Editor’s Note: Unbranded is the documentary film about the epic, 3,000-mile journey of four Texas A & M University grads and their cavvy of extraordinary mustangs. It has won numerous film festival awards. Watch trailer here.
Did you know? Cayuse Communications was the only media outlet interviewing the team during their journey. We have the most extensive catalog of Unbranded features, topping all other publications by dozens of pages.
Start here with our first interview with Unbranded’s mastermind, Ben Masters, as they begin the journey, on the trail from Arizona to Montana.
Coming up, we will have more interviews with producer Dennis Aig, director Phill Baribeau, editor Scott Chestnut, and many more.
Part One of this multi-part interview series:
Maddy Butcher: You did an immense amount of planning. Are things going as you imagined?
Ben Masters: There are so many variables that are outside of your control that you can’t really anticipate a lot of the things that are going to happen to you.
So I don’t try to imagine what it’s going to be like. But I’ve been absolutely blown away by the scenery we’ve gone through in Arizona. I had absolutely no idea that the southwest, especially that desert country could be so beautiful in the spring or summer time.
That’s been my biggest shock just how neat the scenery has been and also the lack of people that we’ve come across.
MB: How often to you see other people?
BM: Depends on our location. If we’re in the backcountry, it may be two or three days before we see anyone. But we have to move from one National Forest to another National Forest, we may see a hundred people if we’re going through town or whatever.
On our route we generally avoid them, but it’s nice to drop down into town and get something to eat every once in a while.
MB: Your journey will be a film documentary. How often do you have other people with you?
BM: We have a cameraman with us about 80 percent of the time. There are two cameramen. They alternate out. Cameraman One for 10 days. Then Cameraman Two for 10 days.
Then we’ll have a week off with no cameraman. It goes through cycles. That way, they can stay fresh. They can stay energized. Running all over the mountains getting footage is a real task.
MB: And how many animals are you working with?
BM: We have 14 horses and a donkey. We have four pack horses and five saddle horses. The remainder are loose. They are just following behind. So they’re getting a day off. We rotate through.
MB: How many miles are you doing and do your horses have shoes?
BM: We ride approximately 20 miles a day. Yes, we have to have shoes. If they were barefoot, our horses made it maybe 300-400 miles before they completely wore through their hooves. They cannot do this without shoes.
MB: Can all of you put on and take off shoes if you need to?
BM: We can, but we aren’t professionals. So we try to get a professional shoer to come out and do it for us whenever we need to if possible. We can do it but I don’t want to risk our horses feet if I can get a professional to do it.
MB: Twenty miles is a lot of work. Do you have to supplement grazing with any grain?
BM: We do give them grain. Not as often as I’d like. We try to pack some with us. That also helps keep them close to camp if there’s food around. We give them about five pounds of grain every other day. Not really enough, but it’s the maximum amount we can take with us. It weighs a lot.
MB: How are horses holding up?
BM: We adopted them in November. On average horses are 75 to 100 pounds heavier than they were then.
They are trim.
They are in marathon shape.
They are in unbelievable shape. We’ll climb a hill that’s a thousand feet elevation and they don’t even break into a sweat.