Buck Brannaman returns to Steamboat to teach horsemanship clinic
Steamboat Springs — Buck Brannaman has devoted his life to his passion for horsemanship, not because of the qualities the animal possesses, but because of those it doesn’t.
He said horses don’t express greed, spite or hate.
They don’t feel jealousy. They don’t have egos.
“The fact that they don’t have egos makes them pure,” Brannaman said Friday as he lounged outside his horse trailer at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. “They don’t have the baggage that people have. They can’t reason like a human being, but they are sensitive in other ways. They have a keen awareness about them.”
It’s that awareness that makes horsemanship more than just a person riding an animal. True horsemanship, to Brannaman, transcends the differences between the species; it allows them to work as one organism.
Brannaman, who is known for his leadership in the field of natural horsemanship, is teaching a clinic in Steamboat Springs today through Monday at the rodeo arena.
Registration is full but spectators are invited to watch and listen to the clinic from the stands for $25.
Brannaman’s life story is used as the basis for the book “The Horse Whisperer” by Nicolas Evans, and he was the lead consultant when the film of the same name was made in 1998.
Steamboat resident Barb Shipley has been studying natural horsemanship for more than 15 years and began learning from Brannaman’s own mentor, Ray Hunt.
“Steamboat is very fortunate to have someone of Buck’s talent here,” she said. “Riding with him is like skiing with Buddy Werner or Bode Miller.”
His approach, which builds a fundamental basis for the relationship between human and horse, focuses on nuances in movement and stature, things that horses can sense and react to.
“Horsemanship has long been considered one of the fine arts,” Brannaman said. “Not everyone treats it that way. You have sculpture, painting or whatever, and not everyone treats those like fine art all the time, either.”
In his clinics, he works on the small brushstrokes that make up the bond between the person and the animal.
On Friday, he showed a group of 15 people atop their own horses how to offer the horse a “good deal,” the option to move forward or turn without being kicked or pulled at.
In his calm, easy manner, he demonstrated how his horse, Rebel, would carefully walk in figure eights around the ring by changing the orientation of his legs. Brannaman’s arms were folded across his chest, the reins resting on the horse’s neck in front of him. Rebel’s legs moved as if they were an extension of Brannaman’s leather chaps, as if his thoughts fed directly into the horse’s mind.
“You hope people just get the taste for what it feels like to be an artist,” he said.
Shipley, who sponsored the clinic this year, said her study of natural horsemanship altered her relationship to her horses, but more than that, the world around her.
The light touch necessary to connect with the animal translates to other aspects of life, as well.
“Life is about more and more pressure sometimes,” Shipley explained. “Sometimes, the world teaches us to love harder, to spur harder, because that’s going to get your attention. But the message here is less is more.
“Everything you learn will help you with your relationship with your kids, your friends. It changes your life.”
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