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Book Review- Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston

For decades, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in the U.S. has waged war against the Mustangs, claiming environmental reasons i.e. competition for food and water, despite evidence of the contrary.  The propaganda led to sanctioned abuses and outright slaughter of hundreds of thousands of wild horses which fed the pet food and rendering industries.

In the 1950s, along comes Velma Johnston, a young woman stricken with polio, inspired by her father and her love of horses.  Named Wild Horse Annie for her determination to see justice and protection for Mustangs, Velma follows a truck seeping blood between the slats onto the road and discovered when the truck had stopped, and she peered in:

“… a horrifying tableau of mutilated horses, some barely alive. Her eyes caught sight of a colt, or what was left of him, lying trampled, his bones crushed and coat blood-soaked. A number of horses had bloody stumps instead of legs. Others had sections of their hooves torn off and hides shredded by buckshot. A stallion stood with his head bowed, blood seeping from empty eye sockets. He had been blinded to subdue him. It was only the tight quarters that kept many of the horses upright. ” 

When asked where the horses had come from, the driver told Velma they had been run by plane out of the hills.    It was this event that inspired Velma on to help establish the landmark Wild and Free roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

Authors David Cruise and Alison Griffiths do a superb job delineating the history of the Mustang and the political and economic interests behind the BLM and ranching that usurp scientific facts.   Cruise and Griffiths provide compelling accounts of Velmas interactions with ranchers who were Mustang supporters and then there were those determined to stop her but inadvertently helped Velma make a strong case for wild horse protection.

A must read for horse lovers, wild horse advocates and anyone who believes that even one person can make a difference.

Written by maeleesun

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