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Learn more about mustangs, wild horses at library discussion next week

February 5, 2019 GMT

Lake Havasu City is known for its outdoor recreation. Locals enjoy hanging out on Lake Havasu and cruising up and down the river in boats of all shapes and sizes. There are few working ranches in the region. The cowboy lifestyle is far more prevalent in other parts of Arizona.

But that doesn’t mean Havasuvians don’t embrace the state’s Wild West heritage or appreciate the decorative icons of the West. Saguaros stand guard in local landscapes, most residents own at least one Stetson-style hat and Havasu shops and galleries offer all manner of frontier art.

Seeing wild horses galloping across the range around Havasu never happens. But that’s not to say local residents are any less interested in them. There’s a lot of curiosity about the nation’s wild mustangs and concern for their well-being.

To that end, a true expert on the subject will be in Havasu Feb. 12 to lead a discussion about the controversy surrounding the animals at the Mohave County Library in Havasu. The free program featuring Alan Day begins at 6:30 p.m.

A cowboy and rancher, Day will share his experience with wild horses and talk about why thousands are being held in captivity in Bureau of Land Management feedlots. He personally tried to help 1,500 mustangs when he purchased a 32,000-acre cattle ranch in South Dakota in 1989. Mustang Meadows Ranch became the first government-sponsored sanctuary for unadoptable wild horses.

Mustang Meadows was not Day’s first attempt at ranching. In fact, it has been said that Day’s upbringing branded him a cowboy from the day he was born. He was raised on the Lazy B cattle ranch, a 200-square-mile chunk of Sonoran desert that was split right down the middle by the New Mexico-Arizona border.

The Lazy B was owned by several generations of his family. Day co-wrote about that experience with his older sister, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, in a book entitled “Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest.” She also wrote the foreword in Day’s other book that he will discuss while in Havasu. “The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save Wild Mustangs” was co-written with Lynn Wiese Sneydco; she will accompany Day from their homes in Tucson on Feb. 12.

“The Horse Lover” is Day’s personal history of the mustang sanctuary. He weaves together recollections of training the wild horses, his cowboying adventures astride some of the best, and the lessons they all taught him about loyalty, perseverance and hope.

For the first time in his life, Day no longer owns a horse. He shared that detail while waiting his turn on the first tee of a Tucson-area golf course Thursday morning. Now 75, he said horseback riding is for men younger than himself.

But he cautioned that a person doesn’t need to own a horse to be concerned about the wild ones.

“The overriding picture is that there are too many mustangs and they breed too fast. There’s just not enough room” for herds, he said. Mustangs often live into their 30s. Without predators, herd sizes grow rapidly.

Day noted that his sister Sandra, 85, now resides in an assisted living facility. He will discuss her when he’s in Havasu.

“I’ll give a report about her,” he said. “People always want to know how she’s doing.”