Over the years, Brannaman learned that having a kinder, gentler approach works well with horses. He said it's that same understanding, kindness and respect that he extends to his family, his wife, Mary, and daughter, Reata, who share his passion for horses. On their ranch, Brannaman is often out roping cattle with Reata, whose name means "rope" in Spanish, and while he's out on the road 10 months a year, his wife runs the ranch.
"I didn't know that's what it was going to be about when I started doing clinics and working with these horses," Brannaman said. "I thought I was just going to get a chance to help people get along a little better with their horses. It turned out to be something, something totally different."
In his soft-spoken, mild-mannered way, Brannaman explains that the relationship between man and horse is similar to the bond between parent and child.
"[It's] the same with kids, you see some of these people with their kids, instead of being a little more engaged, and seeing when things are going the wrong direction, and redirecting them, they wait till they've done something wrong, and then they want to beat them up, or whip them for something that's already happened and people still do that with horses too. I'll be doing this the rest of my life, trying to convince people that that's not the way to go about things," Brannaman said.
Instead of using leather whips and stress to mold show animals, or paying a vet to drug them into submission, Brannaman's way is to control horses with soothing words and understanding -- what some call "horse whisperering."
"The horses need to respect you," he said. "But sometimes people confuse respect and fear. They're not the same at all."