Mar 9, 2014

The Horse Lover

by H. Alan Day
with Lynn Wiese Sneyd

The author of this interesting book is a rancher, mostly cattle. He bought a third ranch because the spread was so gorgeous, wanting to care for the land and practice good husbandry. Got the idea to run horses on it instead of cattle, and after lots of planning, research, even visit to the nation's capital, he got permission and funding from the Bureau of Land Management to turn it into a wild horse sanctuary. Fifteen hundred unadoptable mustangs, which had previous been living in corrals at a management facility, became his to care for. With wide open space and room to run, the old, scarred, ugly and otherwise unsuitable horses showed their natural beauty and tenacity. It's heartening to read about someone who cares about animals so much and wants to better their lives. How he studied the horses' behavior, learned how to work with them, even taught them (everyone thought that was impossible). He did his utmost to keep their stress levels low, gradually conditioned them to accept human presence -instead of panicking into instant flight- and even trained them to follow men on horseback, so he could move them between pastures to keep the land sustainable.

Throughout his account of establishing and running the wild horse sanctuary, the pages are enriched with stories of past horses and experiences that he learned from. I really enjoyed reading all that. But of course it isn't all about his wonderful way with horses. There's frustrations in running the ranch and sticky doings with bureaucracy. In the end I found myself becoming angry alongside the author at the decisions of higher-ups that didn't at all seem to be in the best interest of the horses. And even though he ended up sans wild horses, turning the ranch back into a cattle operation, there is a relatively good ending and I found I was satisfied with how things turned out (mostly because I appreciated the author's integrity in how he worked with animals, people, and the land).

There's some other very satisfying things about this book as well. I liked the writing style, the spark of humor and metaphors. It even sent me to look up a few new words (copacetic, peloton). I was tickled pink to meet in the pages another author I've read- Dayton O. Hyde. The two met, were fellow ranchers and became friends. It's always such a treat to meet your favorite authors in other books. Mostly they just get a mention, a tribute, but this was something more. Another highlight- completely unexpected- was when actor Kevin Costner visited the ranch, looking for a site to use in filming Dances with Wolves (one of my favorite movies). He ended up choosing another ranch for various reasons, but reading about his visit was enlightening regardless.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Rating: 4/5      243 pages, 2014

more opinions:
4th ST8
Patagonia Regional Times

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