Watch mustangs roam free at wild horse sanctuary

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Farm Forum

For families eager to explore the beauty of nature, few places in western South Dakota are more enticing than Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.

The sanctuary, which was established by Dayton Hyde in 1988, is home to over 600 mustang breeds and 150 domestic breeds, according to communications director Karla LaRive.

“Our specialty is preserving herds including Spanish mustangs and Choctaw Indian ponies,” LaRive said. “The sanctuary itself is 11,000 acres, so we have plenty of space for them to roam.”

LaRive said that the sanctuary is unique in that visitors can see large herds of wild horses cohabiting, spending most of their time quietly grazing and taking care of their herd group.

“Sometimes you get the opportunity to see them run down to the river or run back up, and that’s quite a sight,” LaRive said.

The sanctuary welcomes tourists from all over the world, from across the United States to Belgium, Germany to Australia and as far as New Zealand.

“They all say the same thing: it’s an amazing experience, that it’s great to see us helping the wild horses of America,” LaRive said. “Some of them even say it’s a spiritual experience for them, that they think this is a sacred place. It makes you happy to hear those comments.”

Tours take visitors to see the horses from a comfortable distance, but there are some rounded corrals containing horses who are gentler to the public at large.

“They enjoy a scratch on the ear, a little nibble of grass from a visitor,” LaRive said. “That allows the visitor to learn about the breed.”

Other attractions include ancient petroglyphs from the ice age that are unique to ancient inner tribal drawings and exhibits on pioneer history and 19th century history about working on the cattle ranch.

Tours include the two-hour guided tour, which begins at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and ranges in price from $50 per adult to $7.50 for children under 13; or the three-hour cross country tour that begins at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and costs $150 per adult and $75 per child. The guided tour is open to the public while the cross country tour is by reservation. Tour times change after labor day.

Above all else, however, visitors will get a sense of freedom and wonder visiting the horses.

“For me, happiness comes from when we return a wild mustang to freedom,” LaRive said. “The joy in their eyes, in their faces, makes me realize we’re doing something good in this world.”

To reserve a tour at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, call 605-745-5955. Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is located at 12165 Highland Road, Hot Springs.