"It is important that we find animals to love, and that is the end of the story"
-Thomas McGuane, Some Horses
NARRATOR - They restore the human spirit when all seems lost. Their beauty is a work of art. Some came off the range, as wild as the wind, and became a friend. They have the heart of a lion yet are fragile as crystal. There is something special about a girl and her horse. We rescue them and somehow they rescue us.
NARRATOR - The bond between horse and human is enduring. Cowboys say everything looks better from the back of a horse. Their story is also our story.
There was change when horses came to North America. Horses allowed a different form of hunting and gathering. Native American horse cultures emerged. Horses allowed vast territories to be explored. Wagon trains and cattle drives brought settlers. Horses were the muscle of almost every endeavor.
NARRATOR - It was inevitable that horses would escape captivity. Some were lost or simply unwanted. Herds of wild horses flourished in the early days of the west. Stories became legend.
It's a hot summer day in Utah's desert. A seemingly endless valley stretches to the horizon. A searing, relentless wind scorches the landscape. Grass is baked to the color of straw. Telltale dust gives the first clue.
Wild horses move in poetic rhythm. They are of all colors: bays, buckskins, pintos, and grays. The young stay close to their mothers. Stallions bring up the rear.
Interaction at a water hole reveals the nature of wild horses. Family groups of mares and foals are guarded by stallions. Other stallions try to steal them. Stallions snake their necks and chase for dominance. Most of the stallions are scarred by constant battle. This gray stallion commands the water hole. A dramatic fight takes place. Just as suddenly, tranquility returns. Other wild horses seem oblivious to this turmoil. They bathe in the luxury of water in a harsh landscape.
Timid antelope consider darting in for a quenching drink. They're frightened by an unruly crowd of horses. Demanding thirst eventually overcomes caution. The wild horses vanish in blowing dust like ghosts that were never there.
Wild horses of the West are haunted by a dubious past. They were once captured by men known as mustangers. They hoped to make a quick buck in the slaughter industry. Outcry resulted in the 1971 free-roaming wild horse and burro act. It protects wild horses on the public range.
Controversy did not end. Opinions clash over the appropriate number of wild horses.
Some feel wild horses are living symbols of the American West to be preserved. Others feel an increasing population is destroying habitat.
KEN SALAZAR - PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR - Wild horses are a beautiful part of the American story, and it's important that we tell America's story, but we also need to recognize that horses especially at the levels that we have them today are creating very significant problems for our public lands as well as being very expensive in order for us to be able to maintain them.
GUS WARR - BLM - One of the things that the livestock operators I know, the permit owners, that graze on public lands, they look at wild horses as actually a direct competition. They have animals that they're trying to make a living off of, and the wild horses are foraging the same food source that their cattle or sheep would be utilizing. So, it's a direct conflict there in many cases.
NARRATOR - It's shortly after dawn in Utah's high desert. A helicopter roundup of wild horses takes place. Two helicopters are being used. The Bureau of Land Management establishes a quota of horses to be removed.
GUS WARR - BLM - Wild horse advocates think they have a strong point as well as the other side. The wild horse advocates look at it as, "OK, we are to manage wild horses out there, but how come there's more livestock versus not as many wild horses?" They see the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act as we are to have as many wild horses as possible out there for the public to enjoy. So, they're seeing it from that side.
NARRATOR - Wild horses are taken from the range. They are offered for adoption. A wild horse can be adopted for $125 dollars. More horses exist than demand for adoption.
In Gunnison, Utah, state prison inmates work with wild horses. Their goal is to gentle and train them. They hope to make adoption more attractive. Trained wild horses can be adopted from the prison program for $250. There are similarities between the inmates and the wild horses they're hoping to help.
Kerry Despain runs the prison wild horse program:
KERRY DESPAIN - Sometimes when they first come out here, first come to prison, they have something to prove. It takes a little while for them to realize that maybe they don't have something to prove and they can trust somebody. There are a lot of parallels between the wild horses and the inmates.
CODY COOMBS - INMATE- The BLM has all these horses they don't know what to do with so if we can take them and teach them even a little bit to where the public--these horses can turn out to be really good horses. It's helped me by teaching me patience. That's something that I've struggled with a lot my whole life. These horses have taught me a lot of patience.
NARRATOR - The horses become gentle quickly. These horses were brought off the range only a short time ago. They show few hints of their wild heritage. Allen Taber is working with a horse that was adopted. He was brought back for more work.
ALLEN TABER - INMATE - Well the horse came in, it had been adopted before and the people were scared of it, that it, you know, bucked a little bit. They were afraid maybe somebody was going to get hurt with it and brought it back. We've only had it--we got it in Thursday, and, you know I kind of liked the horse when it came in so I told everybody I was going to put a rope on it and saddle it and see what it did today. So, I did that and the horse really didn't buck a lot. It was a little scared. It needs some work. It definitely needs some work. I think if somebody probably would have taken a little more time with it, I think the horse would have been a good horse. And you could see why when I was rinsing him down, cooling him down there he was kicking a little bit. The reason I kept bringing the hose back up and letting him relax and talking to him was to get him used to that so he got to where he understood that that wasn't going to bother him, wasn't going to hurt him, and when I got on him and had him lead me around--that's about the best way to do it when you first get on a horse if you don't know nothing about him, and we didn't know really a whole lot about this horse. So I was just kind of taking it easy and to the safest concerns of everybody around. I didn't want to get bucked off. I'm getting up there in age.
NARRATOR - For some inmates, the horse becomes the teacher.
THOMAS MONTES - INMATE - Well they've helped me a lot really, helped me stay on the right track. There ain't a lot to do inside there. I went through an intensive drug program they have here called The Hope Program and I finished that. And, while I was there, I think that helped me get my job out here.
