TPH Documentary Review: Unbranded

By TPH Intern Vyla Carter
Unbranded is the story of a group of friends who in 158 days traveled from the Mexico-United States border to the Canadian border, all on the backs of Mustangs. Previously, one of the travelers, Ben Masters, had discovered the endurance of Mustangs after he bought a few cheap ones from holding pens to supplement his own Quarter Horses on long riding trips. Soon, he discovered them to outperform the Quarter Horses. Upon doing research on wild Mustangs, Masters discovered the controversial topic of government managed Mustangs living on federal land. Thousands of wild horses live in government holding pens waiting to be adopted- and some never are. Masters wanted to do something to bring awareness to the problem these amazing horses face, eventually coming up with the journey that would inspire the documentary, Unbranded.
After two years of planning a route and four months of training, Ben Masters, Thomas Glover, Ben Thamer and Jonny Fitzsimons saddle up a team of 13 Mustangs and begin riding. They travel through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana- almost always on public land. Throughout the trip they experience countless dilemmas, from changing the route to a horse getting hurt to drama between the guys. The group of friends also experience lighthearted and fun moments, like taking a break and entering a rodeo on the 4th of July. Along the journey, the viewer gets a better insight into each of the guys’ personalities, along with the unique personality of each horse.
The film also informs the viewer about American Mustangs and the problems they face. Thousands of Mustangs graze on the public land in the west, causing conflict with grazing land for livestock. To control the Mustang population and allow farmers to have grazing land for cattle, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does an annual round up of thousands of Mustangs and places them up for adoption.This leaves a number of Mustangs in government holding pens waiting for an adoption that will likely never happen. Unbranded brings these details to light and gives the opinions of several different groups of people on such a controversial situation.
With its amazing cinematography and ability to appeal to the viewers’ emotions, Unbranded captivates the audience throughout the entirety of the movie. The overall goal of this film is to explain to the audience that more Mustangs need to be adopted, and it does just that. By switching between the heartwarming story of the 3,000 mile horse ridden journey and the plight of wild Mustangs, the movie inspires others to help these wild horses. The film is outstanding and no matter how much someone knows about horses, there is something everyone can enjoy about Unbranded.