Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

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Two of the wild horses stand under a scrubby pine. A bay horse with a small white blaze faces the camera while its mare companion shows her full body, bay with white blotches on her side and a white blaze.
These two look like best friends!

Two years ago, my husband and I visited the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary near Hot Springs, South Dakota, home to several hundred wild horses, many of whom are mustangs. They were rounded up from America’s Public Lands, such as National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ranges and sold at auction. I have almost no familiarity with horses, but my husband grew up with horses and loves them. We toured the sanctuary to support its efforts and see what horses are like when they aren’t subject to the rider’s will. Who are they when they get to choose for themselves?

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, horse herd
A welcoming committee

We toured the grounds with a guide in an old minibus, and I was concerned that the horses would avoid us. Before we left to visit the sanctuary, I sat in meditation and sent a silent invitation to the horses to interact with us during the tour. I assured them that we respected them and meant no harm but asked that they show us who they are. This probably isn’t what most people do before they meet wild animals, but it has been a tried and true method for me. When I get there, I’m too excited to send out my intentions. But if I focus before I go and send them feelings of affection and respect while I am there, they usually respond.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, horse with striped legs
The subtle stripes on the horse’s legs indicate her lineage back to the Spanish horses brought to America a long time ago.

We saw many gentle, beautiful horses. I was calmed by their peaceful energy and impressed by their social nature. There are times that we would leave the bus to walk around and look, and we would find that more horses approached us and waited to be honored on our way back to the bus! Horses were abundant everywhere, and we reveled in their quiet acceptance.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, river
This river divides the sanctuary into two parts, one for those who accept human contact and another that allows horses to roam with no human contact.

The sanctuary has a river that runs through it. On the side we toured, roams the wild horses that appreciate the humans’ water and food. On the other side of the river, there is no human contact. For horses that have been abused or traumatized by humans before arriving at the sanctuary, they can cross the shallow river to a place where they feel safe. I respected the sanctuary’s decision to make that area available to them; it gave the horses the power to do what was right for them, and it acknowledged that some of these magnificent beings had been abused in the past and needed special consideration.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
For every group, someone is on watch duty.

Some months before we arrived to visit the sanctuary, an old stallion had come down from the wild side and impregnated several of the mares. The sanctuary later welcomed new foals to the herd and redoubled their birth control efforts with the mares, as it is not their intention to be a breeding facility.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
This made me think of two cops in their cars, meeting up for a chat. Clearly, these two are having a private meeting.

I was impressed by the compassion for these empathic animals. When the tour ended, and we returned to the visitor center, the manager questioned our driver about being out so long. The driver said that she didn’t understand it, but it was as if every horse on the reserve came by our bus to visit us, so it took a lot longer to finish the tour! Maybe the horses understood my desire to interact with them from a respectful distance and came out to welcome us. The energy felt magical at the sanctuary; there was so much love in action. The dedicated sanctuary staff loved the horses in their charge, and the love between the horses was evident, too.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
This looks like a popular spot; and of course, one horse is on guard.

Some years ago, I had read The Tao of Equus: A Woman’s Journey of Healing and Transformation through the Way of the Horse, by Linda Kohanov. It was insightful into the life of a horse as a prey animal and its impact on its world view. Its discussion of stallion energy helped me to understand men more, too; an unexpected bonus. It made a big impression on me and nudged me to want to get to know horses better.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, dappled roan
The dappled roan seemed to have special status in her small group.

The sanctuary gave me a fantastic way to encounter the horses without imposing my will on a horse as a rider. It let me see the horses more as an equal, each of us with the power to determine where to go, when to do it, and with whom we wish.

Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary


  1. Thank-you for sharing this story. I’m so glad you had a wonderful experience here. And I’m so thankful for organizations like this. The government frustrates me to no end by condoning this kind of action, rounding up and removing wild horses from their home. Horses always have a special place in my heart. I volunteered with a program that helped differently-abled people with physically-limiting conditions interact with horses. These were not wild horses, there were some small POA ponies to some larger quarter horse/draft horse mixes. These horses were gifted with the sweetest spirits in this program, they brought smiles and progress for the participants daily. I’m not a horse-rider, but I love to walk beside horses. I’m mesmerized by their beauty. Their energy is so amazing, uplifting, and powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Their energy was powerful, no doubt about it! My husband has had a long history with horses and would like to do more with them. I don’t want to ride them as much as befriend them.


