Rancher Alan Day has lived the dream of many horsemen – running a sanctuary for hundreds of wild horses in the USA. The mustangs lived an idyllic life, well fed and tended, when needed.
This was in the 1990s – well before attempts in recent years to set up similar refuges for wild horses, who are being virtually driven to extinction by the very organisation that is entrusted with their care.
The Horse Lover – a cowboy’s quest to save the wild mustangs
by H Alan Day, with Lynn Wiese Sneyd
Bison Books, March 2014
ISBN-10: 0803253354 / ISBN-13: 978-0803253353
From $US9.95, available from Amazon and as a Kindle ebook
Day’s sanctuary, Mustang Meadows Ranch in South Dakota, came about by chance. In its short life it was a successful enterprise and should have been a model for other such operations.
It was not an easy road getting to the point of having the horses arrive on the massive property, and once they had arrived, there was, really, little peace for them.
What could have been an inspiration tale of helping save the horses, turns into a staggering disappointment for the reader, and disbelief at how they are treated by authorities.
Over about three years, it ran some 1500 wild mustangs, all of whom were considered “unadoptable” by the BLM, the US agency responsible for wild horses on federal lands.
At one stage, Day was forced by the BLM to choose the 700 “largest animals by weight and size” from the herd, ostensibly to go into an adoption program.
Day saw right through this. “Earlier in the year the price of horsemeat had taken a significant jump up to eighty cents per pound.”
More was to come, when Day was ordered to cut the thinnest horses from the herd and shoot them before winter, because, according to the BLM, “life is no longer any fun for them”.
The final “nail in the coffin” came when Day lost his tender to keep the mustangs for another year. His bid of $1.15 was beaten by another operator in Oklahoma, who bid $1.14. Never mind that it would cost the government about $80 a head to move the horses.
The politics of it all will leave any sensible person shaking their head. But what Day’s operation proved, is that mustang sanctuaries can work. Just leave them alone and let them get on with it.
Alan Day was the owner of Mustang Meadows Ranch near St. Francis, South Dakota; Rex Ranch near Whitman, Nebraska; and Lazy B Ranch in southern Arizona.
With his sister, Sandra Day O’Connor, he coauthored Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest.
Lynn Wiese Sneyd is a published author and owner of LWS Literary Services.
Sandra Day O’Connor served on the US Supreme Court from 1981 to 2005.