The Horse Whisperer
THE GRULLA film script is an adaptation of my book, Lost Betrayal…..
LOGLINE FOR THE GRULLA –
A determined cowgirl enlists the help of a former bull fighter and drug addict in the search for her horse that is still mysteriously missing after a tornado destroys her ranch.
In 2014, my first book Lost Betrayal was released by Solstice Publishing. The tale of the lost horse, Houston was marketed as western romance – there is a good bit of romance between Sage and Garrett throughout the whole story – the truth is that this is a much bigger tale than a traditional romance. Considering the heart wrenching real life inspiration behind the story,that really doesn’t come as a big surprise.
I originally got the story idea for Lost Betrayal years ago when I was involved in shipping some vet supplies for large animals that were victims of hurricane Floyd in 1999 on the east coast. There was an aged stallion that had been rescued after a week in flood waters only to become blind from a reaction to a medication. That’s when I found out that large animals are often the last to be rescued, and the last to receive much needed veterinary supplies and food.
For years I worked on the story that at that time had no name. It haunted me and never would leave. Then in the spring of 2013, I was at the Fort Smith Barrel Futurity competing for the week when a large string of tornadoes hit Moore, Oklahoma just a few hours west.
At one point we were under a tornado warning there at the futurity grounds and were ushered into the main conference building while the storm raged just outside where our horses were stalled. Fortunately, we missed the bullet but let me tell you, for an east Tennessee gal that was scary!
We watched the news following the storm and saw the deadly destruction of homes and farms. The tornadoes had hit several large horse farms and there were massive piles of dead horses that had been killed by the storm.
We also heard reports of horses that were severely injured and missing, and horses that still needed rescuing. In fact, there was one horse that was missing that originally came from a family I knew very well in east Tennessee.
For some reason, the devastation felt closer, my heart ached for everyone that was impacted and it gave me the final push I needed to finish the story that had seeped into my bones a decade earlier.
Here’s the film synopsis for THE GRULLA…
THE GRULLA is the story of Sage Witherspoon who loses her best horse in a devastating tornado and the journeys they both take to eventually bring them back together. In the end Sage finds hope, and true love in the arms of Garrett Wade.
Already a reluctant and bitter widow in her mid- thirties, Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado touches down destroying everything in its path including her family ranch in northern Georgia and the very horse that the ranch’s future hinges on. Refusing to believe her horse was killed in the storm and refusing to give up on the ranch, Sage begins the journey of rebuilding her life once again and searching for the horse that to her holds the past, and her future.
Houston is an odd name for a horse but he is named after Sage’s father who died not quite two years ago. The grulla colored horse garnered the name as Sage’s father said he’d never amount to anything even though the horse was the culmination of years of what he had tried to achieve in his breeding program. In that sense, the young stallion ironically represents her father’s dreams and one last chance to prove him wrong. With an uncanny athletic ability, the three-year-old stallion also represents Sage’s dreams of finally having a top contender barrel horse to put the ranch on the map.
Garrett Wade is a cowboy in his late thirties trying to forget the sordid past of his younger rodeo days. When he’s asked to help with the tornado rescue efforts, he meets Sage. Unfazed by her constant attempts to convince the world that she can do it all on her own, Garrett sees past all that to the real strength and vulnerability that lies beneath. The next thing he knows, he’s pulled along on a wild horse chase.
Eula Witherspoon, Sage’s mother, came to the ranch when she married Sage’s father and has lived on the Witherspoon Ranch her whole adult life. Although she was raised with horses, Eula wants nothing more than to live a glamorous life in the city. As the years passed, the ranch began to represent everything she couldn’t have in life. When the tornado destroys it all, Eula sees the opportunity to start over but only if she can convince Sage Houston has died and the ranch is done. Eula betrays her very own daughter to finally gain the life she dreams of.
The stage is set when Houston spooks and bolts from Sage into the storm. It’s then that Sage realizes that a tornado is coming their way. Sage runs to the house to warn her mother, and then returns to the barn to release the horses from their stalls before the tornado hits. Sage can’t save the last horse and must take cover in a freezer used for feed as the tornado levels the barn.
The tornado is the largest they have ever seen in that part of the country and the local folks immediately start a search and rescue effort with anyone willing to show up. That’s when Garrett gets a call from his friend, Herman Miller who asks him to come and help as they are overwhelmed the devastation.
The next day as the search efforts continue, Garrett finds Sage who is unconscious among the debris. With a little coaching, he wakes her up only to find his damsel in distress is somewhat rude and can’t remember a thing. It’s only after Sage accidently sees the mangled remains of the last horse she tried to save that she remembers what happened, and that’s when Garrett first sees the softer side of her that draws him in.
In the aftermath, Houston is still missing and injured and has wandered onto the property of a no-good horse trader, Arthur Gilliam. He can’t feed the animals he has and the last thing he needs is another mouth to feed, especially a stallion without papers. Arthur leaves the young horse to die in his pasture. Houston doesn’t die, and Arthur recognizes the brand on the horse’s hip as belonging to the Witherspoon ranch and calls Eula Witherspoon hoping for a reward. Instead she pays him to make the horse disappear.
