Wild Horses of the West

Wild horses are romantic symbols of the American Old West, an era that is fading from memory. From being one of the most recognizable icons of the western landscape, to playing essential roles in therapy programs, one thing is clear: the role of wild horses in America is multifaceted, and they need to be protected. But there are ecological issues that surround the Mustang and, like the animal, they’re complex.

Wild horses are part of the American story – a staple of our history, from helping Native Americans hunt buffalo, to aiding the cowboy in herding cattle. However, like other facets of the Old West, the wild horse has encountered adversity when confronted with modernity. Wild horses compete with free-range livestock for resources, including watering holes and fields of grass.

"Wild horses are a beautiful part of the American story, and it's important that we tell America's story," says Ken Salazar, former Secretary of the Interior.  "We also need to recognize that horses, especially at the levels that we have them today, are creating very significant problems for our public lands."

When the horse population gets too high, the Bureau of Land Management is tasked with removing surplus horses, a process that often runs into logistical snags. When roundups take place with helicopters chasing herds into captivity, wild horse advocates see it as inhumane.

Once rounded up, there’s another obstacle: What should be done with the animals, especially when the horse population outpaces adoption demand? The discussion includes detainment in taxpayer-funded holding facilities, sterilization, even euthanasia. With passionate, vocal supporters on both sides, this is a complex issue, one that warrants a multi-pronged resolution.

In addition, the film visits various therapy programs such as the one offered by the National Ability Center in Park City, which as found that veterans and challenged individuals benefit from friendships with horses.  Mustangs are also used in prison and young adult rehabilitation programs, and can teach valuable lessons in bonding and patience. 

Narrated by Ali MacGraw.