“Release the possibilities.”
“When I walk into a pen with my horse, he comes to me, because we have developed a trust between us. Understanding the natural instincts of the horse allows me to tune into those instincts to teach him what I want him to know. It gives me great joy to build this trusting partnership between us,” contended Cindy Branham.
“This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that required some initial pressure from me. But, when my horse responded, I rewarded him by taking away the pressure,” the horsewoman continued.
“By eliminating resistance, my horse was able to ‘release the possibilities’ of just what we could accomplish as a team,” Branham emphasized.
The Topeka horse trainer-clinician claims that everything she does with horses has an influence from a greater power with ample credit expressed to a strong faith.
Her story is a bestselling book not yet written, but concisely Branham is a lifelong horse lover who contends the passion of her profession today is to help horses and their handlers become a pair.
Only taking precedence over Branham’s heartfelt, destined purpose is her family: husband Ryan and children, Colten, Justin and Madison.
Yet, “another side,” for which Branham is likely most widely recognized is her successes with Mustangs.
“It’s interesting how Mustangs have come into my life, changed it and offer so many opportunities,” stated Branham, high finisher in several Mustang competitions, and advocate for diversely advantageous Mustang programs.
“I was a horse crazy girl, a preacher’s daughter in Colorado, when a farmer gave me a pony stallion, feed, saddle, bridle. I was just five-years-old. God was setting the path for my life,” Branham reflected.
Before long CoCo, a Welch-like liver chestnut with flaxen mane and tail, was gelded, and Cindy was riding to her heart’s delight. “Well, not quite, he was unbroken, and I didn’t know any more than he did. My dad would have to come find me after I landed on the ground more than once. But, it didn’t take long until we were quite the team,” Branham insisted.
Then, her father’s pastor ship changed locales, and it looked like CoCo wouldn’t be able to make the move. “I was in the third grade, heartbroken, and God pretty much worked it out. There was a therapeutic riding program that offered to let me keep my pony there, they called him Pickles, in exchange for helping out, doing what a little kid could do,” Branham grinned.
Yet, that was the beginning of her professional horse career. “I graduated to a bigger horse, a bay Arabian mare, Sierra, became involved in a drill team and was soon helping others in the riding program,” Branham reflected.
Again predestined was a move to Kansas. A teenager, Branham brought her horse with her and worked at a barn in exchange for its board. Married at 18, with her first two children shortly thereafter, Branham continued riding, trained colts, worked with problem horses, gave some riding lessons and did competitive trail riding.
“Then, I went to the EquiFest at Wichita where John Lyons was the featured clinician. I always admired his horse handling methods. I wanted to become a clinician, too, and even though we really didn’t have the financing, my husband insisted that I go through the Lyons’ certification program, my ‘college education.’
“That was the best thing I’ve ever done,” related Branham, who graduated with “Select Trainer” honors, and now conducts clinics locally and around the country, sometimes with Lyons and his son, Josh.
“Shortly after that, Oreo, then just six, came into my life. He’s a black and white Paint stallion: a real gem. I didn’t want a stallion, but his owner asked me to keep him. Oreo became such a part of our lives, that we eventually acquired him as our own,” said Branham.
Only limited breeding was done with the now 20-year-old stallion, but there are those who consider Cindy Branham and Oreo synonymous, not unlike John Lyons and his horse, Zip. “I’ve used Oreo in clinics, various competitions, he does tricks, whatever asked,” verified Branham.
There are some horsemen who have vast abilities to train, but can’t communicate what they’ve done to others. “It is so important to help horse owners become partners with their mounts, and I try very hard to communicate the best ways for that to become a reality,” Branham said.
The Rockin RC, Branham’s training operation, is now headquartered at the R&D Ranch, owned by Bill and Sharon Reed, just southeast of Topeka.
“It is a 30-acre facility with stall barns, indoor and outdoor arenas, horse boarding, and training areas where I can give lessons, and even have competitions. We live right on location, my husband Ryan, a Topeka firefighter, assists with operations in his off time, and Bill and Sharon are just super to work with,” Branham credited.
No matter how careful one tries to be, accidents can happen, and Branham suffered a serious leg injury in 2007. A new lariat became tangled around her leg, and Branham was dragged around by a horse in training.
Still recovering from complete knee replacement and extensive rehabilitation, Branham credits that terrible catastrophe to again changing her direction.
“I never wanted to have anything to do with Mustangs before, but as I was healing, I became inspired to acquire a Mustang to enter a natural training competition: the very first Extreme Mustang Makeover.
“That first Mustang called Joshua certainly changed my mind about Mustangs, helped heal my subconscious fright of horses and redirected my path. God did it again,” Branham said.
Mustangs in the 100-day Extreme Mustang Makeover, coordinated through the Mustang Heritage Foundation, and the Bureau of Land Management and other entities, are adopted auction style at completion of competitions.
“I had become extremely attached to my first Mustang, and although we again didn’t have the finances, my husband and family put together enough funds to buy Joshua, and he’s still here on the farm,” Branham related.
Naming two handfuls of Mustangs she’s trained, Branham is probably most recognized for her buckskin gelding named Tucker, a finalist in both the 2010 Mustang Makeover and America’s Favorite Trail Horse competitions, and named the 2011 World’s Most Beautiful Horse Champion.
“I’ve written a children’s book about Tucker, and hope to soon get it published for distribution,” Branham noted.
Not only does Braham train Mustangs, but she has strived to educate the public about the history and current value that Mustangs have for this nation.
Volunteering at Bureau of Land Management adoptions, Branham has also worked closely with the Hutchinson Correctional Facility which has a program for inmates to team with Mustangs that are later adopted to the public.
“This is truly an outstanding opportunity for the inmates and the Mustangs as well. It’s just amazing what they can accomplish when they’re spending so much time together,” Branham credited.
“One of my major objectives now is to develop a similar Mustang program at the women’s correctional facilities here in Topeka, and hopefully it’ll even expand to other locations,” related Branham.
Most appreciative of Mustangs, their heritage, abilities and vast possibilities, Branham admitted, “The number of mustangs in holding facilities has gotten out of hand and is a government tax burden. In my opinion, we have over managed the wild horses, interfering with natural selection, and survival of the fittest.
“Culling some of the Mustangs to maintain herd size is a good thing, and then let the herds live in natural state without our assistance would be more of what I would recommend.”
As Branham has diversified, she trained Oreo to pull a vehicle and now has a beautiful vis-à-vis used for commercial carriage rides for various celebrations.
“I was fortunate to get my Arabian mare Sierra back, and she produced a breeding stock Pinto mare, Dreamer. I then mated Dreamer to Oreo, and she had a bay and white Pinto colt we named Dash. He was gelded, is already eight now, and I’ve been hooking Dash with his dad as a team,” Branham explained.
Billed as RC Elegance, Branham’s vis-à-vis pulled by the dad-son spotted team will be a feature during the Winter Wonderland at Lake Shawnee this weekend, as well as additional days, through the holiday season.
Also closely involved with “Cowboy Races” locally and around the country, Branham’s children often compete successfully in those events as well.
“My true hope and goal is to clearly teach about the beauty and grace of God, and how it is revealed to us through the horse. There is a great lesson to be learned by understanding the transformation of a wild untrained animal to a submissive meek horse, and his desire to have a trusting and loving relationship with humans.
“Horses offer so much for so many, and I want to do my small part to help each and every one as I’m guided in my faith,” Branham summarized.
“Truly, as in Luke 18:27…with God all things are possible,” she concluded.