H. Alan Day „The Horse Lover: A Cowboy´s Quest to Save the Wild Horses“

2014-04-07 21:14

Photo: Lynn Wiese SneydEin neues Buch über die wilden Pferde Amerikas hat die Buchläden erreicht. H. Alan Day und Lynn Wiese Sneyd beschreiben in ihrem Buch „The Horse Lover: A Cowboy´s Quest to Save the Wild Horses“ ihre Erfahrungen über den Umgang mit 1500 Mustangs auf Days ehemaliger Ranch „Mustang Meadows“ in Süd Dakota. 

Eine Kostprobe seines Könnens hat der Autor freundlicherweise zur Verfügung gestellt. „Training 1500 Wild Horses“ liefert einen kurzen, aber unterhaltsamen Einblick in die Schaffensperiode des heutigen Bestsellerautors. Die deutsche Übersetzung dieser Geschichte, sowie eine Vorstellung des Schriftstellers finden Sie hier.

H.Alan Day lebt heute in Tucson, Arizona.


Training 1500 Wild Horses

By H. Alan Day

I must have momentarily lost my marbles. I was managing two ranches: the Lazy B, a 200,000-acre ranch straddling Arizona and New Mexico, and the Rex Ranch, a 45,000-acre ranch in north central Nebraska.

So what did I go and do? I went and purchased a gorgeous 35,000-acre ranch in the Sand Hills of South Dakota, a veritable sea of grass, and then turned it into the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary. Translated, that means an old home for unadoptable wild mustangs, 1500 to be exact. The thing was I had never worked with wild horses.

Prior to their arrival at Mustang Meadows Ranch, the horses had endured some heavy-duty trauma. They had been chased off the range by helicopters and forced into corrals. Families were split. The young, pretty horses had gone into adoption programs dreamed up by their captors. The old, the one-eyed, the scarred – the “unadoptables” – ended up in prison, which in the horse world equates to holding pens in an unfamiliar part of the country. They were fed decent food, but in such tight quarters new family units were impossible to establish.

Clark Nelson Photography

When these horses arrived at Mustang Meadows, they looked bewildered, like they were waiting for the next bad thing to happen. They certainly didn’t view the cowboys and me as friends.

But I needed to make friends with them. All 1500. Because I needed to be able to move them from pasture to pasture in order to preserve the land. That beautiful land. An overgrazed pasture can take years to repair itself. The big question hanging in the humid air: could I train an entire herd to follow a cowboy on horseback?

The first time the cowboys and I rode into a corral of forty mustangs, we could feel their antagonism. We spoke softly and walked our horses slowly in a non-threatening manner. We never looked them in the eye. It was evident this approach would need to be repeated again and again before they would even think of doling out a smidgen of trust.

Lo and behold, after the tenth or maybe fifteenth time in the corral, the horses didn’t stampede to the other end. Instead they looked at us, kept their ears pointed skyward, and chewed even though they weren’t eating. Occasionally they pawed a front hoof in the dirt.
“What do we do now?” asked one of the cowboys.
“Well, boys, we keep coming back and getting closer and closer to them,” I said. “Pretty soon we’ll be able to drive them around the corral, then they’ll let us lead them around and through gates.” Of course, I had no idea of this was true or not.

And so it went, four or five times a day working in the corrals with the horses for fifteen or twenty minutes. Soon we could lead them through gates, then into pastures. We worked with one hundred horses at a time, then four hundred. The training was not as romantic as we envisioned but it was extremely satisfying. We weren’t gentling the mustangs; in fact they never gentled. We were befriending them and establishing a base of trust.

When the big day came to move them six miles to summer grazing, they performed. All 1500. We had a few hiccups, but never will I forget riding in front of that herd, the closest horse a mere eight feet behind me, the bunch of us slicing through the spring air at an easy gallop. The soil reverberated with thundering hooves. Certainly the horses shared my exhilaration and the penetrating sense of freedom. It was the defining ride of my entire ranching and cowboying career.

During the four years the horses remained at Mustang Meadows, they never stopped trusting us. We moved them and gathered them as easily as you push a fork into a slice of peach pie. The best part was uur partnership with them tasted even sweeter than that pie.

Heck, I love peach pie, but I’ll always love horses more.


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Alan Day’s new memoir is The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Horses. He and his sister, Sandra Day O’Connor, also co-authored the New York Time’s bestselling Lazy B, their story about growing on a southwestern cattle ranch. You can visit Alan at and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Photocredits: Lynn Wiese Sneyd & Clark Nelson Photography
mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Lynn Wiese Sneyd und H. Alan Day (all rights reserved)