It's helped me to be a little more tolerant with people and I guess my everyday dealings with things. Taught me patience. I never used to be very patient.
RICHARD EVANS - INMATE - I feel a sense of freedom out here. I still know that at night I'm going to go back into prison, back to my bunk, but I get a sense of freedom being on the back of a horse, kind of like a kin to flying. I love just galloping and feeling the wind. I feel like they're, like I said, I feel like they're teaching me a lot.
I feel like being around the horses has calmed me down as a person, has taken an edge off me because you can't be out around a horse and running a million miles an hour.
You've got to stay calm, go at a pace that's not going to startle them, so I think he's taught me a lot of that, you know, slowed my motor down.
NARRATOR - Jeffrey Houston drove several hours with the hope of adopting a wild horse.
JEFFREY HOUSTON - I kind of like the idea about what they do here. It sounds like a win-win situation. A saddle-trained horse really, if you were to buy a horse or get a horse from somewhere and take him to a horse trainer, you're going to spend a lot more money than $250 for a horse that's had that much work done with him. That's just a good deal.
NARRATOR - Matt hoover has been working with "tear" for the past year.
I'm Matt Hoover. This is Tear. I've been working with him for almost a year now...a lot of time into him, every day for awhile and then--now he doesn't need as much work, so, you know. He gets ridden a couple times a week though; spend a lot of time with him. They've hardly ever seen a human before, and, coming in contact with us they're really skittish and nervous and scared, scared for their life pretty much. And for you to get in and take that and turn them around to be your best friend, it's a pretty cool thing to do.
NARRATOR - "Tear" seems an appropriate name. Giving up a friend is an emotional experience for some inmates.
JUSTIN EKKER - INMATE -Well I ain't had to do that yet because I've only been here three months, but it probably will be pretty hard because these two here I've pretty much had since I got here three months ago. I hope whoever takes him will do what they're used for and, you know, be good to them. That's the main thing, give a good home for them; don't mistreat them.
NARRATOR - Inevitably, adoption day comes. Saying goodbye is never easy.
KERRY DESPAIN - I don't know if I've seen tears yet, but I've seen close to tears. But most of them that come out here realize that that's what's going to happen. You know, if they do a good job they realize that it's going to go to a person and be out and be useful, at least hopefully be useful to that person and they'll take care of it. It's a lot like them. They want to get out of this facility, and most of them want to, really would like to have a useful life, and they're thinking the same thing with the horse. It can be adopted out and have a useful life too.
NARRATOR - Most feel accomplishment. They give a deserving animal a chance at a new life. It's not unlike the inmates themselves.
WAYLON RIDDLE - INMATE - It's kind of sad. For me its heart broke, because after you learn to work a horse and you're with this horse. It's your best bud, and it just kind of hurts your feelings when he leaves and kind of a little heart broke. Its like, all the time, it's like coming to prison. I lose my family. I lose my friends. I'm away and, you know, it strips me apart again.
I come to the horse program, work with a horse for a few months, almost a year. You gain that trust with a horse. You gain a relationship, a bond with that horse, and he's gone. And just another sad thing to go, but I know he's moving on to bigger and better things.
It's good for the horse to move on; and the people that are going to take care of him. They'll learn a lot from him, and I'll just find me another friend and train him again.
NARRATOR - There's something special about a girl and her horse. The world of women's barrel racing shows the bond between girls and their horses. Scamper is probably the most famous barrel racing horse in history. Scamper and a young girl by the name of Charmayne James came out of Clayton, New Mexico. They captured the world's attention. Scamper was nothing unusual to an untrained eye. A young girl saw something special. This 1991 footage shows scamper in his prime. He's now in his thirties.
CHARMAYNE JAMES - He came out of a feedlot . . . He just loves to run barrels . . . .
NARRATOR - Charmayne James's gamble on a horse led to 11 world championships. She won her first when she was just fourteen. She became barrel racing's first million dollar winner and is now in the national cowgirl hall of fame. Charmayne James retired in 2003.
Barrel racing is a timed agility test for horse and rider. Rodeos grew out of the everyday work cowboys did on ranches of the west. Much of it was done on the back of a horse. (montage)
Norma Wood and Terri Wood gates are mother and daughter barrel racers. They sometimes compete against each other.
TERRI WOOD GATES - BARREL RACER - It's very competitive, you know. I don't go in there to beat my mother, but obviously I want to be the fastest. You compete against yourself in barrel racing because you want to get the best run that you can with your horse; but then I enjoy watching her run and do really well. I actually get more nervous when my mom runs, watching her run because it's exciting and, you know, I want her to do good. But once we're out there, I'm trying my hardest to beat everybody and she's so competitive and so tough that it's hard to outrun her.
NARRATOR - Terri and Norma prepare their horses for a long season. The horses are quarter horses, known for their quick burst of speed. Like thoroughbreds, the best barrel horses are defined by their honesty and heart.
TERRI WOOD GATES - BARREL RACER - I think a great barrel horse has to actually have a big heart. They have to have a lot of heart. They have to try for you really hard every time. If they can handle different ground--you know some ground's deep, some ground's hard--and if they can handle different ground they can make a great rodeo horse, but, you know, there's a lot of other barrel racing events besides rodeos, so I just think they have to have great hearts and a lot of try and consistency in their runs.
NORMA WOOD - BARREL RACER - When Terri was a young girl; it was just natural for her. She was just always around the horses, always on the horses. She could always ride. She would ride this old horse we had around the house forever, and when she got tired, she'd pull up in the shade and fall asleep on it. And the horse would just stand there until she woke up and went again. But Terri's always been just a natural hand, just really good with animals. She's just really good with all animals, but she's exceptionally good with horses.
