Sundance favorite 'The Mustang' puts spotlight on horse-therapy program that helps inmates

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An estimated 100,000 mustangs roam free in our Western states. But the government says the environment can't sustain that many. So every year, thousands of horses are rounded up. Most live out their days in long-term holding facilities. Some are adopted. And a few hundred go to a prison program that helps the horses -- and the inmates.

The new film, "The Mustang," is a work of fiction, but it's based on many of those facts. "The Mustang" focuses on a prisoner who's been behind bars for 12 years. He then meets a prison psychologist hoping to rehabilitate him with a program where inmates train wild horses.

"It really tries to contribute to the notion that nothing is lost," said actor Matthias Schoenaerts. "Nobody is an absolute lost case. Of course, the willingness has to start with the individual but then it's all about support and care and tenderness and kindness. So I think if this movie can contribute to that, then I think we did a good thing."

The film's director feels very strongly that prisons need programs like this one. Some prisons do have methods in place to help inmates reconcile with themselves--and with the world. Other prisons have no programs at all.

"I really wish that the justice department could find balance so that they could offer those men a second chance or just an opportunity to show that they are not defined by their crimes," said director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre.

Jason Mitchell plays a fellow inmate in the wild horse program. He says being in the movie helping horses actually helped him.

"I was completely terrified of horses," said Mitchell. "So to be able to go home with also this newly found me--you know what I mean? That's overcome fears and done all these different things not only as an actor but as a man, it just really kicked me up a notch as a whole person."

"The Mustang" is rated R and is in theaters Friday, March 15.
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