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Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth, and Future of the Mustang, America's Horse

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The wild horse is so ingrained in the American imagination that even those who have never seen one know what it stands for: freedom, independence, the bedrock ideals of the nation. Popularly known as the mustang, the wild horse is the enduring icon of America. But in modern times it has become entangled in controversy and bureaucratic mismanagement, and now its future is imperiled.


In Wild Horse Country, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter David Philipps traces the rich history of wild horses in America and investigates the shocking dilemma they face in our own time.

368 pages, Paperback

First published October 10, 2017

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About the author

David Philipps

5 books46 followers
David Philipps is a Pulitzer Prize–winning national reporter for the New York Times. He is the author of Wild Horse Country and Lethal Warriors and a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. He lives in Colorado with his family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 69 reviews
Profile Image for Edward.
327 reviews829 followers
February 18, 2022
A fascinating discussion of the history and future of one of Earths most fascinating and incredible horses - the mustang.
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
687 reviews130 followers
July 17, 2019
Ken Salazar, President Obama's Secretary of the Interior from 2009 to 2013 threatened to punch the author of this book in the face. That was in 2012 after Philipps had reported on a scheme to send protected Bureau of Land Management horses to a Mexican slaughterhouse (“All the Missing Horses: What Happened to the Wild Horses Tom Davis Bought from the Government?” ProPublica, Sept. 28, 2012). He uncovered clear evidence of collusion between the BLM and Tom Davis, a Colorado rancher who happened to live just down the road from Salazar's ranch. Philipps caught up with Salazar during a stop in Colorado on a campaign tour for Obama's re-election and questioned him about his relationship to Davis and the apparent complicity between Davis and the BLM, an agency under the Dept. of Interior's purview. Philipps' efforts to connect the dots are one of the many high points of this book.

Philipps chronicles decades of round-ups, first to clear pastures for livestock grazing, and later for industrialized horse slaughter for dog food. The enormous cruelty of these ventures inspired Velma Johnson's advocacy resulting in the passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971. A decade after the passage of that law, wild horses were still being dispatched to slaughterhouses with impunity. State agencies sued the BLM. Kleppe v. New Mexico (1976) reflected the states rights argument that claimed the 1971 Act was unconstitutional. It was not until 2007 that Congress finally defunded the federal horse-meat inspection program, insuring that horse slaughterhouses could not re-open within the United States.

Some might point out that President Ronald Reagan was a prominent horse-lover. That love apparently did not extend to wild horses. His Secretary of the Interior from 1981-1983, James G. Watt, issued an internal memo that would have permitted the BLM to slaughter some 6,000 horses that had been rounded-up over the years. That plan met a roadblock when the American Horse Protection Association sued (American Horse Protection Association Inc., et. al. v. James G. Watt... (1982).

The Del Rio case is infamous for a different reason. President Bill Clinton's Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt ignored evidence of BLM sales dating back over five years to slaughterhouse buyers through a proxy holder loop hole in BLM's adoption regulations. Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press reported on the story, a clear case of systemic corruption and massive obstruction of justice. The BLM ordered its investigators not to cooperate with assistant U.S. Attorney Alia Ludlum's case when she convened a grand jury to hear evidence. By 1996 a memo detailing the case reached Attorney General Janet Reno's desk. No one was charged. (https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-x... )

Philipps has written a compelling and thoughtfully researched history of the American mustang. He has combed the paleontology literature for details about the horse's pre-Columbian life in the Americas. He has traced the horse's post-Columbian dispersal and the rise of the Native American horse culture. At the same time he describes the iconography of the American west, fueled by dime novels and romanticized versions of cowboy life. He presents a lucid and uncluttered picture of today's complex modern wild horse jurisdictions, and enriches this with his own observations and interviews in Nevada where almost 90% of the land is federal land and where most of the wild horse population lives (p.144). For legal purposes, wild horses are considered part of the land. This means that the BLM is permitted to divide its priorities among competing interests: wildlife species such as the pronghorn antelope, livestock ranchers, mineral extraction industries, and native flora, as well as wild horses. Historically, BLM has favored those other interests above those of the horse.

