This giving story comes from our #MyGivingStory contest. You can share your story and your chosen nonprofit organization could win a $10,000 grant, or another prize. Visit the contest gallery for inspiration and to vote for your favorites. This story comes from Cathy, who is inspired by the work of Wild Horse Education:
One of the most moving sights in the wild came to me in the dark of night on a camping trip many years ago. Thundering hoofs in the darkness revealed a band of truly wild horses. In the bright moonlight, they looked like passing ghosts except for the majestic stallion. He whirled abruptly, stomped and snorted, staring at us until his band was safely past our camp. His presence was majestic and wild, and very protective of his family. I could see a young foal, carefully shielded from us by the mares. He was so small, so vulnerable to everything.
The band was located in a huge open area of public lands, supposed to be protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burro Act of 1971. I began my road to discovery thinking I would find a romantic story of American’s love of wild ones instrumental in the construction and development of our country. Instead, I found a harsh reality of continual betrayals by the very government tasked to keep them safe. I heard stories of tiny foals being rounded up, running for miles in horrible conditions, many dying, then the close knit family bands are destroyed forever as they are removed from their homes. I vowed to find a way to do more to save and protect them. If America’s ‘protected’ wild horses are in danger that means all of our wild lands are in danger too.
After years of digging, of following and joining groups saying they were helping the wild ones then being sadly disappointed, I noticed a tiny organization who actually did the work many others were taking credit for. My search led me to Laura Leigh, the founder of Wild Horse Education.
Following so much disappointment, yet really wanting to make a difference for our wild ones, I was cautious of joining up with yet another supposed advocacy group. Instead, I found this tiny organization that really was making a real difference. With a tiny budget, no grants, no giant sponsors, simply using the open range and a truck as an office, Wild Horse Education actually did things that made a difference for our wild ones. I watched for awhile then drove to Nevada to find Laura Leigh.
I met a thoughtful, tiny, red-haired firebrand who drank coffee and quoted legal briefs and law off the top of her head while making arrangements to get to a roundup. She is fiercely smart, determined and well equipped to take on the oversized, mismanaged government groups who are responsible for mismanaging our public lands and our wild horses. She had my attention. We headed for a roundup on the open range. I knew I’d finally found a way for me to make a difference. This was an organization dedicated to preserving wild horses on their home on the range, changing and perfecting laws to provide protections and humane care, documenting and dealing strictly in legally sound facts, the only means to fight in court for protections. The most important piece was the commitment to educating the public about our wild horses and the land they stand on, and what danger it is in. I committed myself to Wild Horse Education.
Since that first day, I’ve volunteered my time, skills and money to do the endless field work out on the range, exploring two-track roads and range conditions in the middle of nowhere. I photograph and document herd details and conditions, attend roundups and adoption events, and work with government groups to assist with documentation and data entry, roundups and adoption events. I do computer work for the group and have since proudly joined the group as a board member. It has been an honor.
The work is done in all weather conditions, no matter how dangerous, whether in the extreme heat of summer or the icy cold and snow of winter. Road conditions can be brutal even before you go off road. There are no breaks for holidays, no restaurants or coffee shops for hundreds of miles. Gas stations are few and far between. Cell service and internet access is sketchy at best and may only be found in the parking area of a closed gas station. At times, the work is flat out dangerous.
Through it all, this tiny organization has singlehandedly made incredible changes possible for our wild horses. Through groundwork and legal means, protections have been put in place and changes have been made. But there are many more changes needed. Government agencies must be held accountable and manage our public lands and wild animals much better – but not at the cost of tens of thousands of our wild horses’ lives. And I’m in for the fight.
This work will make you mad, break your heart, make you fight and give you amazing memories. This work is not easy, but the fight is worth it. Our wild horses, our wildlife and our public lands are worth it. They need your help.