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Friday Flicks: ‘Wild Horse Wild Ride’ (2011)

HN’s galloping movie critic Amanda Ronan finds a lot to love about this award-winning documentary featuring the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge.

From Amanda:

Wild Horse, Wild Ride tells the story of the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge, an annual contest that dares 100 people to each tame a totally wild mustang in order to get it adopted into a better life beyond federal corrals.”

I’ve been eagerly awaiting to review this film ever since previewing it back in August. It is now available on Netflix Instant and is definitely worth adding to your queue.

Beginning at Day 1 when a select group of trainers pick up their horses from the federal holding pens, the movie follows their training progress over 100 days until finally converging in Fort Worth for the competition.

The most fascinating “characters” for me personally were Nik and Kris, two home-schooled brothers from New Hampshire, who base their training methods on patience, kindness and pure boyish curiosity. One of the most beautiful horse/human bonding moments of the film is Kris’s initial contact with Sioux. Really heartwarming stuff, there.

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Kris and his horse, Sioux, on Day 1

But my favorite team of the film has to go to Compadre and trainer Jesus. This horse is downright lovely, and Jesus’s quiet demeanor mixed with Cowboy traditionalism was fascinating to watch.

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Jesus and Compadre

The least fascinating persona of the film for me was Wylene. Now, I may get some hate mail because she really does appear to be a great trainer (Riding her Mustang the first week through
a Taco Bell drive-thru! What?) but I just was not won over by her “shock and awe” personality.

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Wylene and Rembrandt

But at least Wylene had control of her horse! Melissa, a Ph.D. from College Station, Texas, was the only “trainer” that both frightened and frustrated me. In fact I really felt like she should have been banned from the final competition because several times during the film a professional trainer worked with her Mustang.

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Back to my favorites…

Kris and Nik both made amazing progress with their horses in a very short amount of time and immediately start preparing for their “freestyle” exhibitions. Nik’s piece de resistance is standing
in the saddle and then doing a backflip dismount. No prob.

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Meanwhile, Kris hopes to showcase the trust formed between him and his horse by doing an entire obstacle course blindfolded… the horse, not Kris… although I wouldn’t put it past him.

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Jesus and Compadre stick to their roots by doing a trick rope exhibition.

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Wild Horse Wild Ride has won more than a dozen awards at film festivals around the country since 2011 and been nominated for many more. Overall, I found this film fascinating and even my non-horsey husband seemed intrigued by the content. It really showcased the diversity of the Mustang both mentally and physically, for instance comparing the astounding Compadre to the very diminutive Waylon (which I didn’t post a picture of but easily won the “Mini Hellcat” award), but also their ability to adapt! I mean these horses were doing these things in 100 days, people! Amazing!

I don’t want to ruin the ending, so I won’t say who won the competition, but I will say that everyhorse featured on the film got their happy ending. There were tears, yes. Nik and Kris had me crying by the end of the film, but in the end everyone of these animals found a home.

On top of all that, the film itself was just well done by debut filmmakers Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus. The cinematography, editing and subtle soundtrack were all excellent without overshadowing the personal narratives of the trainers.

I had only one very minor problem with the film and those mainly involved the coverage of Navajo trainer, Charles, and his horse Comanche. I know the filmmakers probably picked their “characters” out early and just stuck with it, but I felt like he should not have been showcased. I cringed at a few of his initial training techniques and I really didn’t enjoy the fact that he brought the horse to the competition unready. I think any horse person knows how ridiculous it is to see teams at events that just should not. be. there.

Still, I give Wild Horse Wild Ride 3 ½ Golden Horseshoes.

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For more information about the Extreme Mustang Makeover go to extrememustangmakeover.com. And for the more about the movie check out wildhorsewildride.com.

Go Riding.

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About the Author

Amanda’s experience with horses is just as eclectic as her taste in movies.  She has dabbled in almost every discipline from eventing to team penning to fox hunting.  She started riding when she was 8 with her local 4-H club in Western performance events.  She moved on to the AQHA circuit with her Quarter Horse, “Aggie,” when she was 12 and he was a green 2 year old.  Through college she held a working student position at Seahorse Sporthorses, owned by Terri Adams, where she was introduced to the wonderful world of show jumping and eventing.  Along with Aggie, who just turned 20 years old, she has two OTTBs in her herd named “Gump” and “Lizard.”  Amanda continues her jumping training with Ms. Adams and works on that necessary evil also known as dressage with Mimi Burch of Blue Moon Farm.

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