- Created on Thursday, 30 August 2012 20:49
- Written by IVN
Reno, Nevada - In 1950, Velma Johnston, a shy and soft-spoken Nevada ranch wife, came upon a horse trailer leaking blood. Inside, she discovered three terrified and badly injured wild horses on their way to a slaughter house. This discovery launched her on a crusade that eventually reached the halls of Congress.
One woman changed forever the way westerners regard and treat the wild mustangs and burros that roam their public lands.
Free-ranging horses have long been the subject of bitter controversy in the West. To some, they are beautiful symbols of the West's wild, romantic heritage. To others, they are rapacious grazers who compete with both livestock and wildlife for scant food and water. They could be a source of sturdy horses to be trained or sold; though also, for many years, thousands were rounded up and slaughtered for pet food. This practice provided an income for the "mustangers" who trapped and sold them, but it also could result in horrendous cruelty and abuse.
Velma Johnston, who became known as "Wild Horse Annie," undertook to stop the removal of wild horses and burros from US public lands and to protect them from the worst aspects of mustanging. Her campaign attracted nationwide attention as it led her from her rural Nevada county to state offices and finally to Washington, DC, where it resulted in the passage of the Wild Horse Annie Act of 1959 and later the Wild Horse and Free Horse and Burro Act of 1971. Together these laws protected thousands of mustangs and burros from brutal extermination.
Wild Horse Annie illustrates the enduring complexity of the wild horse debate in the West, a debate in which sentiment, greed, and environmental concerns continue to collide. Above all, it is the engaging story of a determined individual who, overcoming her shyness and physical limitations, worked within the system to bring about change. Annie often said her greatest accomplishment was not saving the mustang, but encouraging young people to be active in any cause they found meaningful.
Author Alan J. Kania worked closely with Johnston and her campaign for seven years, and he provides unique insight into Wild Horse Annie's life and her unrelenting efforts to save the West's wild horse herds.
"Here is the real deal-a tale accurately and lovingly told by Alan Kania, who as a young man worked for Annie. Alan mirrored Annie's passion to save the American mustang. Together they created a path to protecting these iconic symbols of American freedom." ~ Ginger Kathrens, founder and director of the Cloud Foundation and creator of PBS's Nature series Cloud, the Wild Stallion.