Laura Leigh, Founder and President of Wild Horse Education
Wild Horse Education was created by Leigh out of necessity. Leigh has a background in journalism and saw a real void in the information available to the public and the subsequent inability to address problems proactively. Leigh founded WHE to take on that challenge and address long standing issues head-on, like the fight against abuse. Through field work, research and litigation, this org has gained ground.
For those of you that do not know Laura, her body of work is impressive. Once called a “one woman wrecking crew” against the actions of the BLM by a writer for the LVRJ and LA Times, her resume includes over a decade of on the range data collection and documentation that has been taken into court. 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.
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.
A few quotes from authors:
“She has a detailed understanding of the law and a passionate desire to see wild horses treated humanely, and, because of this, she has dedicated her life to making sure the spirit of the Wild Horse Annie Law is carried out.” ~ Dave Philipps, Pulitzer prize winning author, writing about Laura Leigh in his book Wild Horse Country (2017).
“It’s her fourth pickup truck in seven years — the cost of a controversial 100,000-mile annual journey across six western states and a nomadic lifestyle that often means sleeping inside her truck cab or in cheap motels, guzzling reheated gas-station coffee and downing peanut-butter sandwiches behind the wheel. She’s always red-eyed, always on the road.” ~ John Glionna, career journalist for the LA Times, Scientific America, The Guardian, writing about Leigh for the Reno Gazette Journal (2016).
“Before these rulings the public and press were blatantly blocked from seeing and knowing what was happening to America’s wild horses and burros. From planning, to the range information, through the roundups and all the way to the animals end destinations much has been hidden. Laura Leigh’s Wild Horse Education opened the doors…” ~ Joe Camp, author of the Benji books, of the movie series fame, in Born Wild – The Soul of a Horse.
“Her quick mind probably had something to do with her success in court. Since founding Wild Horse Education in 2011, she had filed more than a dozen successful lawsuits against the Department of the Interior and the state of Nevada over wild horse policies, including a landmark First Amendment case that forced the federal government to open wild horse round-ups to press access. A federal judge in 2013 declared her “the most knowledgeable journalist on wild horses in the world.” In a single year, she logged 112,000 miles on her truck crisscrossing western states to document round-ups. The Nevada Historical Society was so impressed they asked to paint her portrait, which was hung in 2016 in the society’s museum in Reno.” ~ Christopher Ketcham, journalist for Rolling Stone, Penthouse, Harper’s, writing for the Daily Beast (2017) and later in his book This Land, How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West.
Below is a short film featured in the New Yorker that later screened at Mountain film. Leigh began her journey living in her truck. Today she helms the modest org she built, Wild Horse Education.
In 2016 the Portrait Society painted her portrait for the first time and it hung at the Historic Society in Reno. Her portrait was painted a second time; this time it hung underneath the Judge in whose courtroom a landmark victory against abuse was adjudicated. She had just come back from a roundup in the same area: it was a “full circle” moment.
Can you help us stay in the fight?