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Unbranded talks with NickerNews, Part Two

Published: 7/17/2013
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Editor’s Note:
A few years ago, Ben Masters took a 2,000 mile backcountry, horsepacking adventure from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the Canadian border.
Now, the Texas A & M graduate has masterminded Unbranded, the documentary film in-the-making of four friends, 14 BLM mustangs, and a BLM burro as they travel from the Mexican to Canadian borders.
NickerNews spoke again with Masters as they worked through Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming, on the heels of a short layover in Jackson Hole, WY.

Read Part I
Read Part III

Map Illustration by NickerNews.
Photos courtesy of Unbranded.

NickerNews: You travel 20 miles a day and so far have clocked about 2,000 miles. How are the horses holding up?

Masters: I'm really, really pleased with the performance of the horses.
We’ve had no feet problems.
We’ve had no weight loss problems.
These guys - they can eat sage brush and just live off it. They’re tough animals. Really happy about the conditions of the horses.

NickerNews: How are the humans holding up?

Masters: We’re doing good. We’ve lost our fair share of weight. We could all use a shave and a shower. But we’re actually ahead of schedule and everything is going along pretty good.

We have our arguments here and there. I’m really glad that the guys I’m doing this with are here. I don’t think I could have found a better team. It’s just worked out really good so far.

NickerNews: So friendships are intact?

Masters: Absolutely.

NickerNews: Often on expeditions like yours, certain team members come out as having certain strengths, talents, and duties. Has that happened with your team?

Masters: You bet...Everybody’s found what their specialty is.
Myself, I do the maps. That’s what I’m good at. Maps.
Ben Thamer - He makes sure the food is scheduled and everything
Jonny Fitzsimmons and Tom Glover– their specialty is with horses and setting up camp and doing everything.
But we all help each other out with everything.

Whatever we’re doing, it’s working out because our horses are in good shape and we’re ahead of schedule so. Can’t be doing too much wrong.

NickerNews: With the requirements of actually making a film of this ride, do you have production obligations or restraints?

Masters: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes the cameraman will say, ‘hey, go walk down that hill.' And you don’t want to go walk down that hill.
And, you know, the cameramen are not as good with horses.
But from the time we’ve started 'til now, they've have really advanced. Their horsemanship. So they’re able to move around so that’s good. And they’re able to get lots of good footage while keeping up at the same time, keeping up the good pace.

... So I think they’re doing a really good job of letting whatever events play out play out...
There’s a bunch of crazy stuff that happens on a regular basis... I’ve got to see quite a bit of it.

NickerNews: Can you tell me about the mix up with quads? [ATV riders upset the horses and it took three days and 42 miles to finally reassemble the team.]

Masters: No, you’re going to have to watch the documentary for that. [laughing]

Nickernews: How often do you have cellular service?

About twenty-five percent of the time.

NickerNews: You seem to have a calm, philosophical perspective. Have you adopted the perspective of a Zen Master?

Masters: You mean the Zen Masters must have adopted the cowboy mentality. That’s what happened. Give them a heads up.

NickerNews: So when I see a Zen Master wearing a cowboy hat, that’s what going on?

Masters: Yeah, just walk up and call him an imposter. [laughing]

Read Part I
Read Part III

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7/22/2013 Jim Hughes
how are all rear-ends of riders holding up?

"No one can teach riding so well as a horse" - CS Lewis