A handful of unforgettable characters set out on a 100-day quest to tame a totally wild mustang for a Texas competition in this stunning and poignant documentary. Among them: Charles, a Navajo grandfather out to re-capture his youth; George, a grizzled cowboy with a stubborn streak; and Wylene, a blond beauty with a theatrical flare and a nerve of steel. In three months, man and horse must transform from scared strangers to close companions. It won’t be an easy journey. Bones and egos will take a beating. Fear and frustration will weed many out. But those who prevail may find themselves desperately vying to keep their horses when they ultimately all go up for adoption at a public auction.
Wild Horses, Wild Ride is one of those documentaries that you simply can’t take your eyes off of. It is the story of 100 wild mustangs that are rounded up every year by the government to be entered into a contest to be tamed by individuals. At the end of the time period, these horses are put into a contest and auctioned off to supposedly give them a better life. The documentary is done skillfully and artfully by husband and wife team Greg Gricus and Alex Dawson. The documentary narrows the focus to nine individuals and their mustangs, and tells the story of how they get used to one another (or not) and the process of breaking the mustang.
Before I go any further, let me take care of the elephant in the room…the documentary completely dodges the potential immorality or morality of rounding up 100s of horses and forcing them to bend to these showmanship tactics. While the movie could have been much better by including such information, it makes no claims to be about that. Still, the fact that it centers on this lightening rod subject should have triggered at least a nod in that direction and an opinion one way or the other. The silence from their camp says that they are cool with by default I guess.
That being said and political feelings aside, I adored every minute of this cute little documentary. The movie follows the horses and the nine individuals through every step of the breaking in process, although the fact that they focused the lens and story so widely made it a bit thin on the buy in for the viewer. I think it could have been more effective and the viewer could have cared more if they had focused only on two or three, but I digress.
The simple fact is, the process is fascinating and a wonderful way to spend an evening at the theater. The horses are divine creatures that we see go from being wild and rambunctious to tame and capable horses. The nine individuals that are focused on are widely varied and range from a showgirl to a cowboy and back again.
The contest is called The Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge and it is literally done with mustangs straight off the open plains. It is incredible to watch those initial meetings between trainer and horse, as each of them dance around the inevitable initial discomfort. Mustangs are incredible creatures that are fascinating in any element to me, so I would have loved any type of documentary about them.
This brings us to the other aspect of the documentary that some have complained about. What about those folks not into horses? I tried to consider that as I watched the documentary and truthfully, it probably would not be nearly as entertaining. A big part of my love for Wild Horse, Wild Ride was my own adoration of these gorgeous animals.
The mustangs each exhibit their own personalities and are adorable in their own elements. When they become penned up, they lose a bit of that and there is a sadness that permeates the situation. That is captured fairly well by this great little documentary.
The documentary is beautifully shot with excellent angles and well thought out shots. The editing and cinematography are all top notch and make you think you are right there and ready to mount one of these mighty horses. If the movie gets viewed enough, the politics of the horse gathering is inevitably going to come up again. That said, the movie is creating a dialogue as well.
That has to be a good thing in the end, right? Just ask the horses.