I did not agree with all of Philipps' conclusions. He gives a sympathetic account of the rancher viewpoint through an interview with Joe Fallini, present day owner of the ranch founded by his grandfather. Fallini talks about his numerous lawsuits against the BLM in retaliation for their broken promises to restrict the wild horse population. However, he seems less the victim in a suit demanding the U.S. Government reimburse him for the water consumed by wild horses because they were not allowed to deny the wild horses access (https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-federa... ). At another point in the interview, Fallini pulled out a BLM document printed just prior to the 1971 Act. “The document was a plan to kill thousands of wild horses in central Nevada. The faint purple type showed that the BLM had listed tools needed: an asphyxiation chamber, a D9 bulldozer to cover the thousands of carcasses, and sharpshooters to take down the animals that couldn't be caught in the roundup.” (p.210) Fallini is outraged by the BLM's about-face in policy, but seems unfazed by the idea of an asphyxiation chamber. So much for humane euthanization. Nevertheless, Fallini's outrage is understandable. Moreover, he like many ranchers was still a young man when the 1971 law went into effect, so he remembers the old ways with a certain amount of nostalgia. This is a prevalent attitude in the West. “After the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act passed in 1971, the anger festered until some locals started shooting horses. In 1988, in central Nevada's Lander County, an estimated five hundred were shot by a high-powered rifle, their bones left to be scattered by scavengers. Was it frustrated ranchers? Local beer-drinking yahoos? Or just a statement about local disdain of federal intrusion?” (p.214-215) However, Robert Reinhold of the New York Times interviewed Brian McKenzie of the Nevada Humane Society who stated: “They were gut-shot....Most go a quarter of a mile or so before bleeding to death. It's a slow painful death.” (https://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/02/us... ) That intentional cruelty suggests something far uglier than “frustrated ranchers.”

Climate change has brought new urgency to the question of wild horse management. Philipps recognizes this as a long-term problem and closes with two hopeful chapters. First, he provides a pointed critique of the BLM's failure to maximize use of PZP, an anti-fertility drug that can be administered by dart and has been used with success by private groups to manage herds. Instead, BLM continues to rely on its ineffective program of helicopter enabled roundups. Second, he points out that areas with mountain lions do not have a herd overpopulation problem. Unfortunately, apex predators have been all but exterminated in the West. Moreover, one can imagine the outcry if a mountain lion reintroduction program were to be instigated.

This is a significant book written by a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and should be read by everyone interested in not only in horses but in how public policy can be subverted with little public outcry or consequence.

NOTES:
This article describes the deep resentment of federal over state jurisdiction of public lands https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/p...

Government budgeting is a labyrinth. BLS often argues they have no money to explore fertility suppression, and that long-term holding of mustangs eats up their budget. They seem less concerned with their budget when it comes to helping out the mineral extraction industry (https://www.americanprogress.org/issu... )
Profile Image for Laura.
19 reviews27 followers
Read
September 17, 2021
Won this through a Goodreads giveaway, and I was pleasantly surprised on how much I enjoyed it. Going into it, I didn't know much about wild horses, and the issues regarding them, I honestly though there were only a few left. But it was quite surprising to learn their still very much around, and some people are very passionate about keeping them wild and free, while others, many of whom are ranchers, want them gone completely. The author does a really fantastic job of weaving the history of the wild horse, starting with their relationship with the Europeans, and native american tribes, to the horrific period where they were sold to slaughterhouses in the united states. I really enjoyed learning about "Wild Horse Annie," and how she became so passionate about Wild horses, that she was able to help push for the Wild Horse and Burrow act of 1971. The author does a great job of explaining how the "roundups" came to fruition, and how there's a long going debate on whether their harmful or helpful to the wild horses. And how there are several different strategies that people are trying to put in to place, like using the drug PZP[a birth control for horses] so that the roundups won't be necessary. There's a lot more surrounding this topic on Wild Horses, and I found it all to be really intriguing, I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Jackie.
403 reviews39 followers
December 4, 2017
I am a horse lover. I've been following the story of the American mustangs since I was little. I figured I knew exactly what this book would be; I would know it all already, wouldn't I? Wild Horse Country took me by surprise though. Yes, I knew a lot already but the facts were so well laid out that I was almost shocked to learn where/when they had started. Phillips impressed me with how he humanized the rancher, although thankfully this didn't get taken too far. I knew about PZP, but mountain lions were an eye-opener for me.