(Terri shows her horse Britlyn - Norma describes her horse, main dash to fame)
NARRATOR - Terri and Norma arrive with their horses for a night rodeo event. Norma is a legend on the barrel racing circuit.
TERRI WOOD GATES - I believe her legacy would be that she's just such a good person and she's such an inspiration to so many people. And I think the fact that she has been so competitive for so many years and she's had so many different good horses. I mean, she didn't, like, have one good horse and that's it.
I think that with her and my dad training, they trained so many good horses that I think that's one thing a lot of people look up to her for is that she just didn't do it on one horse.
NARRATOR - Day turns to night. Pageantry anticipates the race. Terri runs first. Her mare, Britlyn, bursts from the gate.
TERRI WOOD GATES - I think a horse loves to compete. I think that they wouldn't go in and work for you as hard as they do if they didn't enjoy it and want to do it. I think that you can't make--there's a lot of horses that have a lot of talent--all the ability in the world and all the talent, but if they didn't want to go in there and do that (because they're big, powerful animals), if they didn't want to do that, they wouldn't, so I really think that the horses we have and the horses i've watched win, you know, do good, really, really want to compete. And I think they love it. They love the adrenaline rush, I think.
NARRATOR - Britlyn knocks over the first barrel. Norma runs next on main dash to fame. The result is similar.
TERRI WOOD GATES - I almost think it's an addiction in some sort of ways because you just get that adrenalin rush, and that 17-second adrenaline rush makes it all worth it. Sometimes it's not the rush you want, you know, it's a little disappointing and doesn't always go like you want, but there's nothing like that thrill of feeling like you've worked a horse and trained him.
We start all of our horses ourselves. We train them from the beginning, and so, just, just that--there's something about that accomplishment of having that good run when you needed it the most.
NARRATOR - It's not their night. They move on with high hopes for next time. The next event is a family affair. There's plenty of girls and their horses.
NORMA WOOD - I think it's special for a girl to have a good relationship with her horse. When we travel around, we watch some of these girls and they almost talk to them. They almost communicate with them. It teaches them how to get along with their animals. It teaches them also when they're out how to get along with people, how to share, and also how to be a very good competitor.
NARRATOR - The special bond between horses and kids starts early. All ages and all types of horses are seen. The times may not be the fastest, but the love of horses is on display.
(Chaz (about 8) and Natalie (age 12) talk about their horses)
Laynee Giles hopes she may be in the money. Oaklee Giles is her younger sister. (Oaklee talks about her horse)
Riders go all-out in the competitive event. Katy Larson has brought horses to the event. She hopes to place. (Katie talks about a girl and her horse)
Terri has a good early run. Later, she rides a different horse. The horse slips going around the first barrel but isn't hurt. It's part of the drama of barrel racing.
Norma rides to a time that may put her in the money. It's love of horses and competition that keeps them doing it. The season can be long and hard with endless travel. Girls love horses and the horses seem to love them back. Something endures between a girl and her horse.
TERRI WOOD GATES - The relationship between a girl and her horse, and I can only speak for myself, but it is such a huge trust, you know, between each other, and I have to completely trust that horse because I'm going to go in the arena, and I'm going to ask that horse for everything that horse has. I mean, I'm going to ask it to run as hard as that horse can and stop and turn the barrels, so it's got to be complete trust in the relationship.
And I know that when I set myself down and get ready to turn, that horse is going to turn as hard as it can and take off to the next barrel. So I think that in the relationship you have to have a lot of trust, and you get that over time, you know, spending time together and a lot of hours working together. There's a bond that you just can't describe between the horse and the rider, the personalities and the total enjoyment that you get with each other; and that's why the patience and, you know, the understanding. They kind of have to understand you and you have to understand them, and, it's just a bond you can't even describe between--that I can't describe-- between me and my horse, because it's just that strong. It's quite enjoyable.
NORMA WOOD - I think people love their horses and I think that the biggest part of the horses love them back. I think that the girls and the people with the horses spend so much time taking care of them, making sure they're sound, and I think the horses realize that. In my opinion, I think they do.
NARRATOR - In a quiet canyon, surrounded by red rock beauty, is another story of horses. Unfortunately, all horses don't live happy lives. But, they may have happy endings. The tranquility of the canyon belies the troubled past of some of the animals who live here. "Best Friends" is nationally known for its no-kill philosophy for unwanted animals. Jen Reid runs horse haven at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary near Kanab, Utah.
JEN REID - We've noticed that's something that's beginning to grow across the country, especially in dogs and cats, but in horses as well. Horses no longer "useful" is a term that we hear a lot. "I can't keep a horse that can no longer be ridden anymore." To us that's not a quality of life issue. It's a human issue.
The horses at horse haven were unwanted for a variety of reasons. Some were abused or neglected. Many are examples of a disposable society. Some animals who are perceived as no longer useful, who may be older, or have health issues are discarded.
When times are tough and some families can barely feed themselves, an animal may be the first to go. Society has a difficult time answering the question of what to do with the unwanted. Horse haven offers them a second chance. With care, their spirits return.
NARRATOR - Jake is a thoroughbred racer that went on to a second career as a ranch horse.
JEN REID - After the end of a racing career a lot of thoroughbreds are in a very precarious situation, and that's not only true of thoroughbreds, but any horse that's in a competitive industry, whether it's dressage, or racing, or rodeo. If they're no longer useful, their future is often up for grabs. They may end up being purchased or given to an absolutely wonderful home; but it's very common for horses to end up going through a series of up to ten homes in their lifetime, a lot like Jake, a thoroughbred that we met. (or)
Thoroughbreds, a lot like any sort of competitive horse, can be in a very precarious situation when their career comes to an end. They may be purchased and move on to another career. Jake, a thoroughbred that we have that raced, went on to become a ranch horse and, later, a dressage horse. But some thoroughbreds end up going to auction and they're often purchased by what's known as a kill buyer, somebody who is intentionally purchasing horses at auction to take for slaughter for human consumption. So that's a risk that thoroughbreds can face.
