I am honoured to host Amazon Kindle bestselling author H Alan Day on the virtual book tour in celebration of his book The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs. Enjoy this feature interview!
Thank you Giftus for hosting me on this virtual book tour. I look forward to engaging with your audience and answering their questions.
Your story is also one of entrepreneurship, as is the story of the main character in my latest novel. When you started ranching in the Sand Hills of South Dakota, you already owned a 200,000-acre ranch in the southwest and a 45,000-acre ranch in Nebraska. What prompted you to buy a third ranch?
By a strange quirk, I visited the ranch in SD and had a deja vu moment. I felt like I had been there in another life and had strong need to be associated with it. I had never then nor since had an experience like that. Logic told me I wouldn’t be able to handle a 35,000-acre third ranch. I was too busy, and had no idea what I would do with it. I already was running 2500 head of cattle. Yet, my heart told me I needed to be there on that ranch, so I made a bid on it and ended up buying it.
How difficult was it to persuade the government to sponsor a wild horse sanctuary?
Not too difficult. The Bureau of Land Management was getting a lot of criticism for how they were managing the wild horses. A sanctuary that could care for 1500 horses that the government owned by no private citizen wanted to adopt seemed like a good alternative to keep those horses penned up in feed lots (otherwise known as horse prison).
After the government approved the sanctuary, how did you feel knowing that you soon would be the recipient of and caregiver for 1500 wild horses?
A bit overwhelmed but excited. I had been riding ranch horses since before I could walk, but I had never worked with or been close to wild horses. I had no idea how they would respond to me and my crew of cowboys. I knew that one way or another we needed to make friends with them. Not train or gently them, but get them to trust us. We needed to be able to move them from pasture to pasture in order to overgraze any piece of land. In order to move them, we had to train them, and in order to train them, the horses had to trust us. I knew that I was facing one of the biggest challenges and adventures of my ranching career.
What did your South Dakota neighbors think of your plan?
Before we received the horses, my ranch foreman would go to the bar and the patrons would be talking about the crazy Arizonan who was bringing in a bunch of wild horses. They thought the horses would be scattered around the county before I could say “Whoa!” And winters? What did a desert cowboy know about winters? They chalked me up as being totally nuts.
Did you have to prepare Mustang Meadows Ranch before you received the horses?
The ranch was quite run down and not suited for horses when I bought it. So we had a ton of work to do before the horses came. We had to bolster corral fences so the horses couldn’t jump over them or knock them over. We had to dig more wells for water out on the pasture. We worked our tails off for a good ten months before the horses came.
Given the opportunity to manage a wild horse sanctuary, would you do it again?
I loved the horses but hated the bureaucracy. If I could manage sanctuary without dealing with the bureaucracy, the answer would be a resounding “yes.”
What made you decide to write a book about your experiences?
It was just such an interesting time in my life that I was driven to share that with other people. As I got to writing the book, it occurred to me that my perspective might help today’s wild horse situation. The BLM is saddled with upward of 50,000 unadoptable mustangs that are sentenced to life in holding pens. If we could get the mustang baby factory under control out on the range, we might be able to bring those numbers way down. The training program that I used on the sanitary would be very useful to the BLM right now. And that program and the results of it are described in the book.
What was the hardest part of your author’s journey?
Lack of a background in writing put me behind the curve. My first manuscript caught the attention of some agents and editors but it was never good enough to be purchased. I decided to hire a professional writer to help me. Lynn Wiese Sneyd and I ended up co-authoring the book. What had been a terribly frustrating experience became a really positive one.
Any advice for people interested in writing a memoir?
My advice my sister gave me was settle in with a yellow legal pad and #2 pencil and just write. But you have to know what to write and how to write. It’s critical to be able to bring readers into a scene and make them feel the surroundings and the attendant emotions.
H. Alan Day
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 1980’s, 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.