Jan Drake’s “Wild Horses of the West” provides a glimpse into the lives of equine that live on public lands and her book provides wonderful artwork and an appropriate level of commentary.

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Wild Horses of the West

By Jan Drake

224 pages, $50

Publisher: Gibbs Smith

www.Gibbs-Smith.com, 801-544-9800

Today it is not always easy to find books that can provide a big enough canvas to display photographs and allow subjects to shine. “Wild Horses of the West” fortunately does that and has over 200 pictures from public lands in the Mountain West. Drake sets up the book by letting the reader know that she has a healthy love for horses and how they fit into the Western lore. Wild horses are not the ones we think of as the ranch or rodeo stock. Yet by Drake’s ability to capture the life and times of wild horses it becomes plain to see how these stock fare against what many of us are more familiar with.

Stories highlight specific horses known in these areas as The Old Man, One-Ear and the Cremello Brothers, whom Drake has been following with her camera for years. More than 200 color photographs are divided into sections including Family Bands, Mares & Foals, Fighting Mustangs, Stallions & Bachelors, and Cedar Mountain Mustangs.

Drake did a great job of keeping track of horses and how they change, just like their domesticated cousins. Some of those were noteworthy whether by age or unusual marks. One of her poignant remarks was about an older horse she could tell had lived a long life as a “leader of the pack” and yet age could not be denied. “I like to think he found one of his favorite quiet places and passed peacefully there.”

Multiple pages dot the story to show different lives of foals and mares. Drake noted that the survival of horses starts with those foals and their early part of the life is not easy. She writes that the stallion also has to accept the foal or the young foal won’t make it.

Drake captures touching photos about how the mares, foals and stallions interact. She rightfully notes a photographer cannot go wrong taking photos of how foals play with their mothers and how those mothers keep an eye on them.

There are several other amazing photos. Drake surprised even herself when she shared a photo of two mule deer on a ridge line as they appear to be looking down on horses and Drake.

Photos of horses playing in mud and water always generate a smile in the reader. Drake also provides photos of fighting stallions and mustangs that show the raw power and the titan level of fighting of two heavyweight boxing champions with plenty of leg kicks, too. The dominance of one stallion over another changes the dynamic of bands of animals and their future.

A book on horses would be incomplete without full pages of different gatherings and, of course, Drake does not disappoint. “Wild Horses of the West” should please readers looking for a book that shows a rare glimpse of the West.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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