I've been the outraged protestor, the "tree hugger," and I think this book does a fantastic job of taking this emotionally charged issue in very pragmatic terms. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Linda.
345 reviews24 followers
February 24, 2018
Wild Horse Country; The History, Myth, and Future of the Mustang, by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, David Philipps, is a must read for horse lovers, particularly lovers of the mythic mustang of the west. Philipps set out to discover the proper place for the mustang in the West. He launched his investigation with the curiosity of a western-born scholar and with the neutrality of a dogged journalist who thrives upon investigating a subject from every possible angle and researching each angle till he finds the hard truth at its core.

The first chapters of the book detail the history of the horse in North America from before the Ice Age. He examines man’s relationship to the horse and how domesticating those four legs contributed to the success of our species and the specialization of genus equine. Horses are intertwined with American history and Manifest Destiny, the horse being an early symbol for power, wealth, and mobility, and later standing as a doe-eyed symbol for freedom.

As the American frontier was tamed, the need for horses declined. Excess horses cost money to feed, however turned free on the vast open range they fended for themselves and reproduced successfully—so successfully that, in time, they would become a nuisance, competing for livestock grazing land. In the early 20th Century, as Americans gained enough economic security to pamper house pets, horses became the lucrative target of dog food plants, hence Ken-L Ration, which I remember feeding to our dogs when I was a kid. Dismissing early criticism of the horse meat industry, the response was, “it was more humane to slaughter [them worthless Cayuses] than to let them starve to death on the range in old age.” Reasoning which lies at the root of the current practice by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to round-up wild horses on federal land. Philipps carefully researched the lengthy and fraught public uproar about the horse meat industry which culminated in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. That well-meaning act continues to bedevil western range land management with unforeseen consequences. Much of the book explores those consequences, uncovering all sorts of machinations along the way, including a severe incrimination of Ken Salazar, former Secretary of the Interior, and a man whom I have always respected.

The BLM has used both mounted and helicopter roundups to administer the ever-increasing numbers of wild horses grazing on Federal land. The roundups are necessary to cull the herds that far outweigh the carry capacity of the arid western lands they live on—in conjunction with livestock grazing allotments awarded to western ranchers. But are the mustangs really the problem? Is the land really overburdened? Are the roundups really necessary? And what is done with the excess horses that find no “forever home?” Philipps examines the issues with an unblinking eye. Clearly the roundups are expensive and traumatic to the animals. There are other management options. Predictably, Philipps explores these, as well, and comes up with some common-sense solutions to the problem of mustangs on the range.

I encourage anyone interested in the wild horse dilemma to read Wild Horse Country.
Profile Image for Carly.
34 reviews
July 22, 2018
I struggled with this book. 3-ish stars (or maybe just below) is where I landed thanks to the end.

The beginning is SLOOOOOW. Part of that is the depth in which Philipps covers the Mustangs (or should we more accurately say wild horses); not just the more commonly known Spanish ancestry, but all the way through the minutia of their paleontology. He also cites multiple references relaying the same information. While this add layers of support for his arguments, it reads slow.

Then, all of a sudden, at like page 150, things pick up.