NARRATOR - Sasha was withdrawn and sullen from abuse. Her bright eyes tell the story of a wonderful horse with tremendous potential.
JEN REID - I definitely think that horses show feeling and emotion. They're not humans. I don't want to anthropomorphize them. They don't think and feel and have emotions the same that humans do. They have emotions like horses do. I can see them playing with each other. I can tell when they're happy or when they're upset.
Sasha is a good example. When we first met her she wanted nothing to do with humans. She was very shutdown emotionally. She didn't want to play. She didn't want to engage with the world. Now she's very outgoing, very gregarious. She comes up and meets you. She's very playful. I don't know if, technically, playful is an emotion but for her I can tell that she's a very happy horse now.
NARRATOR - Curly Sue is a unique horse with a distinctive look and special personality. Her kindness and gentle demeanor seems to forgive her turbulent past. Curly Sue was brought to a landfill by her owner. He planned to shoot her. She was seen by a lady who owned a rescue facility. She offered to buy curly sue. The offer was accepted. Curly Sue came to the best friends animal sanctuary.
JEN REID - I've learned a lot of things from the horses that come into Best Friends Animal Sanctuary over the years, but I think perhaps one of the biggest lessons is to not dwell in the past. You know, some of our horses come from very bad situations, have had very catastrophic injuries or illnesses, but, you know, they don't really let that bother them. They just move on with life.
They look at what's happening now. They look at what's going forward, and I think that's an important thing for us too. You know when we're looking to adopt a horse out to a home we always tell the story of where they came from, but what's important to us is where they are now and where they're going.
NARRATOR - Lady was waiting her fate at a slaughter facility.
(Jen Reid describes lady)
JEN REID - Like a lot of animals, they live now. They don't necessarily dwell on the past. They look at each individual person and what they have to offer and what relationship, so they can get over a lot of stuff. Not always. Sometimes they do have baggage. They become so damaged and so scarred that they become very introverted and don't trust anymore, but, for the most part, they're very willing to forgive and try again. And maybe the last person wasn't so great, but you just might be o.k. So they'll give us a shot, which is a truly phenomenal capacity that they have, to move on.
NARRATOR - The rescued horses are just a small number of deserving animals who come to a bad end after a productive life. Many are waiting for a second chance which they will not get.
JEN REID - If there's one part that I could leave people with it's that there are a lot of incredibly wonderful horses out there looking for homes in sanctuaries and rescues across the country. If you're looking to add a horse to your family, consider adoption. There are some wonderful horses and there's not necessarily a need to go and buy one. You can offer one a home that's looking for one. So, go and adopt.
NARRATOR - If there is such a thing as royalty in the horse world, it may be the arabian. As the story goes, bedouins of the middle east brought them into their tents at night.
ALLISON NOE - SCOTTSDALE RIDER - They were bred to go across the desert, and they go and go. And I think it's amazing that in endurance they do 50 and 100 miles in one day and they have to come in and they have to pulse down. Their heart's pacing, pacing because they've been running for 50 miles. They have to come in and they can just go from running miles back to normal breathing. It's unreal. They have a ton of stamina, and they're very, very athletic, so my stereotype has been completely broken. I'm very proud of them all.
NARRATOR - Janet Thompson owns Arabians in Park City, Utah.
JANET THOMPSON - The Arabian horse's personality, they're highly intelligent. They're very agile, loyal. They're very willing to do their job. They're very responsive, very reactionary, and that's why many people think of the Arabian horse as being highly spirited, hot, if you will, but it's just because they are very reactionary. I personally think that they're the most beautiful breed of horse.
NARRATOR - Mary Wynne works with Janet and her Arabian horses. It's been something she dreamed of since she was a small girl.
MARY WYNNE - They're fun. They're honest. They're kind. They're intelligent. They're beautiful, and I think that's what attracts everybody to the Arabian horse, but they're just an honest horse. When you want them to be there, they're there. They are reactionary, but you can use that to your advantage in training them because they learn very fast. The Arabian horse is an honest horse. It's responsive to the training. It's kind. It's curious. It's willing, and it's trustworthy, and it's versatile. You can do anything with an Arabian horse, and they're beautiful.
I think everybody is drawn to the Arabian horse because of its beauty, but they find out, once they meet an Arabian horse, that they fall in love with them because they are kind and willing.
NARRATOR - Cocoa Puff is an example of this year's Arabian foals.
MARY WYNNE - She is everything an Arabian horse should be. She's beautiful. She's kind. She has the beautiful Arab head with the dish-y face and the big eyes and the little ears and the big nostrils, and she has the Arabian temperament.
NARRATOR - Nancy the burro's lineage may not be quite the same as the Arabians she accompanies. She wants to be part of the action. The horses don't seem to mind. Arabians are known for their elegance. Beauty belies their versatility. Arabians are used for everything from endurance to western events.
One of the largest Arabian events takes place in Scottsdale, Arizona. Events range from English to western. Each celebrates Arabian horses.
JANET THOMPSON - It's a very well attended show, and it's really what I consider one of the three Triple Crown shows we have: Scottsdale, Canadian Nationals and U.S. Nationals, and Scottsdale is ranked in that category.
JANE YOUNG - OWNER/RIDER - They're very unique. I've owned and ridden a lot of different breeds of horses and I find the Arabian to be the most versatile. You can do anything with them. I mean, if you look around this particular show, they're in every discipline and actually compete quite well. They're very sensitive, very loving to the owner, unlike some breeds that you know, aren't that personable. Arabians are very personable and a lot of fun.
