The Rider focuses on how a South Dakotan rough-stock rider recaptured his identity after a scary fall left him with a fractured skull.
Brady Jandreau was excited to talk about the movie, The Rider, the 2017 feature film in which he stars alongside his father, Tim Jandreau, his sister, Lilly Jandreau, as well as Lane Scott and Cat Clifford. But energy infuses his voice when he talks about horses.
Jandreau’s story is one too many roughstock riders are familiar with: A serious head injury leaves a young bronc rider in the hospital with strict orders to never ride again. Despite physical and emotional setbacks, his passion for horses pushes him to try and find his identity, even if it risks his life.
The Rider, directed by Chloe Zhao, won best feature at the 28th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards. It was nominated for five Spirit Awards and accepted into the Cannes, Toronto, New York, Sundance, Telluride, and SXSW film festivals.
Jandreau gives some insight into the making of the film and what he thinks Western audiences will appreciate about the film.
Q: What is your background with horses?
A: Horses and rodeo have been prominent in my life ever since I was small. I rode my first sheep and competed in my first rodeo when I was only 2 years old in a diaper. I started training little ponies that had never been rode when I was 5 years old. My older brother trained colts and he would help me. When I turned 7, I started training 2-year-olds from start to finish, so basically it’s been about 16 years I’ve been training them from start to finish.
I’m currently from and enrolled in the Lower Brulé Sioux Indian reservation [in South Dakota]. My mom is a member of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and that is where I currently reside.
Q: What is the premise of the film?
A: I was injured at the Fargo [Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association] rodeo in North Dakota. I got hung up in the stirrup in the saddle bronc riding. After my head injury, I was told not to ride again, that I could die from just the physical activity of it, let alone falling. But I was in the hole, and I wasn’t going to ask for any money, so I went back to the only thing I knew how to do which was train horses.
Q: How serious was your head injury?
A: I swung under the horse and he stepped on my head and crushed my skull. It didn’t knock me out initially so [the docs] thought I hurt my neck. They were treating me for a neck injury and took me to the hospital. When I got to the hospital about 11 minutes later, I went into a full-body convulsion seizure, and they induced a coma and did brain surgery on me. The communited [broken into three more sections] fracture was on the right side of my head. There were three regions of my skull that were broke and two parts of my brain that were damaged, the temporal lobe and the cerebellum. I had a significant brain bleed and bled clear to the other side of my brain before they got it stopped.
My wife says I didn’t even remember who I was in the beginning or how to talk. I would yell or mumble. Two weeks after I got home from the hospital, I rode Gus again, the horse I grew up riding when I was a little boy. He’s now my daughter’s horse. I rode him around bareback, and my dad helped me up on him.
I was injured on April Fools’ Day of 2016. I started training horses again three months later, and started shooting the start of the film on September 3, about four months after my head injury.
Q: What does the movie offer people familiar with horses and the Western industry?
A: One thing I pushed was the authenticity. I think we succeeded and it’s a very authentic film for our part of the world. I feel like there is a lot of natural horsemanship displayed that could possibly help some trainers or people who ride horses in general.
Q: Since the film’s release, what have you been doing?
A: My wife and I have started a breeding program called Jandreau Performance Horses. We raise registered Quarter Horses that can do anything in and out of the arena, from mounted shooting to ranch work to hunting horses, pack horses, barrel racing, calf roping, cutting. You name it, we’ll train it. We have 20 head of broodmares right now.
Q: Talk more about the horses in the film. Were they your horses in “real life?”
A: Most were my horses, and some were outside horses I was training.
Gus is played by another horse named Mooney. Gus is in the film, but he just doesn’t play himself.
The real Gus is a sorrel QH who goes back to Poco Tivio. He’s a good old horse. My dad trained him as a 2-year-old, and the woman who owned him said she didn’t want a young horse and she would sell him, so we bought him. He was one of the first horses I rode and I finished him out as a 7-year-old. He was always a little broncy, and you always had to work a little bit harder on him because he was stubborn. I give most of the credit to him for making me the hand that I am today.
Mooney, he’s a big appendix QH. The reason they chose him is because he’s yellow and looked better on camera. There’s another horse in the film called Apollo, and it’s ironic because the real Apollo was actually a big palomino, but he passed away before the shoot, and his story is included in the film.
Apollo was a 10-year-old stout palomino horse, but he wasn’t registered. But I saw something in him. I got him off the kill truck, and I made him into a really good horse. After 20 days of riding him, I could drag a big Charolais bull down to the ground, and my dad would drive a trailer and I could push the bull in. He was one of the best horses I ever rode.
Q: What is the message of the film?
A: There are a couple messages. One is don’t take things for granted because they can be taken away at the drop of a hat. Another message is that sometimes your life takes you in a new direction, and it’s how you react that counts. I could’ve reacted in a negative way to the injury. I could’ve been sad and worked somewhere else and not have faith that I would heal completely from my head injury. But I persevered and made something good out of it. And now there’s a whole new world I’ve been exposed to because of it.