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KUED / Jeff Elstad
In a scene from "Horses of the West," Justin Ekker works at Gunnison, Utah, state prison to train wild horses, which will be offered for adoption.

A KUED senior producer has been awarded the prestigious Cine Golden Eagle for his locally produced documentary “Horses of the West.”

First broadcast in the Salt Lake City area in August 2010, John Howe’s documentary, which explores the relationship of horses and humans, gained the further distinction of being selected to be screened nationally during PBS pledge drive broadcasts in March.

“John’s 2011 selection places him, KUED and ‘Horses of the West’ in the very good company of National Geographic films, ‘PBS NewsHour,’ HBO documentaries and WGBH,” said Ken Verdoia, KUED director of production. WGBH is the New York City-based PBS affiliate that is widely recognized for its award-winning original programming.

Adding that Howe has received other national and international awards, Verdoia said, “KUED is in the top 10 percent of PBS affiliates in national and regional honors in the last 10 years.”

Howe’s other award-winning films include “Grand Canyon Serenade,” “Wild River: the Colorado” and “Butch Cassidy and the Outlaw Trail,” each released on DVD after local and national broadcast. The program currently under production carries the working title “Five Rivers, Five Voices.”

Explaining the selection of “Horses of the West” for the award, Howe said, “It’s an emotional story that really runs the gamut from wild horses to rescues, from thoroughbreds to working horses. Because of its emotional context, people are responding quite favorably to the show. People in America just love horses.

He acknowledged the KUED production team and actress Ali McGraw for their contributions to the national honor.

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“Ali McGraw really did a fine job narrating," he said. "Because it’s an emotional piece, her tone was perfect for this film.”

The Golden Eagle for “Horses of the West” was earned in the professional telecast non-fiction division, in the arts, leisure and lifestyle division. The Cine organization has been honoring film and video productions since its inception in 1957.

The Cine award is the first for “Horses of the West” but the documentary has also been selected to compete at the Houston International Film Festival and will vie for a regional Emmy Award.