Letting wild horses run free

The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary cares for over 500 wild horses


The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is situated on 11,000 acres in Hot Springs. Over 500 horses live on the vast, windswept prairieland, surrounded by mountains with enormous trees. The sanctuary is one of America’s greatest private wilderness areas.

There are American, Choctaw, Spanish and Curly herds. The sanctuary is dedicated to preserving breeds that have neared extinction. Some are descendants of horses which came over with the conquistadors. Some of the Choctaw horses are named Lakna, Goblin, Pearl and Angel. Spanish horses at the sanctuary are named Red Hawk, Honey and Gabriela and have beautiful, distinctive coats and markings. Curly horses at the sanctuary such as Rosy, Cassidy and Catalpa run with a large herd. These are a very rare breed. Nearly 100 of the horses at the Sanctuary are part of the Spanish herd.

The horses are free to range the vast property along with many varieties of birds and other wildlife such as prairie dogs, burrowing owls, coyotes, badgers and wild turkeys. There are native plants and petroglyphs as well.

Dayton O. Hyde, the founder of the sanctuary, was an Oregon rancher who, in 1987, chanced upon a large number of wild Mustangs in Nevada holding lots. They had been rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Hyde felt it was too cruel that these horses had been taken from their homes and contained in corrals. He was able to persuade the BLM to give him these horses. Hyde bought the land where the sanctuary is situated and began to operate on a shoestring budget.

Susan Watt, the current director, joined the operation in 1994. With Hyde's passing in 2018, Watt runs the sanctuary and is dedicated to its original mission of providing lifelong security and protection for these beautiful herds of horses. The sanctuary is privately owned by the non-profit Institute of Range and the American Mustang (IRAM) organization.

For those who love horses, it is crucial to support the sanctuaries because of the possibility that herds that have survived for hundreds of years may become extinct in the wild. The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary receives no state or government funds and relies totally on donations and tours of the sanctuary.

Last year, the sanctuary had to cancel tours due to COVID. There was also a drought as well as locusts, which affected the grazing areas and made it a necessity to feed the horses more hay. Therefore, any donations to the sanctuary are greatly appreciated and used to feed and care for the herds.

Terra Joy is a baby foal who was born Aug. 18 at the sanctuary. She will be able to live out her entire life in peaceful, beautiful surroundings.

The website for the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is https://www.wildmustangs.com. Donations for hay and cake for the horses can be made through their website. It is also possible to sponsor an individual horse from one of the sanctuary herds.

Dr. Linda Watson Lives in San Diego, Calif., and is a lifelong horse lover. She raises funds for horse rescues and horse sanctuaries through a foundation she founded.


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