Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wild, wild horses

Swiftsure Ranch to screen ‘American Mustang’ at Community School

The documentary “American Mustang” will be screened at the Community School Theater in Sun Valley on Thursday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. Photo by courtesy photo

For The Express

    There are only 32,000 wild horses left running free. More than 50,000 are being held in captivity after aggressive roundups, often by helicopter.
    Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Bellevue will host a screening this week of the documentary “American Mustang” to promote a deeper understanding of the troubles facing wild horses in America today. “American Mustang” will be shown at the Community School Theater in Sun Valley on Thursday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door and are $15 adult and $10 children.
    From a very young age, producer Ellie Phipps Price loved horses. She had never seen wild horses, just read and fantasized about them in books such as “Misty of Chincoteague” and other Western literature. In 2009, Price read an article in Vanity Fair magazine called “Galloping Scared” that exposed the twisted politics and—according to some—failed government programs that are destroying wild horse herds. At that point, she decided something must be done and took it upon herself to do so.
    “I started to do research and started talking to everyone I could about the situation and what could be done to raise awareness and help the horses,” she said. “I went to an auction in Fallon, Nev., and ended up purchasing 170 wild horses that were going to be sold to kill buyers for slaughter in Canada.”
    It was Price’s idea to create a film that would stir the general public to action, and thus, “American Mustang” was born. “American Mustang” is a documentary hybrid, with a narrative woven through it. The interwoven story is about a girl who watches a cowboy gentle a mustang, and it provides some context for what it means to take a horse from the wild and attempt to domesticate it.
    Cheryl Bennett, executive director of Swiftsure Ranch, explained the difference between the government’s treatment of captured horses and domesticated horses. Captured horses are stockpiled in holding pens, without their families and without their freedom, she said.
    “We have two mustangs that work in our program and are wonderful animals who have very useful lives with us,” she said. “My hope is that any mustang that is in captivity is in a useful role and a loved animal!”
    Different stakeholders in this controversial topic are represented in the film. Included are the voices of the rancher, the wild horse advocate, the BLM, wildlife biologists and the American people who value these horses in the wild.
    The movie is family-friendly and excludes scenes of roundups, so that anyone could see the film, learn about the issue and take away an idea of how to be part of a solution.
    “We have a lot of people that care about horses and other animals who are very moved by this movie,” Price said.
    She hopes viewers will be inspired to take a stand and to find a better way to manage wild horses on public lands.
    “Call your elected representatives, demand meetings with them, write letters to the editor, adopt a mustang, support the organizations that are fighting for the horses, and tell people about this movie,” she said.
    Price will lead a Q&A following the screening.

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