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Wild Horses of the West
Narrated by Ali McGraw
Animals / Nature and Environment
Wild horses are romantic symbols of the 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, two thing are clear: the role of wild horses in America is multifaceted, and they need to be protected. But there are ecological issues that surround the wild mustang and, like the animal, they’re complex.
Wild horses are part of the American story and a staple of our history, having helped Native Americans hunt buffalo and cowboys herd cattle. However, wild horses have encountered adversity when confronted with modernity, since they compete with livestock for range resources, including watering holes and grazing. Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has noted that, while beautiful, wild horses pose significant problems for public lands.
When the horse population is determined to be too high, the Bureau of Land Management is tasked with removing surplus horses, a process that often runs into logistical snags. When helicopters are used to round up the herds, wild horse advocates see it as inhumane.
Once rounded up, there are additional problems of 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 voices on all sides, these complex issues require multipronged solutions.
The film visits various therapy programs, including the one offered by the National Ability Center in Park City, which has found that veterans and others 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.
Wild Horses of the West is the latest production by KUED’s John Howe, and is narrated by Ali MacGraw of Love Story and The Getaway fame.