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

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  229 ratings  ·  59 reviews
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 i ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company (first published October 10th 2017)
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
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 t ...more
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 li ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 til ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 sudde
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shelf, horses
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.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, west, pones
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 ...more
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 BL ...more
Tom Schulte
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 Colorad ...more
Elaine Lovejoy
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read. Very informative about wild horses, really enjoyed this book
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. A comprehensive history and current status of the wild horse in the United States.
Allen Patterson
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
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 interest
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 a
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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 America ...more
Christie Bane
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Leanne Kidd
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!

Rena Sherwood
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
T.L. Cooper
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
George Van den driessche
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 slau
Stephen Kastner
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"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 ...more
Dec 11, 2020 rated it liked it
"Protest is easy, but finding policy that works is a lot harder." p 263

"Letting mountain lions do what they 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
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 acceptabl ...more
Terri ducay
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 a
Stacy Blomquist
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
David Philipps has written a solid, thorough examination of the wild horse, or mustang, and its place in our history, our present and our future. Most impressively, he gives voice to all the stakeholders in the issue - from horselovers to ranchers to government employees and even the horses themselves. As one of Wild Horse Annie's letter writers, I appreciate his clear explanation of the problems arising from her legislation. Mismanagement and corruption have plague the BLM's handling of wild ho ...more
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As one trying to quickly and thoroughly get up to speed on the mustang situation, I found this book infinitely helpful. It is very accessible and tells the history of the horse in America in the context of an engaging narrative. While I am not certain I am knowledgeable enough on the subject to assess the author’s proposed solutions, I appreciate his honesty and transparency about how difficult finding an actual solution may be. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to become for informed on ...more
I gave this book to my dad and he returned it to me to read :). It was definitely interesting - I was not at all familiar with the history of the Bureau of Land Management, or the scandal that surrounds it. I only wish the author could have been more to the point during most of the book. I often found myself skimming to the next chapter because he would dwell on a topic for a bit too long. Either way, still worth a read for the information surrounding the controversy in American's Wild Horse Cou ...more
KJ Grow
Nonfiction at its best. Wild Horse Country takes an issue I knew nothing about (the government's management - or mismanagement of the existing populations of wild horses in the west), and presents the history, science and policy of the situation. I had no idea that an estimated 70,000 mustangs still freely roam the west and that the BLM rounds up and holds tens of thousands every year to great expense and controversy. A fascinating and thorough examination of all sides of the issue, with real pr ...more
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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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