Wild Horse, Wild Ride Theatrical Trailer from Alex Klenert on Vimeo.

You know you're watching a good horse movie (or any movie for that matter) when the opening sequence makes you cry and the closing credits bring you to your feet. That was my experience when I screened "Wild Horse, Wild Ride" at last year's BendFilm Festival here in my hometown of Bend, Ore.

The film is a documentary that follows participants in the Mustang Heritage Foundation's Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge. The competition covers 100 days and includes 100 people training 100 (nearly) untouched Mustangs gathered from Bureau of Land Management herds, culminating with a horse show and auction in Fort Worth, Texas.

After making the film festival circuit last year and garnering more than 20 awards, "Wild Horse, Wild Ride" was released nationally in late August 2012. Between now and the middle of October, the film is opening in an additional 15 cities, including Denver, San Diego, Sacramento, and Oklahoma City. (To see if the film is playing in a city near you, please see the "Wild Horse, Wild Ride" release calendar.)

I watched the film with a group of my very practical horsey friends, and I have to say we were a little skeptical before the house lights lowered. None of us went with romantic ideas about Mustangs or horse training, and the details and tone of many horse movies tend to disappoint those of us with critical and experienced eyes. Our perceptions changed as the film began to roll and we saddled up to follow the stories of 10 horses and the humans who spent just 100 days with them.

Watching the film, I found a little bit of myself and the horsemen and -women I know in each of the main characters:

  • The aging George Gregory pulls a scrawny, ornery, and less-than-beautiful horse. Initially, George is clearly disappointed by fate, but over time, the horse changes George’s mind.
  • Trainer Wylene Wilson has gumption as wide as the Grand Canyon and is dragging tarps over her horse at one week.
  • Mexican emigrant Jesus Jauregui works construction by day, but his clear gift in this lifetime is with horses. His Mustang, Compadre, is a perfect match for this talented horseman.
  • Charles and Carlos Chee, father and son respectively, are members of the Navajo Nation and share a deep history of horsemanship. But, is Charles too old to safely start his horse? Carlos and his family are concerned.
  • Melissa Kanzelberger, PhD, a 26-year-old biomedical engineer, faces failure when she tries training a horse for the first time. She’s in for a big lesson about horses and life.

All of these characters and their horses are amazing. However, I was most struck by brothers Nik and Kris Kokal. These young men move quietly with their horses as they take them through halter breaking and saddle training. Their training methods are unconventional, creative, and kind, but also brave. I held my breath watching Kris blindfold his Mustang and ride the horse down a steep ravine near his family’s New Hampshire farm. The horse does as Kris asks, seemingly saying, "You're the one thing in this world I trust, and so far you've done right by me. I'll give this a try."

"Wild Horse, Wild Ride's" filmmakers, husband and wife Greg Gricus and Alex Dawson, aren’t horse people, and their documentary makes no real judgment about training methods, riding style, or the hot button topic of federal feral herd management. Instead, Gricus and Dawson tell the story of the horse-human bond from an unbiased and childlike perspective that is heartwarming and entertaining. This film isn’t just a wild ride—it’s a great one.

Have you had the chance to see "Wild Horse, Wild Ride"? What did you think and which was your favorite horse/rider? Do you have another horse film that you've recently enjoyed?