Wild Horse, Wild Ride–Movie Review

So, I embarked on a documentary spree of sorts over the last month and I’m now addicted to this genre of film. From horse movies to nature docs to food films, there are many great documentaries well worth seeing. If you’ve been following my blog at all you know how much I loved the horsey documentary Buck and today I’m going to talk about the latest horse doc I watched called Wild Horse, Wild Ride.

Every year in the US, thousands of wild mustangs are herded up and they all need to find a forever home. In order to raise awareness about these stunning animals, the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge was born from the Mustang Heritage Foundation. Basically, it’s a contest for both professional horse trainers and serious amateur trainers who have enough horse experience under their belts that they can properly start out a horse who’s never really seen a human, let alone been touched or ridden by one. Each of 100 mustangs are paired with a horse trainer, and then the trainer has 100 days to work with that horse before the horses are presented in a contest at the end of the three months. The contest, which takes place in Fort Worth, Texas, is to show off what these mustangs can do under saddle and in-hand.  At the end of the contest, all 100 of the mustangs go up for adoption and the winning trainer is awarded $5,000 in prize money. If the trainers have fallen in love with their mustangs and want to buy them (which many of them do, as I’m sure you can imagine!) then they must bid against the public.

Filmmakers Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus follow nine of these trainers as they throw their hearts and souls into taming these wild horses. What I loved most about this film is that the filmmakers included a wide spectrum of horse trainers—from Melissa, who has her PhD in biomedical engineering and teaches during the day, to Wylene who is a professional horse trainer and a seasoned competitor in the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge. Jesus is a roofer by day and an amazing trick roper, while George and Evelyn each decide to bring a mustang home to their ranch to train. There’s also Charles and his son Carlos who live on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, and Kris and Nik, brothers who are trying to make their names in natural horsemanship training.

With such a diverse array of trainers, it was also interesting to watch each trainer’s methods of starting their horses—for one, she was riding her mustang after three days, whereas another took months to mount up and instead focused on establishing a strong bond on the ground with his horse. Of course every horse’s personality was vastly different and some proved more challenging than others.

My one criticism is that I think after watching this film, a non-horse person may think that training a mustang or any horse for that matter, isn’t actually as hard as it looks and that anyone who knows a little about horses could reasonably give horse training a try. This is not to say that the film doesn’t show some of the challenges of working with a wild horse, but I actually think they should have showed a few more of the setbacks that come with horse training especially with horses that have spent their entire lives running free compared to a domestic horse who has at least been raised and handled by humans by the time they begin their training.

Wild Horse, Wild Ride had me laughing and crying (I don’t cry often in movies, though admittedly I do cry more easily whenever there are animals involved. Still, I advise a tissue box….) As with Buck, I don’t think you have to be a horse person to enjoy this film and take something away from it. The scenery was beautiful as were the horses, of course, and watching the relationships between horse and human form is always remarkable. I definitely left with a new appreciation for mustangs and what they are capable of as a riding horse (I now not-so-secretly want to adopt one). I also have some new goals I’d like to work on with my own horse, such as riding him bridleless and teaching him all about tarps and how they don’t have to be scary at all. We have a lot of work to do before we get there, but I’m feeling very inspired after seeing this film.


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