I just wish they could talk. Then you'd really know. They're a little high-strung and can be a little temperamental, but for the most part, once you've shown them and taught them what is expected of them, they have an incredible heart and really want to please.
NARRATOR - Jumping events are a study of willingness and trust as horses go through the course. It's a partnership between horse and rider.
DIANE GROD - RIDER -They're very, very, very intelligent animals, and whenever you think they're not, they will get your goat. They're good learners. They're extremely affectionate horses. I've never seen a breed as uniformly affectionate as Arabians are. My boss likes to say that it goes back to when the Bedouins kept them in their tents. So I've really enjoyed working with them.
JANET THOMPSON - With the Arabian we like to see short backs, long legs, a long, kind of a hooking neck, a very typey, we call them typey faces, where they've got the big dish here and large jowl...and movement; and that is through breeding. For an English horse you want to see them with a certain cadence and style, lifting their legs up. The difference between a country horse and an English horse is that the English horse raises its legs at its knee up higher than a country horse. Western horses, you want to jog and lope very, very slowly.
Hunter horses you want them to have some reach, like they're going someplace, like they're going to go over a fence. And, it depends upon if the horse can master that or not that determines their quality and their price.
NARRATOR - Middle East costumes celebrate the Arabian's history.
JENNA TERRIBILE (dressed in Middle East costume) Arabian horses have the heart that no other horse has. You can do just about any discipline on--what you would do on other horses you can't do. They're beautiful and they have this attitude that other horses don't bring to it.
I know the horse that I ride just loves being in the ring and loves showing and doing his job. At the same time, he's not something, not a horse that you could just tell what to do and they don't care. They want to please you but at the same time they just do what they want to do at the same time. Their attitude towards everything is just amazing, and they're beautiful.
NARRATOR - The essential nature of Arabians is defined by those who own, train, and ride them.
RON COPPLE - OWNER/TRAINER - What do they mean to me? Arabian horses mean a livelihood. These are the most trainable breed there is. There's no question about it. We do everything in the world with them. You know something, if you've got a horse that can't do undisciplined I'm sure you can find enough of a discipline for it, you know what I mean? You can bring a trailerful of horses to a horse show and do six or ten different disciplines at one horse show. Not too many other disciplines can do that. How would I describe the breed? It's the best breed in the world, and that's pretty general as it goes right there. There ain't a better breed out there.
NARRATOR - Western dressage shows a completely different side of Arabians. Riding an Arabian is like telling a great story. The scenes are evocative of "Lawrence of Arabia" with billowing robes and desert sands as far as the eye can see. Arabians are the reality of timeless beauty.
LIZABETH BOWEN - OWNER/RIDER - I think that a lot of people have misconceptions about Arabians, that they're hot or they're hard to handle, and that's really not true. It just all happens to depend on how they were started and how they were brought up and how they were handled. As long as they've had the right beginnings, just like any other breed, they're one of the best animals to have.
NARRATOR - Working horses on a cattle ranch are the unsung heroes of the horse world. Ranches wouldn't have been created, let alone survived, without horses.
Thomas McGuane is an author who owns a Montana ranch. He's probably best known for novels like "Ninety-Two in the Shade", "Gallatin Canyon", and "Driving The Rim". He's one of America's most celebrated outdoor writers. "The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing" is a classic.
He's also a Hollywood screenwriter of movies like "Tom Horn" with Steve Mcqueen, "The Missouri Breaks" with Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando, and "Rancho Deluxe" with Jeff Bridges. Mcguane is also in the Cutting Horse Hall of Fame. He wrote "Some Horses" which describes his love of great horses he has known.
THOMAS MCGUANE - If you are passionate about something, you're always trying to figure out why you're passionate about it, and I've been trying to pin that down about horses most of my life. I'm just so enthusiastic about them. I just like being around them and I've always tried to understand what it was.
NARRATOR - It's a summer day in Montana. Tom and his wife Laurie move cattle. They give their cutting horses a workout. The ranch house sits on a landscape that could be from a Charles Russell painting. One of America's literary giants writes from a cabin near the main house. The sound of flowing water combines with strokes of typing keys.
THOMAS MCGUANE - I always knew that I would live in this part of the country. Maybe northern Wyoming would be about as far afield as I went in my imagination. But when my first book came out I had a movie sale and I bought a small ranch and, very slowly, figured out what to do with it. That's been 42 years ago and we have learned a few things about ranching.
NARRATOR - And . . . a life-long love of horses.
THOMAS MCGUANE - A new horse is not like a puppy. A foal is as wild as a deer. They're not born domesticated the way dogs and cats are, so everything you do with them has to be a kind of a negotiated truce until you build, layer by layer, trust; and you maintain that trust by never betraying whatever deal you've made with that horse.
NARRATOR - Tasks are endless on a working ranch. One of the most important is sorting cattle. Cows are separated from the herd. Cutting horses evolved for this reason. They represent a long line of working horses. Cattle are herd animals seeking the safety of others. Cows don't like to be separated. The job of a cutting horse is to keep the selected cow from re-joining the herd. Cutting requires the ability to turn on a dime.
THOMAS MCGUANE - Sudden, hard stops and changes of direction are things that cutting horses have to do. They need the bodies that fit that plan. There have been exceptions and there have been Thoroughbreds that were great cutting horses; and there always will be exceptions because they're so highly individualized and so much of it depends on how smart they are and how gritty they are, that that might turn up in any breed. But, generally speaking, the genetic concentration of the traits that we're looking for has been in the Quarter Horse.
NARRATOR - Tom's horse, "Harry", is excitable but has done well in cutting competitions.
(Tom describes harry)
Not every horse can be a competitive cutter. One of Tom's favorite horses is "Lee-Lee".
