Wild Horse, Wild Ride – Documentary Review

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It may sound like a reality TV show, but it’s an annual event that has become a way of life for devoted participants. And, it’s the subject of this documentary film.

The Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge

The premise is simple: place 100 wild mustang horses in the hands of 100 capable trainers and give the trainers 100 days to tame the mustangs, teach them a series of tricks and perform with them as a horse and trainer team in a competitive horse show.

The real goal of the competition is greater than winning a trophy or a cash prize. The objective is actually to find homes for the mustangs, all of which have been rounded up by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from wilderness preserves, where they’ve been running wild and free, most probably without ever having seen a human being before they were captured.

The methods used to train the horses are respectfully gentle, and at the end of the training period and competition, the tamed horses are auctioned off to the highest bidder, who will provide the steed with a good home. Many of the steeds are bought by the trainers who tamed them and, in doing so, bonded with them.

Such competitions are held in different regions across the U.S., but Wild Horse, Wild Ride is the chronicling of the event that is staged in Ft. Worth, Texas. Filmmakers Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus follow several horse training contestants who come from around the country to pick up mustangs that are randomly assigned to them, transport the horses to their homes, spend the next three months caring for and training them and transport them back to Ft. Worth for the well-attended competition showcase that only one horse and rider can win.

The Featured Trainers and Their Steeds

The trainers followed in the film are an appealing lot. There’s professional horsewoman and single mom Wylene Wilson, Hispanic horseman Jesus Jaurregui, horse whisperer Nik Kokal who works with his brother Kris, Native American horse handlers Charles and Carlos Chee and an elderly couple named George and Evelyn Gregory who each take a horse to train — and joke that the horse assigned to her is so much larger that the one assigned to him. And, there’s also Melissa Kanzelberger, a biochemechanical engineer who’s taken riding classes but has never before trained a horse. Her family is actually quite worried about her safety in facing off against a wild horse that weighs at least four times as much as she does, and is all aggression and muscle. But, Melissa has a hard-to-beat competitive can-do determination in her approach to everything, and refuses to capitulate to their concerns.

The competitors all love horses, love riding, love bonding with their steeds. They give the training process their all. Some of them experience extreme frustration in their efforts, others have more cooperative horses and/or better skills.

The film takes you to view their training sessions, and gives the trainers plenty of opportunity to express their feelings about their horses.

Amazing Accomplishments

It is very difficult to pick a favorite horse and trainer. At the final competition, the horses are put through their paces, and some of the tricks are astounding. The riders steer their steeds through difficult stepping patterns, stand on their horses’ bare backs while swirling lassos around their bodies and much more. All accomplished in three months of training — with wild horses. It is quite amazing.

There’s a $5,000 cash prize for the winner, and all of the competitors deserve to claim it. And, those trainers who wish to adopt their horses deserve to do so — if they can muster enough cash to outbid other potential buyers at the auction.

But, in the end, only one horse and rider can be the makeover champion. No spoilers here. You’ll have to see the film to find out who that is, and whether the trainers who bid on their mustangs get to take them home and continue to care for and train them.

The Makeover is Win-Win-Win

The Extreme Mustang Makeover Competition is really a winning situation for all who takes part in it. Through the various mustang makeover competitions, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for maintaining the lands where mustangs roam, has found a way to protect the horses from the dangers of the wild and to cull their problematic overpopulation without killing them. The horse lovers who train the mustangs have a wonderful time doing so. And, most importantly, the horses are saved, adopted into good homes and adored.

The well shot and edited film presents the story with wonderful bravado and Western flair. It’s entertaining and uplifting. So, what’s not to love?

Film Details:

Title: Wild Horse, Wild Ride
Directors: Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus
U.S. Theatrical Release Date: August 24, 2012
Running Time: 106 mins.
Parents Advisory: Advisory for content
Locations: Ft Worth, Texas and on various horse ranches across the country.
Language: English
Distribution Company: Screen Media Films

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The First Saturday in May
Born To Be Wild

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