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Dave Philipps [00:00:00] The first horses got loose from the Spanish and very quickly native tribes, usually the ones closest to the Spanish, people like the, the Utes and the Apaches, learned how to use the horse. And once they learned how to use the horse, they passed it along. They bred horses, which wasn't difficult on this wide open land. And they traded horses.

Dave Philipps [00:00:20] And so it was only a matter of a handful of decades before the horse had spread from essentially Santa Fe to all of the West, or at least all of the open West. There were places in the Pacific Northwest with dense forests where, where the horse wasn't very useful and wasn't really embraced. Same with as you went farther East. It wasn't the transformative technology.

Dave Philipps [00:00:43] But very soon it was, it was there. And from, from the tribes, but also from the Spanish and from, from American settlers, horses got loose. And using that tumbleweed analogy, they soon spread all over the West, and there were vast, vast herds of wild horses.

Dave Philipps [00:01:05] There are old maps of Texas, where parts of the western part of the state, it's just written over them, sort of vaguely, "Wild Horse Desert". Because what explorers'd say is they would go out there and they would see these herds of wild horses that rivaled the herds of buffalo that we hear about: herds that you could see running on the horizon, and they looked like the waves of the ocean. Herds that, if you were riding past them, might take an hour or two to pass: just millions of horses.

Dave Philipps [00:01:36] And those horses became, for the people that came to the West, one of the resources that they used, you know, no different from, from the grass, or the timber, or the other things that settlers used to make their living. The horse was part of the bounty. It was there to be tamed and used if you had the grit to do it.

Dave Philipps [00:01:57] And because of that, it became a symbol of sort of the partner of the new American. You know, the wild horse was the companion of the trapper, of the cowboy, of the settler. And it took on, in, in sort of the mythologizing of our stories of the West, it took on the values of America itself in a way.

Dave Philipps [00:02:22] Because if you think about the wild horse, it's an immigrant, right? It was brought here by the Spanish. And the wild horse does not have any particular pedigree. It's not a thoroughbred. It's just a scrappy immigrant that managed to carve out a life on new land.

Dave Philipps [00:02:40] So in a way, it's exactly like the majority of people who came to settle the West and the United States as a whole. They are people that oftentimes didn't come with much, or from much, and made who they were through their actions.

Dave Philipps [00:02:55] And so the horse really embodied sort of that idea that America is a place of grit and action, of liberty to carve out your own place on the land.

Dave Philipps [00:03:09] And that really became, that idea, became enshrined. That idea of like true American values of liberty and good morals and hard work became enshrined in the dime novels and early Westerns that happened in the 20th century.

Dave Philipps [00:03:25] And in those stories, almost inevitably, the good guy rides a mustang. His horse is a trusted companion that he somehow tamed and brought in from the wild. And it wasn't that the horse was overcome and subjugated. It's that the horse somehow, a wild horse, this, this free animal on the plains, somehow realized that the good guy could be trusted and so submitted to a kind of partnership.

Dave Philipps [00:03:55] I'll give you one example. I think that the Lone Ranger's horse Silver, in one of the tellings, at least, was a wild horse who couldn't be tamed or caught. But then he was caught up in barbed wire, and it was only when the Lone Ranger untangled him and saved him that they became partners.

Dave Philipps [00:04:11] And so there was that idea that, like citizenship in the United States, means trust. It means good deeds, it means hard work.

Dave Philipps [00:04:19] And that was all tied up in the idea of of the wild horse. The wild horse was the good guy, and he was the partner of the good guy. And they would work together to make a just society.

Dave Philipps [00:04:30] And that's, that's kind of the background that everyone in the United States understood, because it was in dime novels and Broadway plays and Hollywood movies over and over and over.

Dave Philipps [00:04:44] It was that background that created laws that protected the wild horse. And the wild horse is one of only two animals that has specific laws protecting it passed by Congress. It's just the wild horse and the bald eagle. And I would argue that those have those two laws because they are the symbols of our country.