By Shannon Geddes
When you ask ten different people for their definition of “cowboy,” you are bound to get ten different answers. But one thing most will agree on is that cowboys aren’t just found in the rodeo arena. Recently, a less mainstream western discipline got its turn on center stage when the movie Down the Fence debuted on Netflix.
Centered around the triumph and defeat of reined cow horse competition, Down the Fence follows a handful of horse trainers working to make a name for themselves in this most challenging of equestrian disciplines.
The reined cow horse discipline is not something that is widely known beyond those involved in equestrian competition. But inside the reined cow horse world is a tight-knit group of gritty competitors. Reined cow horse trainer Brandon Buttars from Snowville, Utah is deeply entrenched in that world and was one of the trainers featured in the documentary.
Growing up, Brandon had the opportunity to be the jockey for his family’s race horses, but it was not something he particularly enjoyed. In 1989, Brandon won the Utah State High School Rodeo Bull Riding Championship and went on to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo. After high school, Brandon started helping horseman Jack Forsberg start colts. Brandon was intrigued by what Jack was doing; his way of riding and training. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he wanted to pursue a career training horses.
Jack taught Brandon to train all horses, not just the ones that are supposed to be the best. Brandon’s wife, Sophia Buttars, says that he has won on horses that probably didn’t have the best odds, but he has figured out a way to train every horse to do what he wants.
The ultimate goal for Brandon as a horse trainer is to become a million dollar rider and win the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity.
Photography: Lori Adamski-Peek