By Rapid City Journal
Imagine a place where animals own the land and humans can only visit.
The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary near Hot Springs is a range sculpted by the Cheyenne River that runs north, south, east and west and hasn't changed much in the past 10,000 years.
"Something happens to anybody who comes here. It's a healing place," said Dayton O. Hyde, founder of the sanctuary.
When the Honeywell Corp. proposed testing weapons in Hell Canyon, the public protested, leaving the state with land without a commercial use. In 1988, Hyde bought the parcel.
"I've been here 25 years now," Hyde, said. "I didn't intend to live so long or stay so long."
Now hundreds of mustangs run free. Many come from the Bureau of Land Management's corrals after roundups in states such as Oregon or Nevada. Some of these horses bear a "U" brand on their necks, which means "unwanted." Many of the horses that don't find a new home are slaughtered.
If someone took down the fences, Hyde said, the horses wouldn't leave the sanctuary because this is their land and they love it now.
But why horses?
"When they run wild and free, it's a beautiful sight. It's part of the music of the west," Hyde said. "You can't just go out and create it. It's gotta be the wild bunch that do it for you."
Hyde is optimistic that the sanctuary will remain unspoiled long after he is gone.
"I hope that in a hundred years from now I can come back as a wild horse and have a place to run free."