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The Horse Lover: A Cowboy's Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs Hardcover – March 1, 2014
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*Starred Review* Day already co-owned and managed two ranches, so the last thing he needed was yet another ranch. But when he saw the lush grasses and broad expanses of the 35,000-acre Arnold Ranch in South Dakota, he fell for its charms and purchased it. When he met Dayton Hyde, rancher and mustang preservationist, a wild scheme was hatched—maybe they could use the new ranch as a mustang sanctuary. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management had thousands of unadoptable mustangs warehoused in corrals, and if the bureau could be persuaded that caring for these horses on a ranch would not only be cheaper but better for the horses, then it would be a winning situation all the way around. What follows is the wonderful story of a cowboy rancher taking on the care and management of 1,500 wild horses. Along the way, we are treated to Day’s reminiscences of his ranching upbringing, stories of some of his favorite cow horses, and tidbits such as the time Kevin Costner came calling while looking to film a little movie called Dances with Wolves. With coauthor Sneyd’s expert assistance, Day’s authentic western voice, coupled with his deep understanding of the nature of horses, makes for an instant classic. --Nancy Bent
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Perhaps you’ve heard of a horse whisperer: a person who gently and patiently communicates with an animal. Multiply that by 1,500 and you have H. Alan Day, a cattle rancher from the southwest turned horse herder who takes on what would seem to be an unimaginably huge project.
"The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs," is Day’s story of Mustang Meadows Ranch in the Sand Hills of South Dakota, the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary established in the United States.
In beautifully vivid prose, Day transports us to the prairie, as in this passage: “The sun highlighted the horses, now twelve hundred strong, creating a canvas of golds, bronzes, beiges, blacks, and deep browns that stretched out before me.”
Day’s youth played a critical role in his success and interest with horses as he grew up on a 200,000-acre cattle ranch straddling the high deserts of southern Arizona and New Mexico. After college, he returned to manage Lazy B, the family ranch, for the next 40 years. Later, he (hesitantly) purchased 35,000 acres in South Dakota and dedicated it as a horse preserve for 1,500 wild mustangs. Relying on a herd medication program he used at Lazy B, he trained the group of mustangs, those considered un-adoptable, to follow a lead horse from the wild through the gates and into the horse meadow.
However, it wasn’t always easy. Initially, Day scoffed at the idea. “Come on, wild horses? I was a cattle rancher…”
Thanks to a heartfelt and informative introduction by his sister, Sandra Day O’Conner (the first female US Supreme Court Justice who retired in 2008 after 25 years on the bench), we learn that wild mustangs, formerly running free, breeding and multiplying, were being captured, sold, or destroyed. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took care of many of them; however, the remainder was considered not adoptable.
Day remained stalwart facing dangers, frustrations, and heartbreak and had to deal with government red tape. Through his eloquent and moving story, he shows us the resolve and passion required for undertaking South Dakota ranching.
It’s no surprise "Horse Lover" is well written and poignant; in 2002, Day partnered with his sister to co-author the family memoir, “Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest,” which went on to become a New York Times bestseller.
Horse lovers will not want to miss this book – and witness the magic of thousands of horses running wild. The rest of us will marvel at what Day was able to accomplish in this story of loyalty and hope.