Following the death of his estranged father, reclusive bronze artist Sam Hayes returns to the ranch of his childhood in a remote part of Oregon. Searching for inspiration to carve the wax that would become his next piece, he finds solace sailing his land yacht across a dry lakebed adjacent to the ranch. One morning he nearly collides with a wild mustang. Strangely, the stallion lingers, flares his nostrils and smells Sam before galloping away in the alkali dust.
With help from George, an aging Native American who’s stayed on at the ranch along with housekeeper Juanita, Sam sets up his bronze studio in an unused barn where he stumbles upon an old diary that belonged to his father. It describes the wild mustangs he studied and trained at the ranch, and how they might be a genetic remnant of the Spanish horses brought to the New World by conquistadors. But Sam has more to deal with than creative block and wild horses; he’s facing bankruptcy and his twelve-year-old son Mike is about to arrive for the summer. Meanwhile, in the hills near the ranch, Southwestern Mines president Alan Whitlock presides over a survey party that stakes out the boundaries for a massive open pit mine.
When Mike arrives from Portland, history seems destined to repeat itself. Sam hasn’t seen him in six years and the boy resents his perceived abandonment. Their relationship suffers further when Sam learns of the mine and joins the legal fight to stop it. But George sees an opportunity. He brings several mustangs back to the ranch so Sam can enter a cow cutting competition in Sacramento. If he wins, the prize money could save the ranch. Mike soon connects with Dancer, the mustang mare trained by his grandfather, and is eager to accompany his dad to the competition. After Sam places second, however, all seems lost until a wealthy horse breeder joins forces with him.
With the help of Ellen James, a University of Kentucky geneticist, Sam continues his battle against the mine, and is stunned when Ellen’s research indicates the herd may have some of the purest Spanish equine DNA in the world. As a romance develops between Sam and Ellen, their effort to save the mustangs gains ground. But the herd is a roadblock to the mining interests and is targeted for destruction. Whitlock’s henchmen raid the ranch and endanger Mike in the crossfire. Sam defends his home and son, and during the chaos, the mustangs escape. In a last-ditch effort to stop the mine and save the horses, Sam must make his case before a judge in Burns, Oregon to reveal the true nature of Whitlock, a man who would cause the genetic extinction of one of the rarest creatures on Earth.