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Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West

4.0 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0618454457
ISBN-10: 0618454454
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this epic history of wild horses, journalist and author Stillman (Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave) traverses her longtime beat and passion, the American West, for a detailed look at 400 years of New World history. Many readers may be unaware of the mustang's precarious political situation or that, currently, "a bizarre war is underfoot" against them; Nixon's landmark 1971 legislation protecting free-roaming horses was recently undone by President Bush (who, as governor of Texas, "presided over two of the country's three remaining horse slaughterhouses"). Today, there remain fewer than 18,000 wild horses and burros in Nevada, their primary habitat, a number down by nearly 30 percent in the past ten years. Decades of roundups and slaughters can be traced to federal programs for livestock farmers, beginning with the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, which make land cheap, grazing regulations lax and wild horses an official nuisance. The story of these beautiful, symbolic animals is certain to evoke passionate reactions in many readers, especially history buffs, animal lovers, farmers and politicians.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

“[T]he horse is our great silent witness. … [H]e knows too much, and we can’t take it.” Though in the end, Stillman may not quite pierce the fog of horror that drives people to do evil deeds, she shines light on the history of the horse in America. The desert environment seems to bring a wonderful languid quality to her prose, and she manages to turn the horse into an equine Forrest Gump, present at all the major moments in the history of the American West. Some critics complained, however, that Stillman stretches the definition of mustang to include any horse west of the Mississippi. And while some reviewers preferred the sections on Custer and the cowboys, others favored her story about modern-day efforts to save the mustang. All agreed, though, that something ought to be done for these glorious animals that have done so much to move America.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (June 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618454454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618454457
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Castle Mclaughlin on June 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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").Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Kindle Edition
The title of this book could have been The History of the Horse Since the Beginning of Time. Impressive research makes this a comprehensive and compelling saga of the wild horse in the American West. The conquering Spanish in the 1500’s brought the horse with them and changed the west forever. Columbus casually threw horses overboard when he needed to lighten his load. Two hundred thousand mustangs were killed in WWI. The callousness throughout our history described in detail towards animals that have served mankind so well is appalling. It continues today. The Bureau of Land Management rounds what is left of the wild herds in America into holding pens. Groups like “Life Savers” attempt to rescue the horses from the slaughter house, but they can’t afford to save them all. The sterilization program in place now is more humane, but it ensures that there will be no more wild herds in the coming decades. This situation exists mainly because the horses compete with cattle for food. Cows are much harder on the public lands they are allowed to graze upon, but cows provides a profit for cattle ranchers who hire lobbyists to keep congress voting in their favor. I was not aware of this plight until I attended a fundraiser for the wild mustangs in America. Like the buffalo nearly killed to extinction, the wild horses will go the same way if people don’t become involved in rescuing them from harsh government policies. Ms. Stillman presents the wild mustang’s case eloquently. The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon
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