Last week I got to see the documentary, “Buck”, which is a documentary about Dan M. “Buck” Brannaman. Brannaman is the leader in the field of Natural Horsemanship. Buck was actually the inspiration and main consultant for the 1998 mainstream movie “The Horse Whisperer” which was produced by Robert Redford. “Buck” the movie was an official selection at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
I first heard about the movie from a couple of tweets from our horseracing crowd on Twitter. At the time “Buck” was on very limited release showing only in Los Angeles and New York City, but my wife and I were going to spend a couple of days in NYC so she fit a viewing into our plans. We both loved “Buck” and we give it our highest recommendation, as we left the theater feeling awed by the accomplishments of Brannaman. The description of the Cedar Creek production is right on the mark, “A truly American story about an unsung hero, BUCK is about an ordinary man who has made an extraordinary life despite tremendous odds.”
“Buck” is not really about horseracing per se, but is more about the way people relate to their horses. Brannaman says, “A horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will.” The film takes you to a several of the clinics that Buck gives around the country. At these clinics he gives group classes and he deals with troubled horses that people bring to get help from Buck. With just a soft flag at the end of a long flexible fiberglass antenna rod and his Natural Horsemanship techniques, Brannaman works miracles.
I left the film wondering about how the film relates to horse racing and about why we all love racing so much. I think each of us has some kind of respect and affection for horses no matter how much direct contact we have had with thoroughbreds. The care of their human handlers determines about successful our racehorses end up being. From birth on the farm to their introduction to training to the daily routine at the track, it is up to the people who care for them.
Recently on the backstretch at Monmouth I watched a trainer try everything that he could think of to load his horse onto the trailer. He was being patient and understanding but nothing seemed to work until a groom, not employed by the trainer, came over put his hands on the horse and soothed him and in just a few minutes walked the horse right into the trailer.
“Buck” gave me some insight into why some jockeys may be more successful than others. I thought about the 1993 Breeders Cup Classic when Jerry Bailey, who was a last minute substitution and knew next to nothing about his mount, guided Arcangues to a record $269.20 payoff.
The 2009 Breeders Cup Classic showed the darker side of racing with the handling of Quality Road at the starting gate. The danger and chaos that ensued as the assistant starters used fear and force on Quality Road, resulted in the horse being scratched and racing got really negative exposure.
“Buck” has something for everyone and lessons to be learned and fortunately “Buck” is now in wider release. So, do yourself a favor and check out this link to find a theater near you and go see this inspirational film.
ABC’s of the Monmouth Hall of Champions -Today Kelso – Kelso raced 63 times with results of 39-12-2 for earnings of $1,977,896. Kelso won Horse of the Year for five consecutive years from 1960 to 1964. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup five straight years and the Woodward three times in a row. Kelso ran at Monmouth Park five times, winning twice in 1960. He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1967. Kelso ranks 15 in the Horse Racing Nation 250 Top Horses of All-Time with an 8.91/10 rating.