- Hardcover: 348 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (June 9, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618454454
- ISBN-13: 978-0618454457
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,115,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West
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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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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.