THOMAS MCGUANE - She's just a tremendous horse, but if you look at her in terms of the training objectives we had for her and the goals we had for her as a cutting horse, you'd have to say she was a failure. But she's a great horse. I raised her myself and I have vivid memories of her when she was a little foal and she's enthusiastic and loves people and never gets tired; never slips a foot and will cross anything, break any amount of brush to get brushed up cattle out and gathered, and you can rope off her. So, oddly enough, my favorite horse is a horse that has been an unsuccessful cutting horse.
NARRATOR - Ranches of the west have changed. Many no longer rely on horses and cowboys. Four wheelers and machinery have taken their place. Cowboys own a place in the history of the west. It's a story of cattle drives and rustlers, icy winters and blazing summers. The old west lives mainly in the imagination. In just about every nostalgic story, horses are characters in the play.
THOMAS MCGUANE - I've been trained by horses to a certain degree. I'm kind of a revved-up, impatient person, and that, I found out long ago, does not fit with good horsemanship. Horses have taught me to ask a question and wait as long as necessary for the answer and then try to understand the answer; and try to see the world through eyes that aren't mine.
NARRATOR - Shimmering waves of California's Pacific Ocean are background to the del mar race track. This is the domain of thoroughbreds. They are living definitions of beauty and speed. It's shortly after dawn on a foggy day in Del Mar.
Each work day starts early. Thoroughbreds are brought to the track for exercise. It's a glimpse of thoroughbreds the public rarely sees. Thoroughbreds are born to run. Workout riders put horses through their paces.
The exercise routine has changed. Horses were once brought to the beach. Some trainers thought salt water was good for ailments. Horses came from the tunnel at del mar right on to the beach.
Beach exercise became part of the history of Del Mar. Now, the horses are only worked on the track.
Del Mar opened in 1937. It is steeped in Hollywood history. Dan Smith works for Del Mar. He appreciates its history.
DAN SMITH - I think one of the reasons for the success of Del Mar was the Hollywood influence because Paramount Pictures and Bing Crosby and the major movie stars that came here made this a Mecca for the movie stars. It was a nice escape for them to get away from Hollywood and the pressures of making movies so it brought a lot of other people who wanted to come here and see the stars.
NARRATOR - The history of Del Mar is the story of legendary thoroughbreds. The year was 1938. Del Mar was home to the famous match race between America's hero, Seabiscuit, and the formidable ligorati. Seabiscuit won by a nose. Race day is one of anticipation. \
Thoroughbreds are known for their heart. Like the greatest of athletes, they are willing to give all. Fiery temperament masks fragility. Thoroughbreds have large bodies on matchstick legs. Each personality is different.
DAN SMITH - It's like people. They come in all shapes and forms, everything like that. Some horses are very fiery. You want a fiery temperament because usually that's a competitive temperament, but you also, and that's where the trainer comes in, he wants to harness that fiery temperament to make sure that the horse is not uncontrollable. But horses are--they're bred to compete, and they want to compete, and they want to win.
NARRATOR - Thoroughbreds are led to the paddock at del mar. Spectators examine horses. They hope to place a winning bet. The paddock spectacle is a tradition as old as the race.
Paul Atkinson got his start as a jockey on the dirt tracks in Utah. He's come a long way since those days. He rode Caracortado in the Preakness. The Preakness is one race of the famous triple crown.
PAUL ATKINSON - JOCKEY - I get paid to ride a horse. I mean, that's kind of amazing, don't you think? Granted, the life is hard. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of early hours and it's a lot of long days, but I get paid to ride a horse. Life doesn't get much better than that.
NARRATOR - Martin Garcia is one of thoroughbred racing's rising stars. His story reads like a Hollywood movie. He was working for a restaurant whose owner had horses. His natural talent was recognized.
MARTIN GARCIA - JOCKEY - I think that is one of the really important things about riding a thoroughbred is that you've got to be gentle. You've got to be really gentle except for when you are on top of the horse because the horse can feel if you are scared, or you are nervous when you're on top. The horse has the feeling inside. I don't know how but they just have that feeling.
You've just got to bring so much confidence when you are on top of the horse. Make it feel like he's the champion and then if you do that; then he's going to give you everything he has.
NARRATOR - Martin Garcia is now riding " Lookin At Lucky" for America's best known trainer, Bob Baffert.
DAN SMITH - Some riders get more run out of horses. Horses will be generous with one rider and not so generous with another rider, so it all relates to how that jockey is handling that horse and the communication that happens between human and horse.
PAUL ATKINSON - JOCKEY - I believe that the best rider is a good passenger. The less you hinder the horse, the more you stay out of that horse's way, the better that horse is going to run. With some horses you need to be a little more aggressive than others, but for the most part, the more you can stay out of their way and let them do it, the better off you are.
NARRATOR - It's the trainer's job to get a horse ready to race.
MIKE MITCHELL - TRAINER - I like a horse that is real big, but moves like a cat. It's hard to find those types of horses. I'm not saying a small horse can't do the same thing, but a big horse covers less ground, so to speak.
Secretariat, without a doubt, the greatest horse i've ever seen. He did everything as a race horse. He was massive to look at. He was awesome in his races, his last, that Belmont win, by thirty-two lengths. That was an unbelievable achievement. And, there was a great horse behind him that tried to beat him. He might have won the Triple Crown. Secretariat was just everything you dream of if you're a horse trainer, that you can get a horse like him.
NARRATOR - Jockeys talk last minute strategy. They receive a boost into the stirrups. Then, it's through the tunnel and on to the race track. Thoroughbreds are the real stars. They are the ones that everyone came to see.
(trumpeter sounds the call to race)
The starting gate atmosphere is one of high tension. Horses are loaded into the gate with care. Then, two of the most famous words in the world of horses, "they're off !"
