Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ginger Kathrens mustang movies

Ginger Kathrens

When serendipity strikes a movie maker the whole world shares the experience. Equine filmmaker Ginger Kathrens plans to share one of her most memorable moments from her movies at the 2011 Midwest Horse Fair.

“I don’t know what it was but I got up that morning before sunrise and decided to go out. I didn’t even brush my hair or teeth,” Kathrens said. “I just decided to drive in the direction the horses had gone the night before.”

As she crested the top of a hill in the mustang’s range in the Arrowhead Mountains of Montana, Kathrens noticed “blobs” on the ground ahead.

“It was a mare named Velvet and she had just foaled. Off in the distance was the stallion, Cloud,” Kathrens said. 

Cloud, by way of introduction, is the mustang stallion Kathrens has followed with her cameras since the day he was born. She has produced a series of documentary movies based around Cloud’s life that are familiar to viewers of such television programming as National Geographic, PBS Nature, Discovery Channel Animal Planet and the BBC.

“I’ll be showing some clips from my latest movie, ‘Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions.’ And I’ll be talking about my 17 year adventure filming wild horses,” she said.

Kathrens has created a body of documentary work that’s often compared to Jane Goodall’s work with wild chimpanzees in Africa. The series of movies on mustangs in their natural habitat stands alone documenting, from birth, a wild animal in North America.

While in production, Kathrens would travel from her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado to Montana one week a month every month. The idea was to make sure to capture the mustangs in their habitat during every season. “Now we go up there every couple of months,” she said.

Because of her close, longstanding relationship to wild mustangs, Kathrens has developed into an advocate for the animals. Cloud, the star of Kathrens’ films, has been rounded up twice with his band of mares by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While Cloud has been spared, the band has suffered.
Photos provided by Ginger Kathrens

“Wild mustangs may be gone in 10 years the way things are going,” she said.
That’s not to suggest she is giving up. Like her documentaries, life and death are part of the day to day existence of wild horses everywhere and she’s hopeful they’ll be given room in the environment to survive and thrive.

Kathrens mentioned that documentary movies are not works of fiction about animals like a Disney movie for children. Documentary movies take the viewer along to see exactly what happens in the lives of the subject.

“In a documentary you see the good stuff and the bad. That’s life,” she said.

Wild horses gather into groups she calls “bands.” A band may be a stallion and a mare, a stallion and a group of mares or even a group of bachelor stallions. 

And humans aren’t the only challenge wild mustangs face. The environment takes its toll on horses, too.

“New research out of Canada show that at least in Cloud’s range, mountain lions are the biggest predators,” Kathrens said. “One season lions got 30 foals. The only foal that survived that season was one born closer to a road where the mountain lions probably stayed away.”

You can listen and watch Kathrens Friday afternoon at 2:00, listen to another session on equine photography at 3:00 Saturday and again at 10:30 Sunday. Check the schedule of events for the Midwest Horse Fair for locations and time changes.
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