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Fate of Wild Horses to Be Included in Film

By Stacey Boyne
Mountain View Telegraph

"He went looking for his missing horse, she went to save the wild horses. Together, they found a connection that reached deeper into the past than either of them ever could have imagined."

That's the basic story outline of an independent film produced by Texas Ranch Productions of Sabinal, Texas, which spent last weekend in the East Mountains filming some of the final scenes for its feature-length film, "The Road to El Paso."

The company's Web site describes the film as the story of a rancher who sets out to follow his heart and whose fate is to come together with a woman whose destiny is to save the West.

"Martin, the hero, and Skye, the heroine, cross paths in the movie when Martin is out searching for his missing horse. While wandering the desert, lost, the pair witnesses the slaughter of wild horses and the heroine discovers her destiny," the film's director, producer and screenplay writer, Shiloh Richter, said Friday as the film's crew waited anxiously to film footage of New Mexico wild horses on the Campbell Ranch Wild Horse Preserve in Sandia Park.

"Martin and Skye have been through a lot of trauma by this point in the movie," said Rawlyn Richter, who plays Martin in the film. "They've come together in their life purposes and this scene with the wild horses symbolizes all of that."

The last third of the movie features the plight of the wild horses, but Shiloh says the fate of one of America's icons of freedom and the Wild West wasn't originally scripted into the story.

"We wanted to use wild horses in the film, but once we learned about the wild horses' story and their plight, we actually worked that into the movie," Shiloh Richter added.

While destiny and fate are the underlying currents that drive the story, Shiloh said the production itself has been serendipitous, especially after connecting with Carlos Lopopolo and The New Mexican Horse Project.

"We started looking for wild horse preserves and came across NMHP. When we learned that Carlos is a cartographer, just like our main character, we knew we were supposed to follow this path," Shiloh explained.

Debbie French— who plays heroine Skye Morrow, whose destiny is directly tied to that of the wild horses— said being out on the preserve and seeing the wild horses firsthand added a whole new level of meaning to her character in the film.

"This is such a great opportunity to learn about the wild horses because my character is so tied to that, it really tugs at my heart," French said. "The added benefit is that this project needs help, and hopefully the movie will contribute to that cause."

As trucks loaded up and headed out onto the preserve, carrying the film's crew and members of the NMHP, none truly expected to catch a glimpse of the horses that day, but all were hopeful.

Dust kicked up from the south as the sound of hoofbeats began to sound in synch with heartbeats. Shiloh, hiding behind a clump of piñon bushes, panned the camera as a band of mares, yearlings and this year's babies— led by Sombrio, the preserve's first stud horse— raced past her lens with manes and tails flowing, lit up by the afternoon sun.

As quickly as they appeared, they are gone. Just as Western mythology and the last of the West begins to slip away, so do the horses. It's this symbolism Shiloh is striving to harness in the film.

For the horses, however, their fate will not be decided in a 90-minute feature film. It is an ongoing fight, one Lopopolo knows all too well.

As his project continues its efforts to keep the wilds wild while preserving an icon— direct descendants of the Spanish conquistador equine lineage, a legend, a people's history— he hopes films like this one can help the plight of this sometimes forgotten species.

"Participating in this film is more for the horses than the project," Lopopolo said as the truck slowly bumped along on its way out of the preserve. "The word is out that they need help and that the project is growing outside of its local confines. It's bringing an awareness about their struggle and that there are more of us that feel the same way about preserving these horses."

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