Dani Bühler barrel races for fun and trains giraffes for a living, and she’s pretty dang good at both.
Dani Bühler and Youaintseenfamousyet have been making waves in the barrel pen lately. After taking a hiatus from horses for a couple years, Bühler cracked “Yeti” back out last year and ran a 16.9 on a standard pattern at the 2022 Pink Buckle Barrel Race that helped them finish third in the Derby average for $22,400, won the Go Fast Races Thanksgiving Classic Derby, and most recently broke the arena record at the Circle T Arena in Hamilton, Texas, to win the 2023 Lone Star Shootout Derby.
Though she rides for fun, Bühler makes her living training, but not horses — the native of Switzerland who now resides in Spring Branch, Texas, is a career giraffe trainer. She operates a mobile service, traveling around to private giraffe owners to work with their animals.
“I happened to be in the right place at the right time, confessed my love for giraffes, and then it escalated into training them. Nobody really does it; I had to learn myself,” Bühler said. “I got on YouTube and saw some videos of people putting giraffes’ feet on blocks, and I had these baby giraffes I had the opportunity to work with, so it was trial-and-error until I figured it out. And now I have 23 giraffes [as clients].”
Bühler’s work with the giraffes involves teaching them to put their feet on blocks to be trimmed, hold for X-rays, blood draws and ultrasounds, and other work to keep them healthy and manageable.
“You can’t do a whole lot with wild ones, but if it’s a good calm giraffe, I can get them to be more manageable without having to put them under anesthesia any time you have to do some sort of procedure with them. It’s super risky to knock them down [under anesthesia],” Bühler shared.
She says her work with the giraffes has made her horse training better and helped her become a more effective teacher to all animals.
“The only horse training I do is for myself; I don’t have outside horses. You have to be more patient [with giraffes], and it’s all positive reinforcement training — you can’t reprimand a giraffe or push it around,” Bühler said. “It’s made me a more patient, quiet and forgiving person around these horses, too.”
Watch for more about giraffe trainer Dani Bühler and her career in an upcoming feature story in a print issue of Barrel Horses News magazine. Grab a copy of the March 2023 issue to read about Bühler and other winners in coverage of the Lone Star Shootout.