By Jacob Osborne

In 2013, four rowdy young cowboys rode 16 adopted mustangs across 3,000 miles of the most pristine, formidable wilderness the West has to offer.

They navigated from Arizona to Montana, along a nearly contiguous thread of unspoiled public land. Over the course of five months, the band of riders faced heat, storms, injury, disease and the social turbulence that comes with raw human ambition. Lucky for us, they packed a camera.

“Unbranded” is a gripping, honest documentary celebrating the glory of the Western landscape, and advocates for the thoughtful conservation of an iconic creature, the wild horse.

Beneath breathtaking cinematography and a well-drawn environmental debate lies the true heart of “Unbranded”: a miraculous evolution of four restless college grads and the pack of once-wild mustangs they brought out of containment.

“I think that we’re saving each other by doing this long trip,” says rider and producer Ben Masters in the award-winning film’s opening minutes. “We’re getting them out of their captivity, and they’re helping us get out of ours.”

This story was first published in the winter 2016 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.