While in Rapid City we also attended a weekly event held every Thursday evening from 6-9pm; they close the streets of downtown and have different bands playing music, with food and beverages. Of course, we need to point out that in South Dakota, in the summertime, sunrise is at 5:15am and sunset is not until at least 8:30pm or later. After Verizon and before the music event we had dinner at the Firehouse Restaurant, which is in the old Downtown Fire Station, which closed in 1975 and was taken over and converted into a restaurant, which has operated successfully since then. The food was magnificent and the décor, service and management all excellent. Downtown Rapid City also coordinates several venues of entertainment and the camera surveillance and police presence insure that all is peaceful, not to mention that Rapid City, while being a more cosmopolitan “city” than most towns, maintains a ‘country’, small town atmosphere, so everyone is very friendly.
Now imagine an over-crowded Bureau of Land Management (BLM) feed lot, packed with captured wild mustangs, many too weak to stand, listless, dejected and often even having lost the will to live any longer, with their spirits broken, unwanted, either too old, too ugly, or too independent too qualify for the BLM adoption program. Without the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, these horses would have died (naturally or put down) be it not for the love and determination of one man and life-long cowboy, who created this wild horse haven, here on earth.
And now imagine an Oregon rancher, cowboy, naturalist, and author, with an abundant heart, will and sense of duty, with a desire to save these animals, and you have Dayton O. Hyde, its founder. Though it is not clear where Dayton Hyde raised enough money for a down payment on the sanctuary near Hot Springs, South Dakota, and convinced the Bureau of Land Management to send him its un-adoptable wild horses from the feed lot, it is known that he did so against many odds, having left his own ranch and family in Oregon. Soon thereafter he met his friend and companion Susan Watt, who in his books he readily admits is the driving force behind the sanctuary. In order to qualify for an ‘Agricultural’ tax basis he was required to have cattle on the property, so they also keep a minimum of 200 cattle spread which they sell for additional funds for the horses. And even among the horses, though most are kept wild, a few are bred to maintain the separate gene lines and the foals are also sold for funds to support the costs of maintaining this sanctuary and most horses wild.
Today, Dayton O Hyde’s 29 year old dream is a flourishing reality. We took a 3-hour personalized tour with Kate, a full-time RV’er who comes every year for about 2 months to volunteer her time at the sanctuary. Her love of these wild horses is evident, and we can fully understand why. For volunteers the sanctuary maintains six (6) RV sites with full hookups (water, sewer and 50-Amp electric service) while they are volunteering there. So you may well hear about our volunteering here in the future. A great cause and we get to be around wild horses in the rural expanse of this great land. What more can one ask for.
While the horses are still ‘wild’, they are used to people coming around to see them on tours and being great judges of character they look at you, deep into your soul, and can tell if you are worthy of their trust. A few of the horses came up to the vehicle we were in and stuck their heads in and looked at us, eye to eye, and must have seen in our souls, as we saw in theirs, and in that exchange a calm trust was established, enough for them to accept our hands to caress their noses, foreheads, manes and backs. If you ever come up to (or near) Hot Springs, SD, if you love horses as we do, you owe it to yourselves to visit the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, experience the dream, visit their grassland home of rocky canyons, wind swept prairies and dark pine forests, which they share with coyotes, cougar, white-tail and mule deer, elk, prairie dogs, wild turkeys, eagles and falcons; though apart from the horses we only saw wild turkeys, prairie dogs and white peacocks which Dayton Hyde keeps at the ranch.
We hit the bumpy road, to view large bands of wild mustangs from all over the country located in different areas on the tour. From Choctaw Indian Ponies, to Mustangs with curls that you will love, to American Mustangs and the very spirited Spanish herd this is a “horse lovers” paradise as viewed in our photos. There are four separate herds kept isolated from each other in an effort to maintain the gene-lines pure, so there is no cross breeding. The Choctaw Indian ponies are in one heard, the Spanish-descendant horses are in another (identified by a dark line on their back and other traits), and the American Mustang. Like the Quarter horse, of which there are none here, each s a separate breed. Then, the fourth herd is that they call the "Wild Ones" which are horses that are truly wild and want nothing to do with Man, so they make it a point to stay away from everyone. In that herd there are breeding mares and stallions The other herds have a lot of mares and some 'boys' too but these boys are all geldings. The only stallions of each breed are kept at the ranch and when they want to breed a mare in season they take her to the stallion's corral. However, every once in a while they admit that a stallion from the Wild Bunch goes AWOL and pays a visit to a mare in season in a neighboring herd and the have "Ooopsie" births. In such a case the foal will be sold, when it is ready to be separated from Mom, to help support the maintenance of the sanctuary for all the wild horses.... Horses helping Horses.
We also viewed the locations of sacred Native American Ceremonial Sites, which we were asked not to publish any photos taken, so we are respecting their request. There was also a small cabin which was the Coffee Flats School house (which has recently been restored). And we saw the remains of some of the old homesteads of that area. One interesting building was a small building which was about the size and looked like a double out house, but in actuality was where the stagecoach would drop off the mail for the homesteaders of that area... a communal mail box, if you will.
Dayton O. Hyde is 6’-5” tall and 92 years old now, but he is still an active part of the sanctuary. However, to prevent the sanctuary’s demise in the future, upon his own, he has created a foundation, the Institute of Range and American Mustangs (I.R.A.M.) to insure its continued legacy of support of the Wild Horses of South Dakota.
This one is called "Don Juan" (perhaps for obvious reasons) No, really, that's his name.
Several Movies and other national film productions were filmed within this sanctuary:
The winding Cheyenne River referred by the Indians as the Four Rivers, because it flows in all four directions due to its winding back and forth.
This is the vehicle we took on our tour. All vehicles used by the Sanctuary are used and used until they have no further life, then kept for parts. Nothing is wasted at the BHWHS.