Sunday, November 30, 2014

H. Alan Day, Author & Equestrian

1st Publication trueCOWBOYmagazine Sept/Oct 2014 Issue
All rights reserved. No duplication without permission.
iView Column by Gina McKnight

H. Alan Day is the coauthor of The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs. In this heartfelt memoir, Day tells how he purchased Mustang Meadows Ranch, near St. Francis, South Dakota, with the idea of turning its 35,000 acres into a sanctuary to preserve and protect the mustangs being warehoused by the United States government. He successfully lobbied Congress, and Mustang Meadows Ranch became the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary in the United States.

Day then relates his personal relationship with fifteen hundred wild mustangs and his adventures at Mustang Meadows Ranch, which included the dangers, frustrations, joys, and heartbreak of balancing the bureaucratic requirements of the United States Bureau of Land Management with the needs of America’s wild horses.

Co-written with Lynn WieseSneydThe Horse Lover describes Day's deep connection with the mustangs and his maverick philosophy of training fifteen hundred wild horses.  As a horse-lover, I enjoyed Day’s wit, wisdom, and cowboy charm. With his sister, Sandra Day O’Connor, Day previously coauthored Lazy B: Growing Up on a CattleRanch in the American Southwest.

When was your first encounter with a horse?
I’m sure I was on a horse in front of my dad or one of our cowboys before I even turned one. But what I remember is being about three-years-old riding Chico. He was a little bay horse that had been captured out of a wild horse group near the ranch. He was the best child’s horse I’ve ever seen and was completely patient and knew how fast or slow to go. If the rider fell off, he would stop and not move a muscle until the rider got back on. He was my babysitter and partner for many years.

Tequila, Aunt Jemina, Saber - which is your favorite?
Saber. He was super horse. Intelligent, muscular, strong, loving. That’s why I dedicated an entire chapter to him in my book.

Why did you feel compelled to create Mustang Meadows Ranch?
I was never afraid of a challenge. When I ended up with this very beautiful, productive 35,000-acre ranch, I somehow felt compelled to do something creative and different with the land. Whether it was the ranch talking to me or me talking to the ranch, I can’t answer. Maybe some of both. I just knew that I had enough eggs invested in cattle ranching.  So when the possibility of keeping wild horses on this land flashed in front of me, I grabbed it and ran. Some would call it stupid, some impulsive. I called it exciting.

What makes the Mustangs so intriguing?  
The mystique of their running free across the prairie has appeal to everyone. The idea that I could make friends with them and be accepted by them was a really interesting concept to me and ignited my fire.

You maintained the Mustangs for four years, and then the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) awarded their care to a low-bid rancher. In the end, your decision not to sue BLM when your contract was not renewed is commendable, and I applaud you for that! In hindsight, would you walk away again?
Would I sue them, no. Should I have tried harder through other avenues, such as calling my senator, yes. Maybe if I had alerted people in power that I was getting run over, the outcome might have been different. Maybe I walked away too soon. I did try filing a complaint, but from my perspective, the turndown reply was classic beaurocratic double-talk.

How many Mustangs reside at Mustang Meadows Ranch today?
None. They were all shipped to Oklahoma and there they remained as far as I know.

Will you submit a proposal to BLM for care of the Mustangs in the future?
No. At this point, I’m retired from active ranching.

What was the highlight of your four years with the Mustangs?
The highlight was the whole four years. Every bit of it was exciting. After having made friends with them and being able to ride through the herd and say, “Come on, let’s go” and have them follow me - all 1500 - at an easy gallop, well, that was always a thrill.

The Horse Lover is well written; witty, whimsical, and wise. Will you write a sequel?
Hadn’t thought about that yet.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
There are a hundred definitions of horsemanship. The ability to bond with the horse and have the horse respond and respect you is the ultimate definition for me. Whatever the horse is doing - jumping, pulling a plow, or working cattle - the important part is the bond between the rider and the horse.

Connect with H. Alan Day…
Alan’s website:

Lynn Wiese Sneyd:
Facebook LWSLiteraryServices

1st Publication trueCOWBOYmagazine Sept/Oct 2014 Issue
All rights reserved. No duplication without permission.
iView Column by Gina McKnight

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