Mustangs are a symbol of the American west, but it wasn’t always that way. Horses didn’t actually arrive on our continent until the 16th century when Spanish conquistadors brought them to the “New World.” When the conquistadors left, the horses stuck around and boy did they love it here. By the turn of the 20th century, an estimated two million wild mustangs roamed the open range.[1]

But things have changed a lot for mustangs since then. As more cattle farms (and their fences) popped up on the range, herds began to thin. Then in 1971 Congress passed an act to help preserve the species while also limiting their impact on the land.

The Bureau of Land Management began to periodically round up horses in an effort to limit population. Although difficult to tame, the mustangs are incredible horses that are often stronger and more resilient than breeds humans have helped shape. The Bureau of Land Management therefore began auctioning off those horses they were able to capture, but many are left unspoken for and end up spending the rest of their days in government holding facilities.

Now there are less than 50,000 wild mustangs roaming the lands. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is up for debate, but without many natural predators (bear and mountain lion populations have also dwindled) the mustang population can explode in number if left unchecked.

To bring light to what is going on with these horses and to “show the importance of conserving the vast open spaces in the American West, promote equine exploration, and demonstrate the incredible endurance of the American Mustang” a group of recent college graduates decided to undertake an incredible journey on the backs of wild mustangs. After picking out more than a dozen equine travel companions, the men spent over six months traveling from the Mexican border to Canada, all on horseback and all captured on film.

To help pay for that filming and production of the documentary that followed, Ben Masters (one of the men who made the journey and is featured prominently in the film) turned to Kickstarter and ended up raising over $170,000 from over 1,000 backers.

The film was recently released and I had the pleasure of watching it last week. The high definition imagery of American west was enough to engross me in the movie, but the drama that a 3,000 journey over such difficult terrain creates (both between humans and horses) kept me thoroughly enjoyed throughout the 106 minute runtime.

If you are looking for something to watch this weekend, I definitely recommend checking out the trailer for Unbranded above. If it looks interesting you can stream it on Amazon or iTunes for $7.