Friday, October 3, 2014

The Horse Lover - Alan Day

Summary:He already owned and managed two ranches and needed a third about as much as he needed a permanent migraine: that’s what Alan Day said every time his friend pestered him about an old ranch in South Dakota. But in short order, he proudly owned 35,000 pristine grassy acres. The opportunity then dropped into his lap to establish a sanctuary for unadoptable wild horses previously warehoused by the Bureau of Land Management. After Day successfully lobbied Congress, those acres became Mustang Meadows Ranch, the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary established in the United States.
The Horse Lover is Day’s personal history of the sanctuary’s vast enterprise, with its surprises and pleasures and its plentiful dangers, frustrations, and heartbreak. Day’s deep connection with the animals in his care is clear from the outset, as is his maverick philosophy of horse-whispering, with which he trained fifteen hundred wild horses. The Horse Lover weaves together Day’s recollections of his cowboying adventures astride some of his best horses, all of which taught him indispensable lessons about loyalty, perseverance, and hope. This heartfelt memoir reveals the Herculean task of balancing the requirements of the government with the needs of wild horses. (summary and pic from

My Review: I loved this book. And yes, I am biased because I love horses. But it wasn’t just about the horses. I mean, sure, there were plenty of horses and all (it is about a wild mustang ranch after all), but it was a really great look at ranch life and politics in the ranching business as well.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got this book. The author, Alan, is Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s brother, so I expected that he would be intelligent and well-spoken, but since he’s a cowboy, I wasn’t sure what the actual writing would be like. Well, it turns out it was great. Not only was the book very well-written, but I loved his insight and conversational style.  It made the book really accessible. He had a way of telling the story and bringing to life the events of the past that really made it interesting. The author is a kind person, very insightful to both humans and animals, and he conveyed that well in his writing. It really is great that way.

I read this book quickly. I’m never sure what to expect with memoirs, sometimes they are a long slog and in the end it’s been months and months, much like living the person’s life in real time. I read this in just a few days, picking it up whenever I got a chance. It really was captivating and interesting. 

Although I had quite a bit of exposure to horses when I was growing up, I didn’t live on a ranch. We had a couple of acres with our house and arena and we had show horses, so I was actually not familiar with this type of ranch life. I found it fascinating and I loved hearing about Mr. Day’s experiences and knowledge about the horses and the ranch. One thing I really liked about the book is that he didn’t skip over the difficult things. Ranch life isn’t easy for the cowboys or the animals, and when working with wild mustangs, it’s even different because no one has much experience with them to start out with. Mr. Day was a pioneer in working with the mustangs and I enjoyed hearing about his successes as well as the times he had to learn something the hard way. He is an honest, hard-working man, and one who I feel privileged to have learned from in this book.

The Horse Lover is not just for horse lovers. Anyone who loves memoirs or reading about nature or animals would especially enjoy it. It really has something for everyone.

My rating: 5 stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some mild cowboy language as well as ranch situations that include the death of some animals, although nothing is gruesome or irreverent about the deaths. 

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