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Horsemanship Philosophy of Buck Brannaman Interview Series: Karen Miller


karen-millerThis is the first in a series of interviews about the horsemanship philosophy of Buck Brannaman and the newly released film (Buck) about his work with horses. LOPE hosted a sneak preview screening of Buck in June — Karen was one of our speakers at the Q&A after the event. Since then, we have had several inquiries from people who wanted to learn more about the film, Buck and horsemanship.

I first met Karen riding in a Tom Curtin clinic at Hy Court Farm. She was so friendly and easy to approach — I was nervous riding in the clinic and Karen went out of her way to put me at ease. Karen has ridden with Buck for over ten years and hosts the clinic dinner at his Belton, TX clinic each year. I rode in that clinic for the first time this year — and heard Buck say of Karen that she “has the most heart and try of anyone.”

Karen used to ride English and take dressage lessons, but eventually switched over to riding western in the vaquero style. She rides her mare, Mimi, in the clinics and has been working with her new colt, Tuco.

What was your first experience like riding with Buck? What did you and your horse learn together?

My first experience riding with Buck was very emotional, powerful and exhausting — all wrapped up together over the 4-day clinic. After I left his clinic, I just wanted to go home right away — so I could really starting changing the way I looked at and rode my horse.

At the clinic, the first thing my horse and I both learned was how to bend and try to follow a feel. Even though he was an experienced riding horse, I rode my 10-year-old gelding in Buck’s colt class — because I wanted to understand where it all began with starting a horse the right way.

What is your favorite story about Buck?

One of my many memorable stories about Buck is one that came after we had just finished up with the 4-day clinic here in Belton, Texas. We had all just clapped and began saying our goodbyes before we left from the arena. One lady there was riding a horse that was buddy sour with her husband’s horse. She had just finished telling Buck good-bye when suddenly her horse bolted — because the husband’s horse had moved away from her — and she came off her horse.

Buck knew and could see the problem with the horse — so he rounded up a more seasoned rider and had him mount the lady’s horse. Buck then began instructing him how to help the horse. They worked with that horse for over an hour until it could accept being separated from his buddy.

Buck could have just helped the lady up off the ground and moved on — it had been a long day already for him. But he chose not to — instead, he stayed to help the horse.

How has this type of horsemanship changed you as a rider and as a person?

It changed my whole life! It has made me a better, more confident person — and I am more devoted and understanding to my horse.

What are your horsemanship goals this year for you and your horse(s)?

My main goal this year is to be a better rider than I was the year before — especially in riding with only my seat and legs. And to ride with a better feel for the whole horse, to remember to ride every stride and to support him.


  1. L. K. says:

    Elvira, have you tried feeding in a different setting or tying your yearling up and holding the lead rope while he eats? If he nips at you and you have a hold of him you can make him back up and give ground. I do carry a dressage whip with a nippy horse and it usually only takes once for them to get a clue but perhaps this is a solution you might feel more comfortable with. Do remember that horses use kicks and nips as communication. It is unlikely that a well placed swat is going to make your horses fearful of you or hurt them. Giving up space is a sign of submission and if you make him back up quickly that might work also. When you back up from your yearling you are submitting to him like a lesser ranking herdmate.

  2. Elvira Kessler says:

    I have heard so much about Buck Brannaman, I am so desperate for information that can help me with my yearling. He has a big attitude, he nips, and has started kicking when I put his feed out. People I have ask for help only advise me to hit him or carry a whip and use it. But I am not one to hurt my animals. I need some advice that I can us. Will someone please help me. Mr. Brannaman seems to use methods that are understanding the animal and working with the problem that is causing the behavior. I need to know the problem and I do not know how I find out what the problem is.Thank you so much. Sincerely Elvira Kessler

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