    1. Me, too. Being wild on public land is no picnic, as they are routinely rounded up for slaughter or sale. They are considered a nuisance rather than respected for who they are. Thank goodness places like this exist.


  2. Your experience with this particular sanctuary is interesting. I know little about them however when I see photos of a horse sanctuary out in the west I think of the movie Hidalgo. Spoiler alert: at the end of the movie the horse is let go out into the wild so he can live his life free.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most of the sanctuary’s horses once roamed free, but the federal government has declared them to be nuisances in many places and rounded them up for disposal. The sanctuary has taken them in so that they can run free again on their land.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t go that far! But I have a rapport with all animals, to be honest. I love everything about them. The secret is to see them as conscious, intelligent, emotionally honest, and energetically aware. They are tuning into me, so I must be calm, honest and open in return, imaging in my mind what I want them to know. Many years of meditation has helped me, I admit. Communicating with people is much harder.

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  3. Beautiful horses! I have been to the Black Hills, but did not know this existed. My only experience with wild horses is when I saw them as a friend and I were driving around Nevada, near Las Vegas. It’s wonderful to have this sanctuary and that you and others are able to visit.

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    1. They aren’t open during 2020 (probably due to the pandemic), but I assume they will reopen when it is safe to do so. We want to go back! We have only seen wild horses from afar at a Colorado preserve. They were very cautious. I encourage you to is it someday!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Absolutely a magical visit to the Sanctuary! I have to do the same thing b4 I go near horses! HORSE is my childhood Totem & I get so excited; I rile horses up….I have to center & calm myself b4 approaching any horse. Like your experience, when I am calm, horses will ‘flock’ to me!
    What a wonderful place these beauties have: 2 areas to decide whether they WANT to interact with Humans or not!!
    All your photos are lovely….especially the Grey horse with legs stripes & the red Roan.
    Thank you for sharing this magical place with us!
    (((hugs))) Sherri-Ellen & **purrss** BellaDharma

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. At first I was disappointed in my photos because they did not convey the magic, which is why it has taken me so long to post this blog. The horses were beautiful and they clearly had friendships and groups that they felt comfortable in. How nice that they could develop and keep lasting relationships there!


    1. My husband felt the same way. He would hang out with the horses in the pasture as a child, and yet only thought of horses as something you ride. The Tao of Equus shifted his perspective a little, as did this trip. Horses have value beyond being ridden. We hear of stables of working horses where the barn manager asks which horses want to work that day, and whoever volunteers, goes on the day’s ride. Those that aren’t feeling it stay in the pasture. It gives the horses a choice, and the working line-up changed daily. They don’t mind being a help-mate and bonding with the riders, but they do not want to be slaves. I thought it was a good philosophy for working with horses.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was. I was surprised at how willing they were to accept out presence – at a reasonable distance. There was no petting- they were wild, after all. They kept a lookout, but were calm and willing to allow us into their domain. It was quiet and felt very good.

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  5. What a beautiful experience and how wonderful to send some messages of love before the visit.

    I constantly do this with the birds in my area and have been shown great trust from the doves in my previous apartment with my trying to talk to them telepathically. So far I’ve been able to get up to about 7-8 inches away and have freed 2 birds that were ‘stuck’ – one coot in the lake with a fishing line stuck in its gullet and one dove which couldn’t get out from under the fence gap.

    My brother has the same relationship with his dogs over the years.

    Wildlife definitely sense trust and love.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. They do! How wonderful that you’ve been able to use your gift To help wild animals who are scared and need human intervention. I did this once with a panicked, trapped squirrel. The squirrel was panicked, but I helped him get out and I wasn’t bitten (although I did put on leather gloves just in case). He was awfully happy to be freed. They listen to the energy and emotions we project, and you can’t go wrong with love and respect.

      Liked by 2 people

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