Wild Horse, Wild Ride

Wild Horse, Wild Ride

2012, PG, 107 min. Directed by Alex Dawson, Greg Gricus.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 14, 2012

Wild Horse, Wild Ride’s directing duo, Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus, open their film with some precredits, ad-copylike hokum: “This is the story of a few wild spirits – both human and horse – who must learn to transform from strangers to companions … and end up on the ride of their lives.” It’s a hell of a wrong foot forward – soured me on the film before it had even started – which is why I was doubly surprised to find myself sobbing through the end credits.

Although the filmmakers are happy to spell out a mission statement, they’re less forthcoming with hard facts. For instance, there’s little explanation for why, at the film’s beginning, wild mustangs are being rounded up and removed from public range land. (In brief: It’s because the population outpaces what the land can sustain.) Dawson and Gricus rush through the scene’s context to get to its conclusion, wherein amateur and professional trainers take home the mustangs. They have 100 days to tame the animals’ wildness and then compete in something called the Extreme Mustang Makeover; at the end of the competition, held in Fort Worth, the mustangs will be auctioned off to new owners.

The filmmakers trail nine trainers in Texas, New Hampshire, and Arizona, as their horses transition – some faster than others – from bucking, biting wild things to trusting companions (one mustang even submits to riding blindfolded through the rough, so devoted is he to his teenaged trainer). The filmmakers, hopscotching between states, whiz through the training process, imparting little about the nuts and bolts of breaking a horse. Nor do they bother much familiarizing the viewer with the particulars of the Extreme Mustang Makeover – its history, the rules and regulations, or what precisely the criteria for judging entails. Finally, the sense of passing time is undercut when one realizes some of the supporting interviewees wear the same outfit throughout – meaning, one day and one interview, diced throughout a whole film in which the concept of a ticking clock is crucial.

Frustrations abound with this limited film, but Wild Horse, Wild Ride does one thing exceptionally well, and that is convey the emotional bond between trainer and horse. Many of the trainers, who range in age from late teens to seniorsomething, start the process emotionally detached and end the 100-day stretch powerfully attached. As for the 18-year-old horse whisperer, trying to be cowboy-stoic but still leaking tears knowing he can’t afford to buy the mustang he now counts as his best friend? Well, that leak filled a bucket from my eyes.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Films
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
The original girl detective makes a modern return

Steve Davis, March 15, 2019

Apollo 11
Astounding documentary takes us back to the first crewed mission to the moon

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 15, 2019

More by Kimberley Jones
Trump’s Twitter Library, a Ferris Wheel of Cheese, and More From the Wide, Weird World of SXSW
Trump’s Twitter Library, a Ferris Wheel of Cheese, and More From the Wide, Weird World of SXSW
Festival-adjacent events abound!

March 8, 2019

Our #1 Friend Crushes at SXSW 2019
Our #1 Friend Crushes at SXSW 2019
Eight panelists we want to be our SXBFFs

March 5, 2019


Wild Horse, Wild Ride, Alex Dawson, Greg Gricus

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle