Buck Branmnaman Bozeman 2017

Observe, Remember, Compare – Buck Brannaman

Horses have always been a part of his life. From the age of 12 Buck Brannaman has been starting horses, before that he was an accomplished trick roper. The past 35 years Buck has lived most of the year on the road crossing the United States, visiting Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan sharing his experience and helping people better understand how to get along with their horses. In 2011 the film Buck documenting Bucks life and work, launched to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.

Buck is a leader in the horsemanship field and I have watched his progression as a teacher through the past dozen or so years. I have always said to be good with horses you have to be great with people, Buck is both. My annual trek, with and without horses, down to listen, learn and ride with him in Montana has become part of my own professional development.

After a long day in the sun, with temperatures well into the mid 30sC, as is typical of his good nature Buck agreed to answer a few questions.

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“as I learned well through my teenage years, my impatience was never rewarded with good performance.”

Allison Wright

“There is no free ride. From the moment you get on your horse to the minute you get off, you are working and doing something, you are never just sitting.

Leaders are the same, there is no time when you are just present without really being there, just occupying the chair.” Eva Friesen

Hitting the Dirt

Ever had that conversation that could have gone better? What you could have done differently or should have said that just might have changed the outcome?

or as a fine horseman once suggested being able to recognize: “What happened, before what happened, happened?” ¹

Well, it happened! Fortunately the spring dirt is relatively soft so with a quick scan that all body parts were intact, I picked myself up, gathered up the reins of the horse still staring in mortal fear at the object and got ready to get back on. The older I get the more I wish I’d listened to what the horse had been telling me before they had to scream.

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“If you talk to any good horse trainer about how they got to where they are, they’ll admit they’ve made some mistakes along the way. And if they’re worth their salt, they’ll probably tell you that the lessons they learned making those mistakes were invaluable.” Clinton Anderson

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.” Malcolm Gladwell

“Simple but profound statements authored by Tom & Bill Dorrance, credited for being the original natural horsemen.”

1. The horse is never wrong.
2. The horse has need for self preservation in mind, body, and spirit
3. It takes as long as it takes. Take the time.
4. Do less to get more.
5. Feel what the horse is feeling and operate from there.
6. The slower you do it, the quicker you’ll have it.
7. Be as gentle as possible – as firm as necessary.
8. Let your idea become the horse’s idea.

“Why do you always wear a cowboy hat?” “Because it fits my head.” was the reply.

An exchange between Grace and Joe in the movie The Horse Whisperer.

Leadership, Horsemanship & Yoga

On about the twentieth downward dog of the class my mind started to drift. It could have been the heat of the room causing me to consider places I would rather be or simply it was the only position that allowed blood to my head. My transitions were getting slower, the hop your feet forward was more like a drag and time was slowing.

Despite that image I enjoy yoga – it helps maintain a strong core and good balance, I have to focus on breathing and yoga is another opportunity to push my limits. As I seek the feel of lengthen and shift I can’t miss the fact they are principals that apply to my leadership journey and elements that impact my horsemanship. Yoga, horsemanship or leadership it is all about me.

My first reaction was to stop, when my dog Lilly caused Rhys to bolt*. In an instant it became clear stopping was not an option but Ray Hunt’s words “I can ride a horse as fast as he can run.” seemed plausible. With all the time in the saddle and experience I have gained I let go of my first thought, I knew I could ride it out. Nature sets these events up well, as oxygen got the better of Rhys before we hit the end of the field so we slowed to a lope, trot then walk with little effort on my part. The remainder of the ride was quite pleasant once my heart slowed down and my left foot stopped shaking.

Leadership, horsemanship or yoga is about preparing yourself for how you will handle yourself when the going gets tough. Rhys has always suggested that he might bolt. When concerned Rhys locks down his tail and it feels like something is trying to grab him from behind, so what happened was a case of when. The more we test our relationship and trust for each other through longer and more varied rides the less often the ya buts occur.

In the back of my mind there has always been that question “What if?”. Self talk brings on self doubt, ironically words spoken by one of Calgary’s few female corporate leaders at a recent luncheon. She stated that self-doubt is one of the greatest limiting factors women bring on themselves in attaining leadership status in the corporate world. Believing that I would survive through the ride was all I needed, the rest was the knowledge and skill I have spent years developing.

Just as the yoga instructor is calling to us to push ourselves see if you can hold the pose just one more breath. Leadership and horsemanship is about that one breath bringing us places we never saw ourselves before. If you have read past newsletters you might recall that Rhys is often featured. While I love a quiet uneventful ride, I am always preparing myself and my horse for the what ifs.

We learn the most about ourselves from our challenging experiences, or at least we have that opportunity. I have learned more about myself, my horsemanship and my leadership through a decision way back when that “One of us had to change.”

*bolt in this context is a mad dash with little control as to direction or speed

Lovin What You Do

We all know someone who professes to love what they do. They are passionate about getting up every day and going to work, they view a day at the office as simply another opportunity.

While my office may look a bit different, I am fortunate to include myself in that group. Loving what you do isn’t always easy and I am the first to admit that I now understand why people get jobs!

Acknowledging my excitement at signing on a client for a series of sessions this year, a friend responded with “it’s only taken you eight years to become an overnight sensation.” I had to laugh at the absolute truth! No wonder so many people give up on their dream of their own business within the first five years, it is hard work and often without a lot of immediate returns.

While the returns might not be immediate, the benefits are many. Others who start a business typically pick up a past employer as a first contract, what I realised is the seven years prior to me leaving a job were focused on clients in the U.S. and Europe so my local contacts were very limited. That required me to step outside my comfort zone and get out to meet people. Past strangers I now call friends. I have learned more in the past eight years than my formal schooling years in total. And it’s all been relevant!

While I have always been pretty good at setting goals, managing time and completing activities, the reasons I fit so well into the role of managing programs. That skill has proven itself over in spades as I am not waiting for someone else to do something for me, but I am getting better at hiring others who will do certain things quicker than I.

I have learned so much about myself that it truly helps in how I connect and communicate with others and of that I am still learning. That knowledge continues to enhance my leadership and my horsemanship. Leadership and horsemanship it’s all the same to me and my job now is to help others see where the parallels lie for them.

My closing thought at a school presentation for grade eleven and twelve students considering their career path. “This career didn’t exist when I was in school. It was one that showed up for me as I developed the skills I would need to be successful. Just be open and journey you start out on may lead to totally unexpected destinations.”