Seeing The Wild Ones finally screen on History Channel and stimulate attention to the Xeni Gwet’in cowboy community and the Qayus wild horses is satisfying and exciting, said cast member Michael Lares.
“We have worked so hard with local cowboys over the years to achieve this,” said Lares, who has called Nemiah Valley home since 2011. “The show truly reveals what it takes to change skins, learn and ride in the saddle out here.”
It’s great that elders and local cowboys are sharing their stories and horse management strategies with the outside world, Lares told the Tribune, adding his own ranch has found amazing homes for Qayus horses owned by various local cowboys.
One horse has gone from being completely wild, stealing mares at their ranch, to a therapy horse in Switzerland within six months of being started.
“This has proven that these wild horses, can thrive by having human interaction and purpose in an appropriate and healthy setting. Before any plan is considered and put into action, we qualify the destination and intention of the buyer. The horse comes first.”
Originally from the U.S., it was efforts to heal his bride, Nicole, from a debilitating accident, that brought them to Nemiah Valley as they were looking for a more temperate climate than on the East Coast.
“During our search of the Western United States, and through a series of interesting events in 2009, we discovered the Nemiah Valley,” Lares said, noting although it was out of the U.S. and produced a myriad of hurdles and challenges, they still had an overwhelming allure to the valley.
In 2010, he sold his underwater construction company and retired from a 25-year commercial diving career.
“The then-current Xeni Chief invited me to submit my resume and apply for the Xeni Gwet’in Enterprise manager position. I did so, was requested by the Xeni Band to move to the valley to facilitate my work with them, and I was hired on. Thus, in 2011, my bride and I with two small children, moved to Nemiah Valley.”
Lares said the family became engaged with the Xeni Gwet’in people and their culture beginning in 2009 when they made their first family trip to Nemiah, but became fully immersed once they made they permanent move in 2011.
“We were shoulder to shoulder with them learning about their culture, and the Chilcotin ranching way.”
That crash course on the Xeni people, off-grid living, ranching, and relations to the wild horses started then and honestly, hasn’t ever slowed, he said, adding after 11 years there is still so much to learn.
One of the things the Lares love the most about living where they do is the ability to function as a close knit family, with the day- to-day challenges of running a ranch completely off-grid.
“It’s such an unbridled and wild setting, yet still somewhat tethered to the modern world,” Lares said, but added they do greatly miss friends and family back in the States. “There is a fascinating aspect in witnessing the close relation the Xeni people have with the land and nature and to support the community with the very function of the ranch and live in peace with the locals is something we consider a true gift.”
They have always supported the community through efforts at the ranch with horses, hay and horse herd management, he added.
Being part of a television series has been interesting as Lares considers himself a ‘float all boats’ kind of guy.
“I like seeing everyone involved benefit from the effort,” he said, noting bringing the series to the valley was something he was intimately involved in for the last few years.
Filming and capturing the required footage to even remotely tell the story was ultra-challenging for the film crew, participating cowboys and community members, Lares said.
When the production was in early negotiations to arrive, his first question to the producers, he explained, was with so many moving parts, uncontrollable aspects, unpredictable elements, and wild horses, how were they going to actually pull it off and capture it on film?
“Their answer was ‘well that’s what we do’ and I would say, they did a fantastic job.’
The fifth episode of The Wild Ones airs on Monday, Feb. 17.