Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here!

Last fall our devoted collective of Cooler Horsemanship students spread to the winds when James and Kate left Fiore Farms for Flintrock Farm. People took their horses to new stables—fresh pastures, so to speak. We all felt sad at the loss of our community of good-hearted, horse-loving folks. James and Kate continued to teach these loyal students, commuting to their barns to give lessons.

Mystic and I followed James and Kate and their herd to Flintrock in November; Mystic’s good friend Mo came along too, as well as Joker, a horse in training. Poky had already beaten us there.

Pokey in her stall at Flintrock, fancy brass nameplate and all

Poky in her stall at Flintrock, fancy nameplate and all

Kate leads Mo out of the pasture

Kate leads Mo out of the pasture

We’ve learned our way around the place, which boards more than 100 horses, and settled into a routine. Still, something has been missing: the tight-knit camaraderie of the old barn, where we all believed deeply in natural horsemanship and cheered each other on.

They say you can’t go back.

Well, maybe not, but I have learned that you can get your friends and their horses back in one place.

Sonder arrived at Flintrock in December.

Elizabeth and Sonder in Flintrock's outdoor arena

Elizabeth and Sonder in Flintrock’s outdoor arena

Next came Buddy and Molly, then Zip, Ben, and Oberon; Rebekah moved in yesterday. With them came Ben, Angela & Amanda, Jane, Margaret & Emma & Jeanette, and Jeanne.

Amanda helps Zip settle into his new home with bag of hay

Amanda helps Zip settle in

Marget and Oberon check out the grounds

Margaret and Oberon check out the grounds

Jane brought a new set of bright orange cones with her, and I bought a small, portable pedestal. We’re keeping these and other toys in an empty stall, which Margaret jokes will eventually be lined with an oriental carpet.

It’s great to have the gang back.

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Wild Horse Wild Ride

I just watched a gem of a movie called Wild Horse Wild Ride. It’s a newly released documentary about the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge, a yearly competition in which 100 amateur and professional trainers are paired with 100 wild mustangs. They have 100 days to tame their horses before showcasing the results in a two-day event. After a champion is chosen, the horses are publicly auctioned the next day—thus avoiding federal corrals.

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The movie zeroes in on nine participants in the 2009 Extreme Mustang Makeover, a diverse bunch that includes a Navajo grandfather, a young engineer who has never trained a horse before, two home-schooled brothers, and a grizzled Texas cowboy and his seventh wife.

George and his seventh wife, Evelyn, each train a mustang in the film

George and his seventh wife, Evelyn, each take on a mustang

And, unforgettably, there’s Wylene Wilson, a daredevil blonde with enough braggadocio to fill a hot-air balloon.

Wylene Wilson rides her mustang in the Fort Worth final

Wylene Wilson rides her mustang in the Fort Worth final

Wild Horse Wild Ride shows the trainers’ different approaches—some more successful than others—and the deep bonds they form with their horses. One seemingly untrainable mustang takes a surprising turn, while other horses pull off amazing feats by the end of 100 days. The Kokal brothers from New Hampshire, two self-taught young men with a gift for horses, are especially endearing. All I can say is: prepare to cry along with them.

Kris Kokal works on trust with his mustang

Kris Kokal works on trust with his mustang

The competition in Forth Worth is suspenseful, but the auction the following day is the real cliffhanger. Some of the nine trainers have their hearts set on buying their mustangs, but don’t know if they’ll be outbid. Who wins and who loses? You’ve got to watch to find out.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that a trainer and horse featured in the movie win the championship. And one of the mustangs goes for an astonishingly large sum; his buyers turn out to be famous, and his fate is unique indeed.

You can rent Wild Horse Wild Ride through Netflix or Red Box (that’s what I did, for a grand total of $1.28), or buy it at retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Costco, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and mustangheritagefoundation.org.