TODAY   |  June 14, 2011

Meet the real-life horse whisperer

TODAY’s resident animal expert Jill Rappaport meets up with horse trainer Buck Brannaman, whose natural approach to conditioning has revolutionized the equestrian world.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 8:51, "today's" pets, long before the dog whisperer and the ghost whisperer there was the horse whisperer . today's animal advocate caught up with them recently.

>> he was incredible. the inspiration for the book and film starring robert redford and now he is the star of an award-winning documentary because of his incredible connection with every horse he meets.

>> the horse can be such a great communicator to a person to take a look at themselves. the horse saved my life, so that's kind of why i'll -- i guess i'll spend the rest of mine trying to help them.

>> reporter: some call it magic. others call it a mystery. but one thing's for sure, buck brannaman has a true kinship with horses, earning him the title the wheel life horse whisp whisperer.

>> i know that name and that term is not really how you view yourself, is it?

>> well, the people that i grew up around, they would find it pretty ridiculous if i was seen around referring to myself as horse whisperer .

>> reporter: brannaman who prefers the word horse gentler using a different kind of approach to training, fixes troubled horses and their owners at the same time.

>> if you got a lot going on in your life, probably a lot of it is a lot bigger story than this horse .

>> it's about dealing with horses that have people problems.

>> right. wherever i go, until the human comes into the picture they're getting along just fine.

>> reporter: brannaman's technique is the subject of a new documentary called "buck" which received the audience award at this year's sundance film festival . the film traces buck's troubled background. as a young child he was abused by his stage dad who thrusted him into the world of trick roping.

>> every day we talked about whether a dad would kill one of us or both of us. and that's a weird conversation for an 11-year-old boy to have to have with his 13-year-old brother.

>> reporter: buck eventually found solace and his true calling, horses.

>> i figured the only friends i had in the world were horses. it's almost like they sort of understood me.

>> when you look at a horse , you can honestly say you saved my life.

>> oh, yeah. there are things that the horse did for me that the person, a human, just couldn't have done.

>> reporter: his uncanny ability to connect with horses from the docile to the dangerous got this straight talking cowboy noticed, and hollywood came calming. he was the inspiration for the best-selling novel and movie "the horse whisperer " directed by and starring robert redford .

>> buck played a greater role than a lot of people realized. he contributed everything. there was a humanity and a kind of gentleness of spirit that i adopted from that character because of buck.

>> is there a horse that you can't fix?

>> no. i've been looking for a long time and i haven't found one that i couldn't help.

>> yes, he's a kissy boy.

>> reporter: well, i couldn't resist inviting buck to my farm. hey, buck, say hi to buck. to meet my horses. including my beautiful mare madison who used to ride like a dream, but now she needs the buck touch.

>> she just thinks this is going to be trouble, that someone is going to hurt her with this.

>> she's running away from it.

>> yeah. move over. now the front. that was good.

>> yeah.

>> reporter: in a matter of minutes, i noticed a change in her movement and attitude. oh, my gosh, she looks so much happier. you're a horse magnet. there's chick magnets. you're a horse magnet, right? i have a new tstiting for you.

>> as big murray said, so i've got that going for me.

>> now, buck, the horse magnet, opens in select cities on friday. you do not have to be a horse lover to love this film.

>> i think he's a chick magnet , too.

>> chick, horse , everything.

>> we're back after the local news. -- -- -