BY JOE TYRRELL
The excellent documentary "Buck" aims to break the cycle of violence for more than one species.
In equine and Hollywood circles, Dan "Buck" Brannaman is celebrated as a "horse whisperer" for his consulting work on the movie of that name.
But he's really more of a horse empath, whose own experiences have led him to focus more on their problems with people instead of the reverse.
On the road much of the year, Brannaman preaches a gospel of "natural horsemanship" to riders in clinics around the country. His gentle, patient approach wins trust from horses and shows other humans how to earn similar results.
"Everything you do with a horse, it's a dance," he tells one audience.
"Nobody's here to hurt you," he's saying to a horse.
The experience of being ridden can be strange and frightening to a young animal, Brannaman explains. That's why he encourages his students to think of "starting" a horse, not "breaking" it.
While Brannaman isn't the first to promote a more humane approach to riding, he vaulted to prominence when Robert Redord adapted Nicholas Evans' best-selling book "The Horse Whisperer" into a 1998 movie.
Starting out as a technical adviser, Brannaman (and his horse) ended up leaving a mark on the film, shaping performances, scenes and even the ending, and stepping in when Redford ran into trouble with stunt horses and trainers.
Redford is just one of the open-mouthed enthusiasts whom first-time director Cindy Meehl captures raving about Brannaman's "gentle spirit" as well as his results.