Oklahoma is horse country, home to ranches where race horses are sired by retired winners, and where young quarter horses are trained to barrel race and eventually earn rodeo prizes.
The state is also one of several where horse ranchers have created refuges for wild mustangs and burros rounded up from the public grazing lands of the western United States. The ancestors of these horses may have been animals which escaped from the Spanish in the 1600s. Or maybe not. But no one argues about the fact that these wild horses, and the wild burros making up part of their herds, have proliferated on public grazing lands, eating the forage some ranchers pay the government for, so their own herds of cattle and horses can live.
So, the federal government pays cowboys to round up these mustangs and move them, taking them far away from the lands they have roamed for centuries to ranches that specialize in finding new homes for these animals.
I read about these rescue ranches. Certain times of year, the refuges hold auctions, and interested parties can bid on the horses and burros. Often, the new owners take them home for a bargain price, after proving that the animal is not simply going to a slaughterhouse.
The horses are beautiful. Called mustangs, they are wild and free, a mix of breeds that create a strong, intelligent animal, able not only to survive but thrive in rough, rugged terrain without the assistance or interference of humans. They are Arabians, Thoroughbred, Quarter horse and more, Appaloosas, paints, pintos, roans and Palomino. Their breeding and DNA is as mixed as your average American.
Learning about these amazingly resilient horses intrigued me, and the idea for a book was born. As I write mysteries, usually based on a murder or crime, the story of mustang rescue ranches is mostly background – the setting for the crime. But it was that nugget of interest that led me to consider the plot and the characters – a journalist in a nearby town, and a rescue ranch owner who is not quite the good guy he appears to be.
I hope you will check out Blood on the Cimarron, which is now available on Amazon as a trade paperback and on Kindle as an ebook.
Come back for more about the characters and plotlines of this book next week!