity, understanding and respect that we can encompass in our dealings with all animals. There are a few individuals out there who truly understand animals and who can relate to them absolutely. With horses, that person is Buck Brannaman — he is a “horse-whisperer”.

He emerged from a violent upbringing with the ability to help people understand where a horse is coming from — and also where they themselves are coming from. He teaches that you can gain a horse’s trust with a soft lead which makes it sensitive and responsive, whereas rough handling only causes it to shut down out of fear. Under his guidance, bucking horses are transformed into trusting creatures that follow their riders’ leads at the slightest pull of the rope — or sometimes even a gesture.

He teaches people to communicate with their horses through leadership and sensitivity, not abusive punishment or put-downs. He says, “I started to realize that things would come much easier for me once I learned why a horse does what he does.” The key is understanding “why” any animal does what it does. Buck learned from Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, the developers of “natural horsemanship,” which advocates mutual respect between rider and horse. His approach is as much about people as about horses. “A lot of times, rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.”  “It is about a communion between man and animal that runs deeper than any division”.

Buck dramatically transforms both horses and people – always with his understanding, compassion and respect. By the end of this film, the animal-human relationship becomes a euphemism for facing challenges to life and for facing yourself. “Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will.” When you can start seeing yourself through animals, you can start really relating to them, and therefore really understanding them. I feel that I’ve bridged this gap with some of the coyotes I’ve observed.

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