Lucky for me, a good friend told me all about the movie “Wild Horse Wild Ride” that just came to the local arts theater. Otherwise I might have gone to see it not knowing that it is a documentary of one of those horse-as-entertainment events I so strongly dislike.
The award-winning indie film documents the 2009 edition of the “Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge,” an annual contest that sends BLM mustangs home with people who must “train” them in 100 days and then compete for cash prizes.
I’ve written before about my visceral negative reaction to these types of events. I know they’re billed as a way to raise public awareness of the plight of the horses rounded up and held by the BLM and I sincerely hope that some horses do get good homes as a result.
But you won’t find me at one of those events and I will definitely be giving “Wild Horse Wild Ride” a miss.
I’ve thought a lot about why watching the YouTube videos of the contestants in these events puts a big knot in my stomach and makes me feel ill. It can’t just be that as a trainer I know that putting a hard deadline on training so often leads the humans to take shortcuts and use techniques that aren’t necessarily in the horses’ best interest.
I think I’d feel better about the whole thing if the horses were only meant to master tasks they might need in their new homes. Let’s face it, just getting a wild horse to accept the touch of a human, the feel of a halter and leadrope, the weight of tack and a rider, and the direction of basic cues is a pretty amazing feat. I’d be suitably impressed with any trainer who could do those things in three months.
Somehow, I’m much less impressed by a trainer who take a wild horse and in that short amount of time have him jumping through hoops – literally. To please crowds presumably of non-horse people, these “mustang makeover” events seem to inspire all kinds of stunts that have nothing to do with how most people work with their horses.
One of the “cast” members is an Arizona horse trainer I first heard about back in 2009 when I got an emotionally charged phone call from a young woman worried about the safety of a friend’s horse in an upcoming clinic. Seems the trainer, Wylene Wilson, specializes in the horse-breaking technique known as “laying a horse down.”
Yep. Yet another practice that gives me that “kicked in the belly” feeling. Not wild about the idea of watching one or more perpetrators of that type of trauma in color on the big screen.
So, of course, what’s pictured on the movie website’s “About” page? You guessed it. A horse lying flat on his side in a roundpen with a man sitting on his hindquarters. Okay. That cinched it. I will not be going to see this movie, even though it looks from the trailer as if there might be some quite touching moments between horses and the people who are working with them.
Like I said, I’m thankful my friend gave me a synopsis of the movie. That way I won’t be the crazy lady running from a Tucson theater screaming “Nooooo! Make them stop!”