We get to the crux of the modern day issues with wild horses and the dilemma with are in now. It is disheartening. The short-sightedness of all involved including the BLM, the ranchers, and the activists is clearly highlighted. There are no "good guys" in this story. The BLM is clearly failing miserably and has limited ability, both financially and dare I say morally, to fix the issue. But ranchers and activists are further sabotaging efforts, on both sides of the issue. I think the latter half of the book and the points that Philipps highlights beautifully illustrate how once man gets involved in wildlife, management has to occur. Be that hampering fertility (yes, there are drugs that work without significant negative ecological impact that - spoiler - we can't use due to ignorant activists on the East Coast who have no grasp of the magnitude of the wild horse dilemma in the rural West or I doubt any understanding of the financial sinkhole the BLM and the animal right activists have created for themselves by having to long-term "board" 10s of thousands of mustangs) or the complex prey-predator relationship (?Go Cougars?). But, I have to agree with the main point raised by Philipps. Round-ups are not the answer.

Recommendation: Skim the beginning, really read and *think* about the second half.
Profile Image for Jess.
15 reviews
December 23, 2018
I don't usually write reviews here, but this one echoed in my heart and brain, big-time. It is a well-researched account of where the wild horse conundrum began and what it has developed into, and reads like a fascinating novel complete with corruption, unlikely heroes, and unexpected twists. I'm giving it 5 stars because it is important, careful work, but I wished it contained more about the adoption program and the fact that if even a small fraction of the people breeding "purebed" horses took to training young mustangs, and people who insist on buying purebreds adopted those 'stangs, the holding problem would be far less of a problem.

I LOL'd at the start of the mountain lion chapter, but by the end I was picking my jaw up off the ground.

If you love horses of any sort, please read this book. (Then go adopt a mustang.) #demandthebrand
Profile Image for Ashes.
339 reviews38 followers
March 18, 2019
Intelligent, well written, and meaningful investigations. It covers everything one wants to know about the history of the mustang, and more, because David Phillips doesn't just spin the tale of the wild horse. He proposes a solution.
He's not a horse person, and he doesn't have to be. Same goes for the potential readers. The book is just that good.
Profile Image for Chris.
1,350 reviews32 followers
April 27, 2018
Worth your time. The BLM can do nothing right. You want to feel sorry for them at times. Wild horses are like our politics in that they highlight the rural/urban divide. Phillips tackles the myth of the West head on in this expose which lays bare man’s tendency to kill the things he claims to love- wildness and wilderness. It’s also a good lesson in the laws of unintended consequences and bureaucratic mismanagement. However, unlike many critics Phillips provides solutions; solutions which the BLM and our federal government have been staring at for decades and willfully not connecting the dots.
Profile Image for Tom Schulte.
2,892 reviews56 followers
August 3, 2017
An exasperating and enlightening, sad and hopeful batch of history and investigative journalism. Philipps recounts the conquistador-initiated return of equines to the continent they thrived in millennia previous. Then comes the long, fruitless love-hate relationship of steak eaters that want mustangs running freely but without inconveniencing. The litany of travails around Bureau of Land Management mismanagement on behalf of an unrealistic public. This leads to the author's uncovering of Colorado rancher Tom Davis (friend and neighbor of former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar) buying BLM horses on the cheap for illegal slaughter in Mexico. This proves the current practices while being ineffective and expensive, still lead to corruption and animal cruelty. I love the suggested solution - with proven success - of free-roaming mountain lions and judicious fertility management through dart-delivered PZP.

