Over 500 wild mustangs live at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota. With its pristine scenery, this sanctuary harkens back to the frontier days when settlers began to go west. The Black Hills are a mountain range in western South Dakota that rises from the Great Plains of North America and extends into Wyoming.
The Black Hills, best known for Mount Rushmore and the Badlands, provide the ideal setting for a wild mustang rescue. Dayton O. Hyde, an author, conservationist, and authentic American cowboy, was the organization’s founder. His career as a cowboy began at the age of 13 when he ran away to join his uncle on his Oregon cattle ranch.
In his book The Pastures of Beyond, Hyde described his first day on the ranch, saying: “Though I had no spare clothes or any money or had ever been more than sixty miles away from home and yet to ride a horse that day I became a cowboy.” His desire to protect wild Mustangs began in 1987, when he traveled to Nevada to purchase livestock for his uncle’s ranch. Hyde became outraged while there when he watched wild horses being picked up by helicopters and herded into corrals by men on horseback.
Taking away their independence and confining them in a corral was simply too much for these wild mustangs. He imagined enormous stretches of fenced-in territory where the horses could be allowed their freedom back. When the Governor of South Dakota learned of Dayton’s plan for a wild horse refuge, he offered Chilson Canyon in the Southern Black Hills. On this plot of property, Hyde established the nonprofit Institute of Range and the American Mustang (IRAM).
Hyde died on December 22, 2018, but his legacy will live on. Today, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary’s 11,000 acres are home to approximately 500 wild mustangs, and it continues to flourish and preserve the heritage and history of the American Frontier. Watch the video below for more on the life of Dayton O. Hyde.