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on June 24, 2008
As a wild horse researcher and advocate, I have mixed feelings about this book. Stillman writes with passion, and her lively style keeps the pace moving. I am encouraged that the book has brought national attention back to the plight of wild horses-and it is certainly time for an update of Hope Ryden's popular and intelligent 1970 book, America's Last Wild Horses. But I don't think this is that book. Stillman's inspiration for this project was the shocking wild horse shootings in Nevada, yet she uses that incident only to "bookend" the text, never really engaging with current attitudes or explaining such behavior. Instead, she gallops off into a re-hashing of western history from the perspective of horses, making a sweeping and unsupported case that every cowboy, Indian and cavalry horse of note were former wild horses/mustangs (by her own admission, she has a hard time appreciating any difference between wild and domestic horses, and this shows throughout). The main body of the book describes these general western contexts rather than wild horses and their histories per se, and too much space is devoted to topics like the Little Big Horn battle, which are not directly relevant and have been covered much better by others. Along the way she perpetuates misconceptions and down-right errors, such as claiming that immense wild herds developed from a few horses that strayed from Spanish explorers, Comanche, the famous Seventh Cavalry mount of Myles Keogh was one of many captured mustangs used by the U.S. Army, and that Plains Indians acquired most of their horses by capturing them wild-she even quotes a "horse taking song" in support of this idea, when it refers to the practice of taking horses from enemy camps (Plains peoples got most of their horses from trading and raiding, not "gathering"). She does not indicate her sources, and I have never seen or even heard of the "Mandan legend" about ice-age horses that she "quotes" from without attribution. These are just a few examples of her focus on the "saga" at the expense of research and experience, which is important because confidence in sources provides common ground for discussion and leads to informed understanding. Bottom line: this is a "feel good" book, meant to stir appreciation for horses, and judging from reviews, it has succeeded in that-at least among receptive readers who already love horses. For those with a background in wild horse issues, this book adds little new information or original thinking to the discussion. The average reader will find it a pleasurable, perhaps heart-warming and heart-breaking ride, but don't use this book as a reference for your next term paper.

Added Later: Yes, Stillman includes a good bibliography; sorry for the misunderstanding-I meant that there is no way to figure out the source of particular statements and interpretations, such as the passage bout the about the Mandan legend. Overall I am certainly supportive of this book; it is a well-written popular treatment of an important subject; but as a specialist on wild horses and North American ethnography, and as someone who teaches anthropology and writing to college students, I could not help but notice the issues that I mentioned.
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on June 4, 2008
In writing "Mustang," Deanne Stillman has given us an amazing new view of American history--the one that was made by wild horses. I have waited for years to read a book like this, one that tells the true story about America's wild horses--from their origins to their fight for survival today. With stunning and dramatic prose, Stillman recounts the making of this country and the fighting of our early wars by way of the service of mustangs. This part of the book reaches its height with her masterful chapter about the Battle of the Little Bighorn and Comanche, the famous horse that survived it, and a visit to the horse cemetery on the battlefield. In the last section of her book, Stillman takes a look at what we are doing to the horses that have served us so well, as she follows them in another battle--the one in which they are now fighting for their own lives. We travel with her to Nevada for a heartbreaking round-up and to places across the West where wild horses have been hunted down and shot. She also takes you to where they are still running free, with manes and tails flying in the wind. After reading this beautifully written book, you will look at this country in a completely different way and want to get involved in the preservation of America's wild horses. In fact, you will feel an urgency to do so. By the way, a moving epilogue covers burros, which are protected under the same federal law that protects mustangs, and are also under siege. Book bonus: it has pictures!
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on June 29, 2008
Wild horses have become a political football in Congress, with battles between those who want to protect them and those who are all too happy to eradicate them.

Senator Conrad Burns of Montana slipped a rider into a federal appropriations bill in 2004 which ended more than 30 years of federal protection for America's wild horses. Our fearless leader--yes, the one from Texas, of all places!--signed it into law, leading to approval to their slaughter for horse meat to be sold to foreign countries where it is still eaten.

Perhaps Senator Burns and his colleagues from states where the majority of these horses are held and who voted for this bill would think differently if they read this book.

The tragic story of the American wild horse comes to life in Stillman's beautifully written book. She traces the history from being heroes to being considered surplus to requirements.

When you think about the reverence of the horse in American literature and history, that it has come to this--that politicians from states whose fortunes were built on the back of these amazing animals are the ones who voted to destroy them--will make you ashamed to call yourself an American. It's no wonder the rest of the world thinks of us as the creators of the disposable society.
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on October 3, 2010
One of the best treatises on the history and political events surrounding the wild horse of the West. Deanne made this book interesting as well as informative, and I read it through four times. Great book for anyone who loves wild horses and how their plight came to be as it is today.
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on November 8, 2014
The author not only did not prove her avowed premise of the government's approval of the wanton destruction of a valued American asset, but she actually proved the opposite.