[I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads First Reads.]
Profile Image for Sandy.
303 reviews
June 24, 2018
This was completely new information to me. I had no idea that wild horses still roamed the West in such numbers. An on-going situation that begs to be followed.
Profile Image for Ted.
36 reviews
August 18, 2018
Excellent. A comprehensive history and current status of the wild horse in the United States.
Profile Image for Allen Patterson.
73 reviews7 followers
August 26, 2017
I was excited to win this book from Goodreads. I am officially a fan of David Philips. Every aspect of this book was very well researched. I will admit I yawned just a little bit during all the fossil information at the beginning but that was the only part. Loved the myth part. I knew the current situation was a mess but I had no idea how bad it was or how it got that way. For the most part, it seemed to become a bad situation and some well meaning people tried to make it better by trying to get the government to help. My theory is that if you have a bad problem and you want to make it worse just try to get government to fix it. That, in many ways, sums up the predicament the mustangs are in right now. The author comes up with a good argument for a solution at the end but I am sure their will be opposition from many sides for various reasons. Time will tell if the suggestion is followed and if it is successful. I for one will be interested to see.
Profile Image for Gretchen Lida.
121 reviews9 followers
April 16, 2018
Whenever the topic of wild horses comes up I often want to run away screaming.I didn’t know what to think and it is an issue so deeply charged with emotion that it was hard to find unbiased work on it. Most work either dismisses the Mustang as a pest without ecological or historical significance or blindly advocates for them as if they were magical beasts with no impact on the land.
But I found the reporting I was looking for in this book. Yes, David Phillips does tell you what he thinks every once in a while, but for the most part his reporting and storytelling is clear, well written, careful and often beautiful. It also considers not only the prehistoric and ecological complexities of America’s wild horses, but examines there impact on the American spirit and where the myth of them came from. He also chronicles how we have managed them over the last hundred years and then reports on efforts that may make the Mustang more sustainable for years to come. All the while he includes the voices of researchers, ranchers, and many others. A must for horse lovers and westerners alike.
It also made my top five contemporary horse books On book riot.
https://bookriot.com/2018/04/16/horse...
13 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2017
I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

I don't read much nonfiction, so I'm not entirely sure how to go about describing why this book was so good, but it was. It was an adventure from start to finish, thorough and memorable without being preachy or repetitive, and Philipps has a talent for romantic descriptions of galloping horses and wide open spaces. A large portion of the book was devoted to the history and context of wild horses in America, which I thought was interesting, informative, and important to understanding both sides of the modern conflict for space and resources between mustangs and ranchers. I grew up on Seabiscuit and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, so horses have always been close to my heart, but this book isn't just for horse lovers. If anything, I think Philipps's most piercing message is about the failures of the government and its system of bureaucracy to properly manage change and compromise, something I think every American could benefit from reading about.
Profile Image for Toni.
27 reviews
December 7, 2017
I was a horse-crazy little girl. I didn't grow out of it and though I only had horses for a short time (making the decision to have kids instead???) I'm still that horse-crazy country girl at heart. I wanted to see wild horses and finally got my chance this October. I imagined them running wild and free over lush country. They were quietly grazing on land that made me think of nothing so much as loneliness and despair.
The picture on the cover caught my eye and the name as this was just a week after seeing the wild horses. The book broke my heart in so many ways. Philipps is even -handed. He tells a story that is tough to hear, but everyone should hear it. Horse lover or not.
He had no solution for the wild horse situation, but what he presented was a whole passel of questions we should be asking a whole slew of elected officials, ranchers, etc.
If it's true that how a country treats its animals says a lot about that people, we need to look hard at this information, ask the tough questions, do the tough things 'cause for me it is worth saving the wild things and places.
Profile Image for Lezlie.
24 reviews1 follower
August 7, 2018
This book opened my eyes to the complexity of the wild horse situation. It was very well-written and offered a path to a real solution. I hope the leaders of our government agencies responsible for managing our lands and wildlife read this book and pursue a new path.
Profile Image for Beverly.
1,343 reviews1 follower
December 10, 2017
The wild horse stands for fierce independence, unbridled freedom, and are the bedrock ideals of the nation. The wild horse is the enduring icon of America. But it has become entangled in controversy and bureaucracy, and now its future is in question. Here is the story of the horse: from its prehistoric debut in North America to its reintroduction by Spanish conquistadors and its spread through the battles between native tribes and settlers of the Wild West. Wild horses have preyed on the American imagination from the explorers to the novels of Zane Grey to Hollywood Westerns. Traveling through remote parts of the American West, the wild horse’s current crisis is revealed, with tens of thousands of horses being held in captivity by the federal government, and free horses caught between the clashing ideals of ranchers, animal rights activists, scientists, and government officials. A must read if we are to save these beautiful animals.
Profile Image for Christie Bane.
996 reviews11 followers
January 7, 2018
Two five-star books to start out the year! It's gonna be a good year.

