“Mustangs” Documentary Examines the Healing Powers of Wild Horses

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A quote from Native American author and educator Luther Standing Bear appears onscreen at the start of “The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses”. The quote is about an old Lakota man who “knew that the heart of man far from nature grows hard,” that “disrespect for growing living things quickly led to disrespect for humans. too. So he kept his children close to the soothing influence of nature.

While the quote applies throughout Steven Latham and Conrad Stanley’s documentary, which examines the modern plight of mustangs on American public lands from several angles, it resonates fully when the film explores how working with these animals helps the ancients. combatants and active service members. PMC Vice President Gerry Byrne is a consulting producer on the film.

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Operation Wild Horse, a nonprofit organization based in Bull Valley, Ill., Pairs veterans and servicemen with once-wild mustangs to bond between them and work to remove obstacles that may have train during their time in uniform.

Whether it’s horseback riding, doing ground chores, or just spending time with them, participants move at their own pace, according to their own needs.

“We call the program a structured / unstructured program,” says Patti Gruber, program director for Operation Wild Horse, noting that the structure comes from the activities planned for a participant. “But it’s not structured in the sense that if someone wants to come in and do something else, we’ll change them.”

The film arrives on the schedule as it follows a particular Mustang (Pearl Snap) after his retreat from the wild for a short training period, and then a charity auction where he found his home with Operation Wild Horse (The Horse was renamed Pearl Harbor).

“They have incredible riding and incredible respect and schedules for veterans,” said co-director Latham, who also produced the film. “This is a really good place to heal… for veterans and mustangs. “

After experiencing the rigorous structure of military life, combined with the heart-wrenching traumas of combat, veterans cannot always immediately sit down and talk about their experiences with a therapist or with their family.

“When you leave your service – for me from combat – coming back to civilian life has been a big change. I didn’t know where I belonged, ”says USMC Sgt. Ryan Bentele, who served from 1998 to 2006, including combat operations in the Death Triangle in Iraq, and is featured in the film. “I still had the Marine mentality of giving orders, of giving orders to the family, and I wasn’t having much luck with that.”

Bentele was able to include his family during his participation in Operation Wild Horse, which allowed them all to build trust together, starting with his work with the Mustang.

“I was like, ‘I know you’re out of nature, you’re out of your element, I’m out of my element too,'” he recalls, pointing out that the veteran and the horse are both having a second chance to prove that they can be of use to the community.

“In the end, working with the horse how far I could ride, in my uniform, during the 4th of July parade, wearing Old Glory through the streets I rode as a teenager, was a bit hard to hold back the tears. . “

Latham notes that in addition to Operation Wild Horse, “there is a lot more we can do for our veterans and we need to do it,” he said. “A lot of veterans are so stoic, but if they can make others understand that there are opportunities, you don’t need to suffer in silence. “

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