The deaths of thousands of cattle in last week's blizzard hit hard at the economic base of West River livestock producers.
But the loss of horses hit at the ranch-country heart.
"They're the love of our lives," Bud Ireland said, a Box Elder area rancher who lost six young horses in the storm.
Cattle losses that could reach into the tens of thousands have received the most attention. But ranchers across western South Dakota lost horses as well. Many horses. The storm that started with hard rain and blew up into snow and strong winds sent livestock of all kinds scattering across the plains.
"When a blizzard comes, they get disoriented. They just follow the wind," said Bud Ireland's daughter, Kami, a Rapid City veterinarian. "They keep walking, and in a lot of cases with cattle, they get hung up on fences or in draws. And once they go down, they kind of give up."
Like other ranchers, Bud Ireland has had to follow the trail of fallen livestock across his ranch, a brutal chore that he never imagined would come.
"I lost most of my cow herd. Just ride the direction the path took them, and all you find is dead bodies without any rainbow at the end. It's not fun. It's not anything any man should have to go through."
Even worse than the carcasses of cattle far out in the snow is the sight of the Ireland horses emerging from drifts near the road they travel every day.
"They're pretty much buried in a 20-foot snow bank, you know, so we have to wait to get them out of there, and can't get their bodies out just yet. So I'm unfortunately driving by them every day. And it's pretty devastating."
But Ireland has duties to living animals as a Rapid City veterinarian. So she must make the sad drive to town, while lamenting the much-beloved horses that she lost.