This book explores the history and current status of wild horses in North America, all the way from their prehistoric ancestors to their current management by the BLM. It also never loses sight of the wild horse's place in the American imagination as the symbol of the wild. And, as if the story wasn't interesting enough, the writer is really, really good. Almost every page has a sentence that makes me sigh in appreciation.

This book is investigative journalism at its best. Pick it up and be swept away into Wild Horse Country.
Profile Image for Leanne Kidd.
6 reviews5 followers
July 30, 2018
Excellent book that has brought to my attention the wild horse roundups that are still taking place in America. I have joined a group and hope to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. In this case, wild horses!

Profile Image for Kylie.
17 reviews
January 6, 2023
This book was amazing. It kept me interested the whole time. It opened my eyes to the mismanagement happening. Reading this book was frustrating at times because of how ridiculous the things that are happening are! If you love the wild horses, I highly suggest this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rena Sherwood.
Author 3 books29 followers
December 31, 2019
It says on the cover that author David Phillips won a Pulitzer Prize for his previous book. He should be forced to give the Prize back after putting out this hack job.

Phillips says right away that he knows next to nothing about horses, and it shows. There is reason why the old adage is, "Write what you KNOW" and not "Write WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE A CLUE ABOUT."

This is one of those books that gets me too mad to write about all the things that gets me mad about it. And I suspect you really don't want to read my bitching. And if you do, I love you.

ANYWAY, I'll just limit myself to three gripes:

1) He goes off on tangents that have precious little to do with the topic of mustangs. For example, he takes a trip to one of Zane Grey's homes. WHY? Just to pad his IRS tax write-off, I guess, for there really is no reason why he had to go. Zane Grey's books were the crucial point -- not where he lived (in Pennsylvannia -- not the wild west.)

2) He gives the average American WAY too much credit for making decisions by asking himself or herself, "What's the best metaphor here?"

3) He knows nothing about mountain lion biology or the fact that people have a tendency to kill mountain lions whenever they show up on their property. This becomes a big deal for the last chapter in the book.

Not once in the entire book about how to deal with the mustangs (the most lost of lost causes in American ecology) does Phillips write what is best for the horses. That was a glaring omission for me. Instead, he looks at what is best for ranchers, people who live in the West and for politicians. Never what is best for the horses.

Okay, I guess that's four bitchings, not three, but bitchings multiply like wild -- rabbits. Horses do not reproduce nearly as quickly as portrayed by people who want to slaughter all of the horses. Okay, that's five bitchings now.

I gave this one star instead of no stars since there are two good chapters on the history of horses in North America. All the rest you can throw out. Please.

And what's best for the wild horses? How about, trap, neuter (chemically neuter for mares) and return? Works with feral cats. Sterilize all mustangs in holding facilities and after twenty or thirty years the problem will take care of itself. This is much less suffering than slaughter for meat. And why does everything have to have a price tag on it, anyway? Why don't we slaughter all the people in the West for meat? Then that way ALL the problems (not just with wild horses) will go away.

(That's a rhetorical question, by the way.)
Profile Image for T.L. Cooper.
Author 11 books45 followers
January 18, 2019
Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth, and Future of the Mustang by David Philipps felt a bit like taking a horseback ride over ever-changing landscapes. One minute I was floating high on the beauty of the horses running wild. The next I was infuriated by the policies that seemingly have been poorly conceived and even more poorly implemented. I enjoyed the in-depth discussion of the history of the horse and the horse's evolution. Philipps goes to such lengths to explore the plight of the horses, the effect of the horses on the environment, the frustration of the ranchers regarding the horses, and the attempts of the Bureau of Land Management to manage the horses that at times it's hard to discern fact from opinion and reality from mythology. As a horse lover, an animal lover, it's hard for me to imagine and feel anything but annoyance with those who have such intense disdain toward wild horses. As Philipps highlights massive corruption and cruelty toward the horse that also results in wasting massive amounts of taxpayer dollars, it's hard to see human beings in a positive light. Wild Horse Country pulled me in every direction possible giving me intense feelings and making me think and re-think what I thought I knew about wild horses and horses in general, about the BLM, about the United States, about the people of the United States, about the history of the horse, and even about myself.