A great deal of the book was taken up with how many "mustangs" (and she never clearly defined that term) were simply murdered - for sport or for financial gain or because they were nuisances. If I had added up all of her numbers, I would have come out to more than a million horses or ponies (and she used these terms interchangeably as well) that were killed.
Where I'm very confused is that I've always considered a horse to be a very valued asset - transportation and or a beast of burden or financially advantageous to breed. From reading her book, it would seem that the Spaniards and the Indians as well as various Americans and the US Government consider them useless and nuisances.

The current population started with the remains of horses brought to Mexico along with soldiers led by Cortez. Some of the horses escaped and were captured by Indians who rode them and who used them in chasing and killing buffalo. That was in the early 1500's. She bounced back and forth in the history of the West so that it was difficult to have a clear picture of just how things developed chronologically. She talked about the cavalries in the War between the States, but I would assume most of those horses were bred and trained in the East. She said that we donated mustangs to the European nations fighting WWI and that 200,000 of our horses perished in that war. In 1899 she says that we sent 230,000 "wild horses" to South Africa to aid in the Boer War. In another place we learn that 45,000 horses were killed on the Crow reservation; that Custer ordered the killing of 875 horses and then 1400 ponies. According to her one mustanger killed over 20,000 horses, himself, in the 1920s.

Following WWII over 100,000 horses were taken from Nevada, alone, and sold for pet food. In 1925 Montana signed a death warrant for abandoned horses running at large and about 400,000 were "removed." And on and on and on about how many horses have been killed or murdered or given to other nations throughout the past 400 years.

She raised many more questions than she answered. How many times can a single mare foal? Horses, according to her numbers, have got to be the most prolific animal on earth!

Another question I have is how were the wild horses captured and tamed and trained and then transported to Europe and Africa for use in the wars? How long does it take to tame and train a wild horse for military use? She told how Buffalo Bill took his
entire retinue to England to put on shows and half his horses died on the voyage. So how did the government ship 1/2 million?
The final count that she gave was that in Nevada at the time of the writing she said there were 30,000 mustangs in government corrals and long term pastures and another 25,000 on public lands. And that's in addition to horses that are still in the wild in other western states.

Well quite frankly, I just don't understand her premise that we're wantonly destroying a national heritage. Otherwise, I thought the history of the West in the book was interesting although I felt that it often detracted from the subject of horses. And I thought way too much was included (ie. casual "conversations" among historical characters) and asides that had
nothing to do with anything.
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on December 16, 2012
I read this book for the first time shortly after rescuing a few three strikes BLM horses destined for the slaughterhouse. While I will agree with some of the reviewers that this book does contain, at times, some questionable, if not inflammatory claims, it certainly does help to put a historical context to the place the wild horse has and should continue to have in the America's. This would not be my recommendation for a biological review of Equus as a species in the Americas, nor a definitive historical guide, but is a very enjoyable read for lovers and advocates of the wild horse.
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on April 20, 2013
As told by a very knowledgeable Ms. Stillman, the saga of man's mistreatment of the "wild ones" and greed is astounding and every bit true to known facts. I have been advocating for the wild mustangs and burros for several years and find it hard to understand how people can continue to pretend ignorance to what our tax payer dollars are used for, including managing the "wild ones" for extinction/extermination. The media is not examining facts, videos, written documentation as it glosses over what is happening and why the wild mustangs and burros are responsible for ruining the environment which even the federal agencies have finally "fessed up" to the environmental damage being done not by the horses, but by the cattle and sheep. We will lose these icons of our heritage if the public continues to allow this to happen. When they are gone, it will be too late to apologize, the tragedy is approaching faster and faster. I hope more people will read this, weep, and take action.
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on August 19, 2010
A section of this book deals with the reputed sole survivor of Custer's Last Stand, a US cavalry horse called 'Comanche'. While it has long been common knowledge that many US owned horses (and a dog) survived the battle, it was particulary disappointing to read the author recycling the now discredited characterisation of Comanche's owner, Captain Myles Keogh, as being a "drunk". Keogh's fourteen year US military record is untarnished by any charge of drunkenness or dereliction of duty. These records still exist but, unfortunately, Ms. Stillman has taken the lazy route of using information published in a flawed early 20th century book on Custer's 7th Cavalry as her source rather than undertaking any research herself. This did not augur well for the rest of the book and so it proved. A disappointment.
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on December 26, 2012
Excellent writing. Interesting and vivid. A book that describes itself as the history of the wild horse in the American west, but it is so much more. Anybody interested in American history will find this book enjoyable, regardless of your passion for horses. Also a great gift for anyone who rides.
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on December 20, 2011
It's more about the history of the horse and the white man taking dominion of the West than about the mustangs. Entertaining reading and fun information about the horses of the West and the characters that used them. Mustangs, Feral Horses, and Horseman of the West would be a more descriptive title.
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