Authors: H. Alan Day with Lynn Wiese Sneyd
Title: "The Horse Lover – A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs"
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press 2014; 243 pages of text with several black and white photos throughout and forward by Sandra Day O’Connor
H. Alan Day, with the help of Lynn Wiese Sneyd, has written a wonderful story of his work to provide sanctuary to 1,500 wild horses. Day is a rancher, a very big and well-connected rancher. His sister, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, wrote a brief forward.
A rancher all of his life, Day was used to large ranches. The Lazy B Ranch in Arizona, of which Day is part owner with members of the Day family, consists of 198,000 acres. The Rex Ranch in Nebraska Day owns with partners consists of 45,000 acres. A ranch Day bought with partners in South Dakota just north of Valentine, Neb., and which he called Mustang Meadows Ranch, consisted of 35,000 acres.
Day wasn’t quite sure of his plans for this ranch, though he knew he wanted to improve it and implement controlled pasture grazing and improved soil health. Soon after he purchased the ranch, a neighbor with many acres approached him with an idea to set up a sanctuary for wild mustang horses.
The federal Bureau of Land Management was tasked by Congress with saving wild horses on federal lands. They had rounded up these wild horses with helicopters, four-wheelers, motorbikes and horses and corralled them. The best of these horses were put up for adoption, but thousands of other horses with problems remained corralled.
Day got a bill through Congress in which BLM would pay ranchers to care for these horses, and he and his neighbor soon struck a deal. Day would take 1,500 horses and his neighbor would take 500. Thus, began a very interesting chapter in Day’s life.
These wild horses were trucked in at 40 horses per load. BLM agents were skeptical Day could keep these horses on his 35,000 acres without having them escape and run all over the countryside. Day did not want to beat the horses into submission, so he showed his cowboys how to train and gentle these wild horses. This book is about how he did this and the success he had with his wild horse sanctuary, and how he made it work for five years.
The dark side of the story is how BLM basically changed things for Day leading to the removal of 800 of the biggest horses to where he did not know, but he suspected for slaughter. He also, having developed a love for these horses, was ordered by BLM to round up and corral 25 of his oldest and weakest horses, and then to shoot them. A very sad time for Day. Toward the end of five years, BLM decided to rebid the contracts, and Day lost the bid by 1 cent per horse.
With the end of his sanctuary for wild horses, his heart seemed to go out of the business. But at that time, the Rosebud Sioux Indians, who were making money on gambling, wanted to start buying back land sold to whites. They bought the Mustang Meadows Ranch, paying Day twice what he had paid for it.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the way Day described the various horses and their attributes. He remembered the names he gave them and the mutual affection and respect they gave one another, and how he trained them and they trained him. These are very nice and sweet remembrances revealing much about the kind of man Day is. This book is an easy and enjoyable read.