Sage immediately starts the task of getting her ranch back in order, against her mother’s wishes. Eula tries to convince her daughter to give up, telling her, “You know, all your hopes for this place rested on that young horse and he’s gone now. It might be time to finally think about selling out.” Sage responds by reminding her mother of the last time she sold her out, and telling her she’s not going to sell.
While they’re in this heated discussion at what’s left of the ranch, Garrett shows up to check on Sage and help with clean up. It’s then that they get to know each other a little more, and Garrett offers to help with ongoing fence repairs.
Arthur’s greed gets the best of him as he realizes he can take Eula’s money and sell Houston to farrier and fellow trader, John Cobb. John has two sons, Benn and Jess. John finds out first hand Houston is dangerous. But just like Sage, he sees the young horse’s potential. He warns his two little boys, Ben and Jess, to stay away.
While Houston is getting settled in to his new home, Garrett shows up to work on Sage’s fence. Shortly after he arrives, Sage’s high school boyfriend and insurance agent, Nick stops in to bring bad news. There’s not enough money to completely rebuild, and Nick also attempts to get Sage to sell out but Sage stands her ground. Garrett also poses the question that maybe Nick is interested in more than just Sage’s insurance and wants to rekindle an old flame.
Back in Houston’s world, boys will be boys and they want to impress their father. Jess defies his father’s orders and gets too close to Houston who accidently kicks him in the head and kills him. In his grief, John grabs his gun and lines up Houston in his sights only to be stopped at the last minute by his youngest son Ben.
Garrett and Sage continue making progress on the ranch, and in true cowboy style Garrett surprises Sage with a picnic. It’s then that he asks her out on a date to the nearby horse sale where maybe she can find out if anyone has seen Houston.
Houston’s future drastically changes as John chunks him off at a horse sale and sells him to a pen hooker at the gate which happens to be a rodeo stock contractor, Travis Meyers. Travis wants the big horse for his bucking stock in the bid for the National Finals Rodeo.
Garrett and Sage finally go on their date and kiss for the first time. Both are somewhat taken aback by the fireworks between them, but Sage is over thinking the whole relationship and tells Garrett she wants more than just a fling. Garrett tells her to relax and stop overthinking. He’s not out for a one night stand.
While Garrett is trying to not act like a wayward stud, Travis has his ranch hands Sam and Pete geld Houston. Sam and Pete get Houston caught and hogtied, but in the middle of the removing the horse’s testicles, he kicks almost injuring both men.
Travis’ wife, Pam, also takes a liking to the big gray horse as a barrel prospect and she wants the horse just as bad as Travis. The problem is that Pam’s eyes are bigger than her horsemanship skills. She decides to ride the horse the very next day after gelding so he won’t buck as much but he still launches her into the dirt, head first. It’s then that Travis knows Houston is his ticket to the NFR finals.
Back at the Witherspoon Ranch, the house is almost finished. As Sage is checking out the progress of the house, she thinks she’s alone when suddenly Nick shows up. As he’s attempting to rekindle an old flame with Sage in his arms, Garrett shows up unexpectedly.
Garrett is full of rage and feels like a fool for even thinking he had a chance with Sage. He tries to leave but Sage begs him to stay and tells Nick to leave. The next thing you know, the two are passionately entwined in each other’s arms and almost to the point of no return. Against his nature, Garrett pulls back and tells Sage he doesn’t want to make love to her on a kitchen floor, he wants more than that.
Suddenly Garrett realizes part of the reason that he came to see her in the first place. He’s gotten a lead that Houston has wound up in the hands of Travis. Garrett used to work for Travis years ago. As Sage pushes for information, Garrett must reveal his sordid drug past to her and the fact that he had made a pass at Travis’s wife, which seriously jeopardizes their plans to get Houston back.
Sage and Garrett sneak their way into the rodeo to get a look at the horse they think is Houston. Sure enough, it is Houston but they’re caught by Travis who doesn’t want to give the horse up.
Travis knew someone would be looking for such a nice horse so he did his homework and is a little very happy to share what he’s learned. It’s then that Sage discovers Houston wandered on to Arthur’s property and the reason he was missing for so long was because Arthur had made a deal with her own mother to make him disappear so she’d give up the ranch.
Fortunately, Travis’ wife Pam sees dollar signs and a chance to make a buck. Against Travis’ protests she offers to sell the horse back to Sage for a decent sum of money. Sage doesn’t have the kind of money that Pam is asking but Garrett knows who he was dealing with and has brought the money. He pays the price so Sage can get her horse back.
Once Sage has her horse back home on the ranch, she only has one more hurdle to cross, confront her mother about her betrayal. Sage is too devastated and angry to face her mother and decides to stay with Garrett for a few hours to clear her head and get some rest.
When they arrive at Garrett’s quaint little cabin, the passion heats up and they finally consummate their relationship.
The next day it’s time to face reality again and Sage meets with her mother. When Sage finally confronts Eula, she sees her for who she really is and discovers Eula had arranged to sell to Nick from the very beginning. Sage offers to sell a few acres and release her to live her life.
The story ends with a happy little twist. No one knew that Houston had bred one of the mares that survived the storm. The surprise foal has just as much attitude as his sire.