Wild Horse Education

Happy Birthday

Fish Creek, better days

We want to take a moment to set aside chaos and workload and simply say “Happy Birthday” to our founder Laura Leigh.

In our professional capacity each person carries a resume and a bio. But that paper trail is only a glimpse into the work behind the words and the person that carries out that work.

The definition of advocacy: Advocacy is defined as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others.

As an advocate Laura’s bio is impressive. Her resume includes over a decade of on the range data collection and documentation. Often, that documentation has been taken into the courts. The amazing court rulings that were deemed “impossible” by many have been the driving force for policy change. She is the only person in history to take BLM to court over the inhumane treatment of wild horses at roundups. But her work is not limited to roundups; First Amendment cases brought access to roundups, cases against inequity on range have stopped legally unjustified removals before they could begin.

Laura Leigh via helicopter with news media over the Owyhee Complex in 2010.

But she did not only advocate for the wild horses, she advocated for your rights. Many people do not know Leigh was offered exclusive access to trap, but she had to leave everyone else behind. Instead she refused and spent the next 6 years fighting for all of us to gain daily access to roundups. Yes, she did not take an exclusive invitation (as some others have), she fought for all. An advocate for wild horses and advocates alike.

Leigh represents the spirit and mind of a devoted advocate. Both logical and emotional, creative and analytical, she is often labelled a walking/talking contradiction by those that do not know her well. Those that know her understand her deep love for our wild horses, wild burros, wild places and her deep drive for justice. When you get to know her, the contradictions fade as advocacy itself is a mix of contradictions melding logic and emotion… and she simply “fits the bill.”

2010 (outside the courthouse after a landmark ruling and a concussion), 2020 (out at the Pancake complex documenting industrial expansion that would lead to a large roundup)

Although her work has led to court rulings and legal precedent that actually changed the way advocates can take a case into court (it used to be that after a roundup ended, a case was seen as “moot” by the courts and the case dropped; today cases against removal plans can extend beyond a removal), she has been seen in news media around the world and even recognized by the Historic Society’s Portrait Society, that is not all she carries into her work.

When Laura says “I have seen tens of thousands of wild horses removed from the range with my own eyes,” she means in person. When she says “I have watched rampant expansion of industry into wild horse territory without any care being given to how much is taken from our wild ones,” she means with her own eyes. When she says “All I see are broken promises,” she means with her own eyes. She has documented foals that literally had their feet run off (hoof slough), a mare aborting during a helicopter chase, horses being run through (and/or flipped over) barbed wire, foals hot-shot repeatedly and more. She has documented ranges where wild horses and sage grouse, mule deer, elk and mountain lions live in balance torn apart by livestock and mining and disappear forever.

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Those of us that know her are very aware that the loss she speaks of drives her to often “duct tape and bubble gum” the resources together to get a job done. WHE continues to attempt to turn the tide to create change that gives back to our wild ones.

The drive of the emotional and logical conflict carried in the heart of any true advocate. The emotion can create a drive, logic is needed to evaluate and to carry out a task; the balance beam of advocacy.

We at WHE thank you for founding this organization and bringing us all deeper into the journey of advocacy.

Laura loves to use the word “onward” after an event or incident to indicate that there is no time to sit still and we must continue to move.

Happy Birthday Laura.


(written by a WHE volunteer)

Most of the articles you read on this website are penned by Leigh. She also works on our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) team reports, our NEPA team (comments and appeals), our roundup team and more.

Thank you for the work and the memories.

Help keep us in the fight.

Through February 20th all contributions will be matched up to $10K in honor of Valentine’s Day and our founders birthday. Dollar-for-dollar your contribution will be doubled.

Categories: Wild Horse Education