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By Phil Hall | December 23, 2008

John Zaritsky’s documentary focuses on a program at a Colorado correctional facility where inmates are involved in the training of wild mustangs. The concept here is the simultaneous rehabilitation of seeming uncontrollable beings – out-of-control men who wound up behind bars and less-than-docile horses being forced into domestication.

In reality, the approach doesn’t quite work since Zartisky focuses on a half-dozen highly articulate, seemingly well-behaved prisoners who show no visible sign of incorrigibility. Nonetheless, the provides an entertaining view of the so-called horse whisperer techniques used in bringing the mustangs under control.

A great deal of patience goes into the repetitive training, and the horses aren’t always the most willing students (swift kicks from rear hooves provide cogent statements of equine unhappiness). But as the film progresses, the horses learn to adapt to their new environments while the inmates display a sense of confidence, discipline and kindness that was previously absent from their adult lives.

There is at least one happy human story here (a released inmate gets a job with a ranch, joins a church and gets married) and one happy horse story (a once-cantakerous horse becomes part of the U.S. Border Patrol), and the promise of better lives for both inmates and equines provides a feel-good vibe that is hard to resist.

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