Wild horses, often referred to as mustangs, are part of the landscape in New Mexico. For me the thrill of seeing them is always tinged with worry about their welfare. They are protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, but in reality there are too many of them competing for too little grass and water on the open range they inhabit. This recent article in the Santa Fe Reporter covered the dilemma in New Mexico, but it’s not a problem unique to our state. Many other western states are dealing with the same issue.
Enter Ben Masters, a wildlife biologist, recently graduated from Texas A & M. When budget constraints forced him to rely on a few of these wild equines (supplementing his domestic horses) on a trek along the Continental Divide, he discovered that they made great trail horses. It was then that Masters hatched the idea of an expedition on horseback traveling from Mexico to Canada using only mustangs.
Starting in Arizona, Ben and three college buddies and more than a dozen adopted, recently-trained horses set out across the country. Their adventure is captured in the new documentary Unbranded. Along the way the audience also hears viewpoints from various stakeholders in the debate—ranchers, government officials, animal rights activists.
By the time the lights came up I was convinced I must adopt a burro, but have yet to figure out where to keep it.
For more about the making of the documentary check out this Radio Café interview with Phill Baribeau, the filmmaker.