Thoroughbreds are poetry to someone who loves horses. Their effortless grace is beauty in motion. The thrill is contagious. It's over in moments. The memories of great horses are not forgotten.
DAN SMITH -The thoroughbred is such a beautiful animal and there's something mysterious about a Thoroughbred. Someone once told me not too long ago that once you look in the eye of a Thoroughbred, you're finished. I mean, you're in love. There's something mystical and mysterious about horses. There's a communication there, definitely a communication between that animal and people. There's something happening there that we might not really know. Thoroughbreds are bred to run. They have a competitive nature, but yet they can be kind and gentle. I love horses.
NARRATOR - The arrival of horses added to an already rich Native American culture. Before horses, some native Americans stampeded buffalo over cliffs. These cliffs are now known as buffalo jumps. Horses changed the strategy. On foot, people were more vulnerable to predators and enemies.
Some tribes developed a culture based on horses and buffalo. Tribes followed the seasons on a landscape which was unfenced. Wealth and status were often measured by horses. The expedition of Lewis and Clark explored the northwest. They encountered the Nez Perce and their beautiful horses. Lewis and Clark described them as comparable to the finest Kentucky thoroughbreds.
The Nez Perce or Nimipuu (Nee-Mee-Poo) became known for their horses. The Nez Perce's desperate flight from the U.S. cavalry in 1877, with their horse herds, is a dramatic chapter of history. It ended with the words of Chief Joseph, "I will fight no more forever".
There lives a spotted horse. This horse lives in the country of the Nez Perce, near Idaho's Salmon River. It's a horse so beautiful that it seems almost mythical. The Appaloosa is known for its beauty and gentle nature.
Rosa Yearout and her family are well known for their Appaloosas. Some have lineage dating back to the so-called "old herd" of historic Nez Perce horses. Not all Nez Perce horses were appaloosas.
ROSA YEAROUT - NEZ PERCE - Once the Appaloosa came into the Nez Perce country; the people liked them. In talking to the elders there are many characteristics that they liked about the breed. Of course, one was their color, their unique coloring, their surefootedness, their speed and their hardiness, and endurance, and mainly their disposition.
They're a friendly, friendly horse, but they could be counted on for all of the hard work and, especially surefootedness because we have real steep country here in Nez Perce country and the Salmon and the Snake Rivers; the Breaks, very steep, rocky mountains.
NARRATOR - Appaloosas are popular. They are used for everything from ranch horses to trail horses.
ROSA YEAROUT - NEZ PERCE - They're a beautiful parade horse to put your regalia on. People feel real good about riding an Appaloosa in a parade because of the historical connection to the Nez Perce's story, how we came to get them and how we came to breed them, for the characteristics that we wanted, that our people wanted. So, just to have an Appaloosa is very meaningful. Maybe it would be like owning a certain type of car, you know, that you have this certain car and this is what it means.
NARRATOR - The history and beauty of appaloosas has endured. Their spirit helps define a people.
ROSA YEAROUT - NEZ PERCE - I think the future of the Appaloosa horse really is this connection to the past to keep what started out as an appreciation for the Appaloosa horse, whether it was from the Nez Perce people or from eventual owners, just to keep that going so that they won't be lost.
NARRATOR - This is the story of two special wild horses and the people who love them. Their home was a sometimes hostile landscape of sagebrush, wind, and scarce water. Their new home is the National Ability Center In Park City, Utah. The therapeutic riding program combines people and horses. The purpose is greater self-esteem, trust, and exercise.
This wild horse colt is seen with his mother. He was about two weeks old when this photo was taken. His journey was just beginning. He was later named Shelby after the inventor of the Mustang car.
JAN DRAKE - NATIONAL ABILITY CENTER - This is Shelby. He's a two-year old Cedar Mountain Mustang. We adopted Shelby when he was seven months old. We were fortunate enough to go out on the gather with the BLM as a guest to watch the herd come in, and when we adopted Shelby, we also adopted a pal for him.
NARRATOR - Fly has a similar story. He's a Mustang on a mission. Jan Drake adopted fly and started the gentling process. Shelby and fly became valuable additions to the National Ability Center.
JAN DRAKE - The unique thing about mustangs and individuals with autism is each population seems to be a little bit misunderstood in society. The mustang has long been thought of as a horse that's un-trainable and just stubborn and not, not socially acceptable. Same thing with the individual with autism. They're a unique population that is often misunderstood just because of their social skills, and when these two populations come together, they form a relationship and a bond that allows each one of them to be more understood and to be able to grow and be more acceptable in society.
NARRATOR - Abby Ferrin is the equestrian programs manager at the National Ability Center. She works with horses and people of all abilities.
ABBY FERRIN - PROGRAM MANAGER - I think, personally, my favorite thing about mustangs and riding mustangs, working with mustangs, is that each individual person is unique to them. You have to build a relationship with them, and they know you, but, they'll trust you, they'll allow you to do things with them, but another person they might not. So it really makes a person feel special actually when they develop that relationship with a mustang. They're very sensitive in relation to a domesticated horse. I like to compare them to riding a bullet bike. They're not necessarily just fast, but they're sensitive and so they respond quickly and you can get exactly what you want out of them.
NARRATOR - Gumdrop is also a special wild horse. Small size and gentle disposition make gumdrop a perfect therapy horse.
ABBY FERRIN - I think horses definitely have an ability to read the participants that are working with them, and if their participant has a disability, they're able to pick up on that and understand what kind of needs that person might have, and adjust what they are doing to fit their needs.
NARRATOR - Individuals find a partner in life who accepts them unconditionally. There's a bond between the two wild horses, Shelby and Fly, and two friends, Zach and Hanna.
