Wild Horse, Wild Ride documentary movie poster portraying a horse and a cowboy

Wild Horse, Wild Ride documentary movie poster

Synopsis

Wild Horse, Wild Ride invites us into the world of horse trainers–both amateur and professional–as they participate in the Extreme Mustang Challenge. One hundred trainers have 100 days to tame 100 wild mustangs—horses never touched by humans. The crowning event is a competition in Texas where the horses’ skills are showcased with the hope of helping each one find a permanent home.

Cast and Crew

The directors, Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus, decided to focus on nine trainers. The cast includes these wonderful characters:

  • George and Evelyn Gregory: An older couple and seasoned horse trainers. George struggles to train a smaller horse with trust issues.
  • Wylene Wilson-Davis: A single mother and champion horse trainer. She hopes to win the challenge for the first time.
  • Charles and Carlos Chee: A father and son from the Navajo nation, both seasoned riders, and trainers. Charles has probably the most challenging time, training a spitfire of a horse named Camanche.
  • Jesus Jauregui: An experienced trainer who hopes to keep his horse and bring him back home.
  • Kris and Nick Kokal: Two brothers. Through their experience, the audience comes to realize the financial reality keeping a horse requires.
  • Melissa Kanzelburger: A cowgirl with a doctorate, challenging herself to train a wild horse for the first time.

Film 101: Storytelling Techniques

The directors incorporate several useful storytelling devices.  The choice not to use a narrator is one of the best parts of the film. Interviews are edited into a cohesive thread of emotions. Nothing feels forced, but the story develops naturally. We sympathize with every character and feel for each person when they see the horse they’ve worked so hard with and for–adopted.

The filmmakers show us this world rather than telling us about it. Wide angle shots, especially during the competition, highlight the progress each horse/trainer team have made. We see Wylene perform one of her trademarks of jumping off her horse going full-speed. We see Jesus demonstrate his rope and lasso skills while standing on his horse. Kris blindfolds his Mustang—impressive for a horse who three months prior was running wild on prairie lands.

The editors help viewers understand the bond between these trainers and horses, using close-up shots to showcase skills. We see how their hands handle bridles and ropes. Interwoven are middle shots of moments horse and rider simply enjoy spending time together, emphasizing the respect and comradery developing.

The film’s sound is one of the most efficient storytelling tools.  Before we see the title, we hear sounds of horses galloping through an open field, setting the tone for the movie. Each hoof connecting to the earth seems to mimic the heart and spirit of every character participating in this challenge.  And in many ways, that is the message of this documentary: It’s about trusting, about bonding, about loving.

Sound continues to drive home the transformative power of nature through allowing us to listen to the “conversations” between horse and rider. For example, we hear Kris whisper, thank you, to his horse for allowing him to touch it for the first time.

What We Learn

 

Wylene Wilson-Davis performs a horse riding stunt in Wild Horse, Wild Ride

Wylene Wilson-Davis performs a horse riding stunt in Wild Horse, Wild Ride

We learn from this cast of characters that the bond with a horse and its trainer transcends age, gender, and background. Cowboy culture is more than working the land, more than working a horse. These people represent a universal culture with the common goal of doing what is best for the horse regardless of personal gain.

 

What sets this movie apart from other documentaries are the characters we get to know. We enjoy the journey each rider shares with their horse. The horse themselves are distinctive personalities—some mellow, some jittery, some feisty.

At the heart of the experience is the trust and bond between rider and horse. This relationship becomes rooted in mutual respect each develops for one another. It is what makes a difference. In the end, the trainer is probably the most transformed by the experience.

Of course, we cannot post a review of this film without mentioning Wylene Wilson-Davis’s performance. Last month, she helped Western Legends’ readers understand what it means to be a modern cowgirl. Her performance in this movie confirms that a real cowgirl is more than just talk. Viewers will enjoy watching Wylene demonstrate outstanding horsemanship, riding her horse Rembrandt, winning the event for the first time.

Conclusion

The trainers in the movie walk away with a special gift. Some improve as performers; others improve as riders; every person develops as human beings. Ultimately, we see the transformative power of nature. In many ways, the relationships we witness in this film reflect the potential we all have as fellow inhabitants of this Earth. Perhaps that is the real message of this movie—to give of ourselves to help others succeed.