Starring: Wylene Wilson, Jesus Jauregui, George Gregory
Directed by: Alex Dawson (debut) and Greg Gricus (debut)
Before the dust settles, debut filmmakers Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus need to pitch their documentary “Wild Horse, Wild Ride” as a reality TV series to CMT. In a format like that, the stories behind the herds of wild Mustangs tamed each year so they can participate in a Texas riding competition, could be very inspirational if producers focused each one-hour show on a couple of trainers, their history, and the specific techniques used to get their horse domesticated. As a 106-minute feature documentary, which follows nine trainers from all walks of life (there’s a young biomedical engineer, a Navajo Indian, and a Mexican immigrant from Wisconsin), “WHWR” spreads the narrative too thin and becomes repetitious over the course of three exhausting months.
Even if “WHWR” never becomes a reality show, the name of the riding competition featured in the film sounds like one itself. Sponsored by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge in Fort Worth is an annual event where 100 trainers are assigned to one of 100 Mustangs removed from public rangelands by the U.S. government, and given 100 days to make the steed ride ready and adoptable.
The most interesting scenes in “WHWR” are watching each trainer bond with his or her horse using different methods. Still, not much is explained from a technical aspect. Also sorely lacking is the controversy behind the rounding up of these animals from their natural habitat. It’s evident Dawson and Gricus had no time (or interest) to even entertain the idea of covering the topic of Mustang population control, but ignoring it makes “WHWR” seem like a shortsighted project filmed only to appease horse trainers and the likes. Imagine if other “animal” docs like “Buck,” “Grizzly Man” or “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” only appealed to cowboys, bear activists, and birders. Dawson and Gricus missed their opportunity to say so much more.