It's a late summer day. Zach walks through the pasture and halters fly. Zach is 21 years old and has been working with Fly for the past year or so.
ZACH BRONFMAN - What I've learned from Fly is how much fun and valuable it is to learn about animals, how to work with them, how to teach them some things.
ABBY FERRIN - In the last year, watching Zach work with Fly, I've seen a lot of progression and a lot of growth from him. The biggest thing has been his confidence. About a year ago, Zach wouldn't really go up to people. He wouldn't initiate conversations. He was pretty timid to do new things.
In the past year we've seen him be able to joke around with people, search people out just to say hi to them, start conversations with complete strangers, offer information about himself that we've never seen before. And specifically with Fly, I've seen him take a lot of initiative.
NARRATOR - Zach puts fly through his paces. Fly has come a long way from his days as a wild horse.
ZACH BRONFMAN - The first time that I worked with him he was pretty wild and peppy and he nearly pounced on me once, but over the time he's been maturing and he's been getting better. He started to learn to cooperate more. He's still a bit peppy though; but he's become a very good horse.
NARRATOR - Shelby's friend is Hanna.
HANNA - He's my surrogate horse without actually having to own one because I don't have the money and financial ability. He's kind of like a thousand-pound child. I don't think I've ever had a relationship with a horse like I've had with Shelby because I've really been there since the beginning so it's more of a, kind of an intuitive connection.
HANNA' S MOM (LORNA) - Working with horses has been an amazing experience for Hanna because she started just about the same time she was having a really hard time at school. It was a tough time for all of us. It was really heart-breaking to see her come home not being able to connect with either the adults or the other kids at school.
To come up here and to be able to talk to and touch, because she didn't do a lot of touching then, touching horses, getting on them, feeling confident, feeling like she knew what she was doing. It was something that she was undeniably strong at and I think it helped her heal from a very difficult experience.
NARRATOR - Hanna drills Shelby in exercises they have mastered. He's come to trust Hanna and become comfortable with her.
HANNA'S MOM - I think the human world is very judgmental. It's not always honest. We're very discriminating beings. Of course we have to be, that's who we are, but for a child who doesn't fit in with the neuro-typicals of the world, who doesn't pick up on body language, who can't pick up the very subtle cues, it can be a very scary place. It's like not speaking the same language, but you come up with a horse and it's, I think for Hanna, it's been that immediate connection.
She feels there's honesty there with that horse. That horse is going to tell her what it's doing, what it needs, what it sees, what it feels, so she can respond immediately without wondering all the time if she's doing something right or wrong because the horse will tell her. She's got the feedback that she needs and then she can relax and she can communicate with that horse the way she needs to communicate.
NARRATOR - Like the wild horses at the prison, Shelby and Fly have gentled quickly. They seem at home in new surroundings and with new friends.
HANNA'S MOM - I don't know if I know there's something special about a wild horse or a Mustang, but I feel there's something different there. Maybe it's their heightened intuition because they're living in the wild and have to be so responsive to their environment, and maybe when they see a kid it's much less filtered maybe? I don't know. I'm just making this up.
That's just my sense, but seeing how Shelby responds to Hanna, and watches Hanna, looks at her, really sees what she's doing, it seems like it's much more intense, and I think that's what makes it so special.
NARRATOR - Sarah loves rocky the therapy horse. The bond between a small child and a large horse seems mutual.
SARAH BARBER - I love Rocky . . . . . .
JENIFER BARBER - SARAH'S MOTHER - Sara is six-years old and at age two she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy it's called. It's a neuromuscular condition. At two and a half we started doing horse therapy because essentially the more exercise that she does to keep the muscle that she's got can keep her ambulatory. When we saw a specialist at her diagnosis they thought she wouldn't be able to maybe get up from the floor by age five anymore. Walking would be difficult. She's really defying the odds and I attribute a lot of it to this therapy.
NARRATOR - Hippotherapy allows muscles to be exercised on the back of a horse. The American Hippotherapy association defines it as "the use of the movement of the horse as a treatment strategy in physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy sessions for people living with disabilities.
Hippotherapy has been shown to improve muscle tone, balance, coordination, motor development, as well as emotional well-being."
SARAH'S MOM - I say in a lot of ways he's rescued her because if we had believed what doctors had told us several years ago, you know, we'd be in a bleak, bleak state. She goes every six months to see her neurologist here at Primary and they're amazed. So the bond she has with the animals and the therapist make it fun for her.
NARRATOR - The joy of horses may be expressed most deeply in the eyes of a child. They have a sense of wonder; expressed in a loving touch.
SARAH'S MOM - I was so panicky in the beginning of letting a two and a half year old go on this horse that is very fragile. If she were to fall off it would be catastrophic. But, to see these animals just know, especially here with these kids, these special kids. They just know, and my daughter's just been drawn to them.
NARRATOR - Shelby, the wild horse, has a profound effect on hanna's life.
HANNA'S MOM - Shelby means...it's friendship...it's personal...it's something she doesn't have with humans...and, I am ever so grateful for Shelby and love that horse dearly for getting into my daughter's heart and allowing her into his, so I think he's a very special horse.
NARRATOR - At the Gunnison prison, "tear" was adopted. He left for a new home. Matt Hoover started over with a new friend. Martin Garcia won the triple crown's Preakness aboard "Lookin at Lucky". Norma wood set the arena record aboard main dash to fame.
The Arabian foals are growing up and honoring their heritage. Nancy the Burro is keeping a watchful eye. Curly Sue is doing well at Best Friends. Zach is now riding Fly. Hanna and Sarah have a special place in their hearts for horses.
The mere mention of the West brings images of horses. America wouldn't be the same without them. America loves horses and they love us back. And somewhere ... Wild horses are racing with the wind.