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The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs by H. Alan Day

Published on Friday, April 11, 2014 by

We’re joined today by H. Alan Day as he promotes his new memoir. 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.

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.

What are the main themes of your book?

Probably one of the main themes is about following your dream and persevering even when the majority of people around you scoff and say “it can’t be done.”  The other theme focuses on the relationships between humans and horses – the trust, the respect, the friendships that can occur. It is possible to have an animal as your best friend.

Who or what inspired your story?

After I co-authored the memoir Lazy B with my sister Sandra Day O’Connor, I felt inspired to write a full book on my own. Creating and managing the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary was the biggest thing I had done in my life, so I figured that was the story to tell.

What do you like best about your primary characters? 

My primary characters are horses. The herd of 1500 wild mustangs was an unknown. I had never worked with wild horses. I had no idea how they would respond to me, but I new I had to figure out how to befriend them. When they finally offered their friendship, it was a beautiful day. From that point on, I loved walking or riding through the herd and getting to know some of the individual horses.

My individual ranch horses also make appearances in the book. These horses had unique personalities and without a doubt, were some of the best friends I’ve had during my lifetime. Saber was the super athlete, the king. Aunt Jemima was the most loyal. Tequila never stopped giving her all. Little Joe and Chico raised me. Blackberry practically oozed with sweetness. I loved writing about each and every one of them.

What are their worst peculiarities?

Horses eat a lot of hay and they poop where you don’t want to and sometimes they express themselves in contrary ways. Little Joe, for instance, didn’t want to partner with me when it came time to break him. He was a spoiled brat, and we bumped heads until he decided to cooperate. Saber used to kick at my feet and nip and test me, but then when he turned the corner, I’ve never ridden a more cooperative horse.

How does your main character evolve?

Well, since this is a memoir, I’m the main character. So how did I evolve during the four years that I owned the sanctuary? The opportunity to do something that had never been done before – create and manage a government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary – dropped in my lap. I accepted the challenge, though not without questioning my sanity. As it turned out, the horses made me incredibly happy and I relished every moment working with them. Working with the government proved far less inspiring. In fact I could have ended my experience of managing the sanctuary a very bitter and angry person. While I did become more skeptical of governmental agencies, I chose to take the marvelous parts of the experience– the love and the bonding – and keep it untarnished. No one could take away those memories. I put the ugly part behind me and avoided looking in the rear view mirror.

What’s the primary message?

The American Dream is alive and well.

What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book?

Booklist gave the book a starred review and called it an “instant classic.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

If you’d like to purchase the book, you can do so at on Amazon, IndieBound or Barnes & Noble. It’s available in hardcover and e-book formats.

This feature is part of the Virtual Book Tour celebration for Alan’s book The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs. Join the celebration and follow the tour.

About the Author 

Alan Day’s upbringing branded him a cowboy from the day he was born. He was part of the third generation to grow up on the 200,000-acre Lazy B cattle ranch straddling the high deserts of southern Arizona and New Mexico. The ranching and cowboy lifestyle appealed to him so greatly that after graduating from the University of Arizona, he returned to manage Lazy B for the next 40 years. During his career, he received numerous awards for his dedicated stewardship of the land.  In the 1980s, Alan purchased a cattle ranch in Nebraska and soon after, a ranch in South Dakota. The latter became the first government-sponsored sanctuary for unadoptable wild horses. He developed and successfully used a herd modification-training program for his 2000 head of cattle and 1500 wild mustangs.

Alan and his sister, Sandra Day O’Connor, co-authored the New York Times bestselling memoir, Lazy B, which chronicles the story of the Day family and growing up on a harsh yet beautiful southwestern ranch. Alan is a member of Western Writers of America. Now retired, he divides his time between Tucson and Pinetop, AZ.

Social Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Thank you to Virtual Writers for hosting me on this virtual book tour celebration for the ‘Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs’. I look forward to interacting with your audience and welcome their comments or questions.

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