Book doesn’t horse around |

Book doesn’t horse around

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Responsibility is a funny thing.

It’s something you can give and take. You can refuse it, and try to live with yourself or you can embrace it and deal with the consequences. Responsibility can be hard to live with, but it’s very rewarding when you slip it into your life.

Kind of like love, isn’t it?

In the new book “Nobody’s Horses” by Don Hoglund, DVM, you’ll read about how one man accepted responsibility, which reaffirmed his love for horses and for his chosen career.

Well over 100 years ago, many ranchers kept their horses on a free-range basis. The best horses were culled for work while the rest went back to the herd and eventually became untamed. Hoglund says nearly two million horses roamed Western ranges in the nineteenth century.

During World War II, the U.S. government “borrowed” lands in New Mexico for arms testing, and ranchers living on those lands were asked to leave. Some abandoned their livestock, and those animals joined wild herds. Eventually, the land became the White Sands Missile Range. It was fenced, with hundreds of wild horses inside.

In 1994, a drought hit the area and 122 horses suffered gruesome and highly-published deaths. The government decided that the remaining horses needed to be moved or destroyed. Don Hoglund was called in to work with ranch hands, soldiers, and cowboys to move the horses to safety and adoption. Almost immediately, he became responsible for the steeds and the project.

Obviously, this wasn’t going to be a walk in the White Sand-y park.

Separated in four basic herds, the horses numbered almost 2,000 strong. There were gigantic stallions, nearing a ton in weight. There were wily old lead mares with suspicious temperaments, fragile newborns on stick legs, and big-bellied mares heavy with foal.

Using ATVs, helicopters, government-issue tarps and natural land formations, Hoglund and his crew – including a horseman who definitely did not want Hoglund involved – moved the animals carefully from life-threatening conditions to safety. One wrong move, one thing out of the ordinary, and the horses would bolt. And if they did, they would probably never get near the camouflaged pens again because, as Hoglund says, horses have a “cast-iron memory.”

What’s the first thing you think about, when you think of the Wild West? You really can’t separate horses from whatever comes to mind, and if that image makes you smile, this book is going to make you smile even more. While Don Hoglund is a veterinarian by trade, he’s also a darn good writer. His recollections of the herding and capture of these last visages of the Old West are sad and resigned, exciting and exhilarating. One chapter in particular will set you on the edge of your saddle as you read about a stallion that almost made a meal of the author.

If you are a horse lover or a fan of the Old West, this is a book you’re going to want to rope and haul in. “Nobody’s Horses” should be on everybody’s want-to-read list. VT

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