Buck Brannaman

By Mike Thomas

Buck’s Introduction to Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance

In Buck Brannaman's book, "The Faraway Horses" published by Lyons Press, 2001, a remarkable event occurred. On page 60, paragraph two, Buck describes his first view of Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance. "I arrived at the arena and took a seat at the top of the grandstands (Bozeman, Montana Indoor Arena), but there wasn't much going on. It was lunchtime, and I couldn't find the ranch manager." In paragraph three: "I was getting up to leave when into the arena came Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, another legendary horseman. They started working with their horses, and all of a sudden I noticed some things that Ray Hunt's saddle horse could do, moving from side to side and bending and backing with no visible effort from the rider." Paragraph four: "I moved down closer to the action, and closer again until I was standing right by the round corral. I peeked through the rails and watched Ray's every move. I just couldn't believe it. I never knew a horseman could be that good. And, of course, Tom Dorrance was there helping Ray in the clinic and also doing some things that I thought were magical."

Skipping ahead to page 61, paragraph five: "The ranch manager saw me and came over. "I guess you want to talk about that cowboying job on the ranch?" he said. Paragraph six: "Sir, I would", I told him. "But if you'd excuse me, I'm trying to watch this gentleman work horses. So if it's okay with you, we're going to have to talk a little later." Paragraph seven: "Well that kind of took him aback some. We didn't really visit that afternoon, but we had other chances because I returned for the rest of the Ray Hunt clinic. I was hooked for life. To this day I'm trying to pursue the magic that I saw that man do."

Remembering That Day, Near 30 Years Later

Everything Buck Brannaman said in the book is very accurate. I remember that day just like it was yesterday, last week or last month. Mel Obrigewitch, who worked for me as the "Cow Boss" of the old Madison River Cattle Company, had told me that there was a young fellow who would show up at the clinic to talk to me about being hired on, and that he had just recently graduated from High School. The ranch and I had been committed to Ray Hunt for some time at that point.

Mel pointed out Buck sitting in the grandstands at the top row with nobody around him. His arms were folded, his boots crossed in the cowboy way with a bright shirt and faded Wranglers, with a very unusual expression on his face. I did not know what to make of his indifference or how to read the young fellow.

When he moved from the grandstands to the round pen it was obvious that he, like me and others during those early years of Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, was getting "hooked on". His comments on our conversation are very accurate. What he does not know to this day is that I was not "taken aback". I was impressed by the power of his concentration on Ray and Tom. What he does not know to this day is that his infinite wisdom, in moving from the grandstands to the round corral, impressed me more than many others; that his "hooking on", that day, changed both of our lives forever. His incredible success is no surprise to me!

William Reynolds: Co-Author

A couple of years ago, Dorothy Hallock gave me a present in the form of a flight to Los Angeles and motor to Santa Ynez, California, to see a Vaquero Show of bits, saddle and gear makers. Bill Reynolds was at the show, which was quite an event. After near 29+ years of Bill representing Buck - and our knowing of, but not knowing, each other - we met. I am very thankful for that day and the meeting.

The next day I returned and said the following: "Bill, I have found through life that ignorance can be an asset." Bill said: "I have found that to be true myself!" Then I told him that, through ignorance, I hired Buck Brannaman when he was 16 years of age. I had been told by Mel that he graduated from High School, thus I assumed he was 18! Meaning that if I knew the truth, I could not have hired him under Montana law, as he was underage.

My ignorance caused me to do probably the smartest thing I ever did, and I have to thank Mel for adding to the deception that has improved the horse industry.

The most important point of this profile is that Buck Brannaman is just as dedicated to "The Trinity of Horsemen and the Inner Circle of Quality Horsemanship", as he was on that day, so long ago!

Signed Proudly,

Mike Thomas (Himself)