Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

By MJ Smith...

By MJ Smith...

Over 500 horses roam free on 11,000 acres of land south of Hot springs, South Dakota. The Black Hills of South Dakota along with the Cheyenne River provide a perfect environment for the wild herd to live.

Dayton O Hyde founded the sanctuary to provide support for wild horse herds. Revenues for the sanctuary are generated from visitors, donations, a gift shop, grants, and foal sales. Dayton Hyde is a rancher, photographer, essayist and author of 17 books, which can be purchased from the sanctuary’s website

In 1988, he raised enough money to start the sanctuary, whereby he hoped to save the many wild horses deemed un-adoptable by the Bureau of Land Management. Their fate would otherwise be death, as they were acquired from government feedlots. To date, over 10,000 horses have run free on the sanctuary lands.

The herd at the sanctuary is made up of descendants from the tame horses brought to North America in the 1500’s by the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors. Some of these animals broke away to live in the wild, where they came to be called "mustangs", meaning stray or free running animal. An interesting history of the various bloodlines can be found under "foal sales" at:

A visit to the sanctuary will bring unbelievable views for miles and miles of canyons and hills and rivers. A bus tour takes you into the heart of the sanctuary, where the driver scouts for packs of horses to view. The bus pulls up close to the horses, which by now are somewhat used to having an audience, allowing visitors the chance to walk with and photograph these beautiful creatures.

On the particular day we were there, a newborn foal was found and we were able to view the mother and baby as they relax in the sun. Horses of all ages were found, usually traveling in small groups. The scene was majestic.

Expert guides teach about the grass, prairie, geology, native cultures and history during the tour. One can imagine the native Indians living on these sacred grounds. As a matter of fact, American Indians still use the sanctuary land for their Sun Dance ceremony. Additionally, the films Crazy Horse (1996) and Disney's Hidalgo (2003) were both filmed on location.

The day we visited, a huge expanse of land was decked out as an Indian village, and another as a camp for a war reenactment, providing a view not seen by many. The sanctuary is a fascinating place, where cowboys can still be found weaning the colts, gathering cattle and horses, and tending the trails. The prairie dog colony is a delight!

Consider donating to the sanctuary, or planning a visit to this magical place to see for yourself the beauty of the wild horses and sacred lands.
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
P.O. Box 998
Hot Springs, SD 57747

photo from Black Hills website and by Alvis Upitis
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