By: Carol J. Walker
Publisher: Painted Hills Publishing
Publication Date: December 2008
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: November 2010
If you love horses, no doubt you're familiar with the wild horses that roam the west. Featured in movies, documentaries and books, these gorgeous animals are typically romanticized. Running wild, manes and tails blowing in the wind, we see the beauty of these creatures and walk away from the story or movie with a warm, fuzzy feeling. But there is so much more to America's wild horses and author Carol Walker brings us up close and shows what life is truly like for these wild horses.
Wild Hoofbeats is over 150 pages of beautiful photos, interspersed with just enough text to fill us in on the lives of the wild horses. Walker introduces us to several small bands of horses, with a chapter of 10 to 20 pages devoted to each band. Notated as "The Black Stallion," "The Red Roan Stallion," "The Spanish Stallion," etc., these first several chapters show the horses in all their beauty and freedom. We meet the gray stallion, with a battle-scared body, gently nuzzling one of his mares and then watching over his small band of mares as they nap in the sun. We see the eldest mare caring for her newborn foal. Then the peace is interrupted by a band of three young stallions and while the author tells how the gray stallion boldly challenged them, we see the encounter in a series of several photos.
After meeting several herds through Walker's photos and text, we are then taken to a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) roundup and see the harsh reality of these events. Herded by helicopter, horses are run as much as 15 miles to a "trap area" where they are separated by age and sex. Having just read about these same horses in loving and caring situations with members of their herds, the author's photos and stories are truly upsetting. There is a photo of the red roan stallion, thrust into a pen with other stallions, where he looks lost and terrified. It isn't an easy sight. We learn of horses who don't make the transition, stallions who die when they are castrated, and foals who are torn away from their dams. At the back of the book is a list of references and resources where you can learn more about these horses.
It is obvious that the author deeply cares about the plight of America's wild horses. She has spent years photographing them in their natural habitat as well as taking the time to show them in their darkest hour. Why? Because she wants Americans to do something about the roundups. And instead of simply saying something must be done, she steps up and offers viable solutions. Her writing is clear and concise, the photos are gorgeous, and once you finish reading, you'll be ready to step up and help these beautiful wild horses too.
Quill says: Heart-warming and heart wrenching, this book masterfully portrays the beauty and desperation of America's wild horses.