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By Jessica DiCostanzo

Featured photo: A movie on horses from producer Steven Latham will show in San Juan Capistrano this month. Photo courtesy of Steven Latham Productions.

In preparation for the film premiere of “The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses” that the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition and the San Juan Capistrano Open Space Foundation will host on Thursday, November 18th,  I had the opportunity to interview producer Steven Latham on his inspiration for creating the film. Three minutes into the conversation, I was shocked to realize that even though I am a  lifelong equestrian, I knew very little about an important American icon, the mustang.

“Most people don’t even know there are wild horses still roaming the rangeland. We are never taught about public lands in school,” explained Latham.

Latham had a few goals in mind in sharing the story of the mustangs. First, he wanted to capture the beauty of these animals. Then, he wanted to distill a very complicated issue and, lastly, provide hope that it’s not too late to take action.

In preparation for the film, Lantham took several trips out on the range, where he was mesmerized by the beauty of the wild horses.

“Seeing a wild horse just takes your breath away,” reminisces Latham.

Latham believes they are the connection to the past.  They invoke the  history of how horses have been with humans throughout the modernization of the world. Sadly, most people have forgotten they even exist.

Latham’s film tells the story of the issues facing wild horses and he warns it gets complicated quickly.

“It’s not just about pretty horses and ending helicopter roundups,” says Latham.

The “magic” number of wild horses roaming free should be 27,000 but they are currently approaching 90,000. Horse populations can double every year. Their natural predators have been wiped out to protect livestock. The designated areas where the wild horses can live ends up being on only 11% of public lands. Within that area, the land is further divided and shared with wildlife, farmers leasing the land for livestock, hunting, fishing.

Latham asked me if I had ever ridden a mustang, and I responded, “They will give you their heart and soul if they trust you.”

He couldn’t agree more.

A small example of how we can work “hand in hoof” with these beautiful creatures is through programs that connect horses and riders. Latham provides insight on the Extreme Mustang Makeover, as well as programs that help veterans reconnect through horses. Spotlighting these programs provide hope for the audience that we can still make a difference.

The executive producers of the film Robert Redford, Jessica Springsteen, Bruce Springsteen, and Patti Scialfa Springsteen wanted to relay that we have a responsibility to preserve this important part of our Americana. 

“Whatever it is that inspires you, take action,” Latham said at the close of our interview.

If you would like to learn more about the American mustang and how you can help, take the first step by joining us Nov. 18th at the Regency Theater in San Juan Capistrano from 6 to 9 p.m. for a special screening. The San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition and San Juan Capistrano Open Space Foundation will host Steven Lantham and Neda DeMayo from Return to Freedom for a Q&A after the film. 

This is a one night only and tickets are limited. Reserve your seats ASAP through the Regency Theater in San Juan by going online.

Jessica DiCostanzo is a San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition Board Member, lifelong equestrian, and co-founder of equivont.com.

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