February 27, 2018
One of the best books about wild horses that I have ever read!

Philipps does an excellent job of taking the reader on a thorough and well-thought analysis of the current state of wild horses. He begins with an in-depth historical analysis of how mustangs came to roam the west, then transitions into the movements to remove horses (which he calls the Great Barbecue during the 1920s). Next, movements begin to protect wild horses and a new law passes in 1971 protecting wild horses from sales to slaughterhouses.

This is where the book really began to challenge my perspectives as Philipps explores how the corruption within the BLM has impacted mustangs across the west, why farmers (and general outdoor enthusiasts should want) proper herd size management, and explores alternative herd management techniques other than round ups (like immuno-contraceptive drugs, PZP, and even reintroduction of predators).

Wild Horse Country is a must read for anyone who has ever heard of mustangs and the BLM. In my opinion, this book is the most well-balanced and neutral position on this extremely controversial topic that I have ever read.
Profile Image for Stephen Kastner.
86 reviews6 followers
February 18, 2019
"Save the mustang" is not the motto of this book. The motto may in fact be, Save the Cougar! Phillips has done an intense and insightful investigation into the failings of the BLM to round up and corral thousands of wild horses, then paying millions of dollars to pen these wild horses on federally subsidized grazing ranch land. Yes, he does indeed deliver extensive proof that these mustangs are wild, tracing their roots to a natural wild equine species that inhabited the west before the Spanish horses added to the gene pool. The problem Phillips describes is that of government support for cattle ranching on scrub lands that do not merit government support and protection from wild predators which include the cougar, that has become standard policy in the west. One more illustration of how human intervention has tipped the balance of nature, which if left alone, would naturally correct itself. This is mandatory reading for anyone who loves wild horses.
Profile Image for Corinne.
182 reviews
December 12, 2020
"Protest is easy, but finding policy that works is a lot harder." p 263

"Letting mountain lions do what they do...is about truly restoring the 'thriving ecological balance' that has been the mandate of the BLM for thirty years. It is about learning to let the wild be wild in all its complexity. Right now, wild horses are embattled as a symbol. Whatever they once were, they have become an enfeebled emblem of controversy, cultural divides, mismanagement, and waste. Good management - wild management- could bring them back." p 288
"And good management is critical. If we can move away from roundups, we can move away from storing horses. If we can move away from storing horses, we can move away from the corrosive effects it has had on the integrity of the BLM and the rule of lay. If we can find a way to manage in balance, we can protect the animals, the ranchers, and the legend." p 282

417 reviews3 followers
September 19, 2017
I don't know what I expected, but it was a very interesting book. It tells the story of how wild horses, or Mustangs, came to be and how they have been affected by the taming of the Wild West. Much of the book relates the failed attempts of the Bureau of Land Management to control overpopulation and possible solutions. I am always amazed that people with no understanding of a problem believe they have the answer and try to stop those who live with the problems every day from finding an acceptable solution. It is a problem which is costing millions of dollars each year with no end in sight. With all the problems in the world, this one is very regional and should not be so hard to handle, but it is.
227 reviews9 followers
October 6, 2019
This is the most comprehensive collection of information I have found on the wild horse situation playing out in the West. Not only is the subject matter, which is highly political, approached in a journalistic objective manner, but the writing makes reading this book a pleasure, although in parts it does cause pain when you know the horror that the horses are suffering at the hands of individuals who want money while they break laws.

It's a tough situation that both the cattle people and horse advocate face. However, Philips, in chapters 9 and 10 does have solutions that both sides endorse. The problem, as I see it, is that no one in the BLM is taking real leadership in managing the solution. This becomes clear as you read the book, hear from all sides of the problem.
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