Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away


Earlier this year I was travelling through the badlands of North Dakota in Theodore Roosevelt National Park when I stumbled upon a beautiful sight which immediately put The Rolling Stones into my mind. Wild horses were all around me!

Wild horses in North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt NP USA
Wild horses in North Dakota

Native horses became extinct on the North American continent over 10,000 years ago. They were reintroduced by the Spanish in the 16th century and many of these horses escaped and became wild. They were called mustangs which is derived from the Spanish word mesteno (meaning wild). The horses thrived on the great plains and it was not uncommon for large herds, some in their thousands to roam the countryside.  The plains Indians made great use of these horses for travel and hunting.

Wild Horses North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt NP
It was interesting observing the dynamics of this herd

In later years the wild horses were seen as a nuisance to ranchers and the like and many were eradicated. In the 1950’s and 1960’s attitudes changed and preservation of horse populations started to be implemented. By 1971 a law was passed to protect the horses as a national heritage species (Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act).

Wild horse herd theodore roosevelt national park North Dakota
It was interesting watching the dynamics of this herd

Today wild horse herds still exist in a few parts of the west including Washington state (there is a fantastic hilltop monument to these wild horses near Vantage in eastern Washington state) and North Dakota.

Grandfather cuts loose the ponies Wild Horses Monument - Vantage WA
Wild Horses Monument near Vantage in eastern Washington state

Theodore Roosevelt National Park maintains a total herd of around 100 horses. Typically herds of 5-15 horses roam the park with a dominant stallion, his mares and their offspring. Some herds will only consist of younger stallions, awaiting their turn to have a herd of their own.

Wild Horses Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Dakota Badlands
Leader of the herd

Travel around the park and you will soon encounter at least one of the herds. I was lucky and found four herds all quite close to each other.

Wild Horses North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt NP
The second herd
Foal wild horse North Dakota
A playful foal
grey mare wild horse north dakota USA
Grey Mare
foal wild horse
The foal saying hello
wild horses
Play time

This was the first time I had ever seen wild horses. There was something special about seeing them roaming freely about the badlands.

Wild Horses North Dakota
I spotted this fourth group off on the horizon

If you are ever travelling in North Dakota, don’t miss Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the far west of the state as it’s a beautiful place with lots of great sights including the wild horses. You might even spot a Buffalo or two out there!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Badlands North Dakota Painted Canyon
Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Painted Canyon
Buffalo Theodore Roosevelt NP North Dakota
Buffalo in the badlands
Buck Hill Badlands Theodore Roosevelt NP ND
The view from Buck Hill in the badlands
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