In spring of 2013, four graduates from Texas A&M University were beginning the trip of their dreams: riding 3,000 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border on horseback, using only wild mustangs.  Global Rescue is pleased to have supported Ben Masters, Thomas Glover, Jonny Fitzsimons, and Ben Thamer throughout their adventure and upcoming documentary,Unbranded.  In anticipation of the documentary’s release in winter 2015, Global Rescue spoke with Phill Baribeau, the director of Unbranded, for a glimpse into the making of the documentary.

Surprisingly, Baribeau had almost no experience with horses when he joined the project. He learned to ride well enough to travel 10 to 12 hours and 20 miles a day, with limited breaks for the horses.  Masters, the leader of the Unbranded team, previously had completed a similar 2,000 mile trip in 2010. “He always wanted to do another trip, something bigger, and do it all with mustangs just because they’re built for mountain travel and they live out here,” said Baribeau. “Ben also wanted to show the public by doing a film how incredible these horses can be if you train them right.”

Baribeau and his filmmaking partner could not bring an entire crew, so they almost exclusively split the filming between themselves and collected more than 450 hours of footage over the journey’s five-month duration.  “We were not filming all day every day, but definitely when it was scenic. At the same time, with horses you never know when something’s going to happen so you have to be ready at all times,” Baribeau said.



Baribeau learned the readiness lesson the hard way on his “worst day of the trip.” A few days into the journey and feeling overconfident, he was caught off guard.  “We got off our horses to walk down a path, and I was talking to my buddy behind me, another guy filming. I walked right into the back of this horse and didn’t even see it coming. He kicked me in the thigh.  I went down and I thought I broke my femur. I actually considered calling Global Rescue.”

Instead, after realizing that the bone was not broken but was just a bad hematoma, Baribeau took a few weeks off to recover before rejoining the expedition.  However, the pain inflicted by the wild mustang could not ruin Baribeau’s memorable Unbranded experience, which included riding through the Grand Canyon and “across the Colorado River on a suspension bridge, and then Glacier National Park to end the trip.” 



While wrapping up post-production, Masters will meet with Baribeau and bring along four of the horses from the journey. “We’re definitely going back to this spot below Yellowstone called the Thoroughfare. We’ll probably spend a week back there just camping and fishing. I’m glad he has horses so we can still get out.”  For his part, Baribeau is excited to relive the trip — without cameras, for a change.



Unbranded director Phill Baribeau