“You will feel them before you hear them…You will hear them before you see them.”
The greater Black Hills area is wonderfully abundant in wildlife, and even more remarkable in the amount of public access allowed for viewing creatures in their native habitat. This is nowhere truer than at a significant preserve dedicated to the famed Western wild horse – The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary – located southwest of Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Dayton O. Hyde, noted rancher, essayist, author, and naturalist of the American West, founded the Sanctuary in 1988. Hyde was compelled to do so after seeing the plight of some of the remaining American mustangs in captivity. He wanted them to be on a range where they could roam free.
The pine covered slopes, rugged canyons, rolling foothills, and prairies of the southern Black Hills presented a special place to Hyde. Long held sacred by the Cheyenne, Lakota, and other Native American tribes the 11,000-acre preserve is a place where the visitor can view America as it was several hundred years ago. The timeless Cheyenne River flows through the Sanctuary in all four directions at one point or another, and ancient petroglyphs adorn several red rock cliffs in a southern valley on the preserve.
Visitors to the Sanctuary enjoy a rare glimpse into the life of the American Mustang in this natural setting. Approximately 600 unadoptable wild horses that would have otherwise died of starvation or been killed are allowed to run free, along with elk, deer, antelope, mountain lions, prairie dogs, coyotes, wild turkey, songbirds and raptors, reptiles, and other species native to the region.
Hyde asserts that “The horses and I are in a partnership to preserve this precious land, and the land, in turn, sustains both man and the animals.”
The wild horses have been viewed and photographed by visitors from all over the world. Friendly tour guides offer an intimate look at the sanctuary’s geology, pioneer history, Native American culture, plants, and wild inhabitants. (Remember — these creatures are called WILD for a reason! Admire them, photograph them, but respect their way of life. DO NOT approach the horses unless allowed by a guide.)
Hyde’s Institute of the Range and American Mustang (IRAM) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to give freedom and a better quality life to America’s wild horses. IRAM maintains the day-to-day operations, and hopes to expand the Sanctuary’s acreage to provide room for additional wild horses.
IRAM is supported through tourism, bequests, donations, and the sale of Paint Horses. Your contribution can help preserve precious mustang bloodlines through humane and sensible management.