Horses have been part of the American West since the first Spanish explorers brought their European-bred steeds onto the new continent. Soon thereafter, some of these horses, lost or abandoned by their owners or captured by indigenous peoples, became the foundation of the great herds of mustangs (from the Spanish mesteno, stray) that continue to roam the West and play a unique role in its culture, economy, and mythology. Photographer/oral historian Paula Morin first became interested in the myth and lives of the mustangs when she began photographing them. Determined to better understand their nature and place in the history and ecology of the Great Basin, she undertook a series of sixty-two interviews with people who know the horses best: ranchers, wranglers, horse breeders and trainers, Native Americans, veterinarians, wild horse advocates, range scientists, cowboy poets, western historians, wildlife experts, animal behaviorists, and agents of the federal Bureau of Land Management. The result is "Honest Horses", the most comprehensive and impartial examination to date of the history and impact of wild mustangs in the Great Basin.
The mustangs' current situation as vigorous competitors for the scanty resources of the West's drought-parched rangelands has put them at the center of passionate controversies about their purpose, place, and future on the open range that is their home. Morin elicits from her interviewees a vast spectrum of expertise, insight, and candid opinions about the nature of horses, ranching, and the western environment that will allow readers to understand the issues. The multiple voices of authentic westerners will speak to readers about the importance of these animals to the culture of the West and about the ways that humans can best care for them while at the same time serving as responsible stewards of the land. This is a book for all who love the West, its traditions, and its magnificent open spaces; for horse lovers; for anyone interested in the daunting complexity of the environmental issues in which mustangs play such a central and contested role.