Girls Horse Club Blog

Our Hero: Wild Horse Annie

Published by • Mar 24th, 2010 • Category: March for Wild Horses, Take a Stand

Wild Horse Annie Plaque While sifting through the many beautiful (and sad) images in the BLM library looking for photos to accompany your work, I came across this black and white photo of a plaque in Colorado dedicating the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range to Wild Horse Annie (aka Velma Bronn Johnston).

Most of us are very familiar with Wild Horse Annie, the animal rights activist whose work resulted in a Nevada law to ban air and land vehicles from hunting and capturing wild horses on state land (Public Law 86-234, aka the Wild Horse Annie Act) and ultimately passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which was later amended by Public Law 94-579, theĀ  Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the Public Rangelands Improvement Act. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 allowed for the BLM to “use or contract for the use of helicopters or, for the purpose of transporting capĀ­tured animals, motor vehicles,” thus overriding the Wild Horse Annie Act.

Although some of Wild Horse Annie’s efforts have been erased, she proved that one person can change the world for the better at a time when women were expected to stay home and “be seen and not heard.” Her legacy continues to inspire all wild horse and burro advocates.

If you’re eager to learn more about Wild Horse Annie, be sure to check out the new book Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths. Below is a video trailer and more info about the book…


Publisher’s Description: In 1950, Velma Johnston was a secretary at an insurance company in Reno, Nevada. Twenty years later, she had become a national hero, responsible for spurring Congress into passing legislation that protected wild horses, a feat that cemented her renown as “Wild Horse Annie.” This stirring biography is the first to tell the story of Johnston’s life and her extraordinary dedication to the mustangs that represent the spirit of the West.

Veteran writers David Cruise and Alison Griffiths paint a vivid portrait of this intrepid woman, who survived a cruelly disfiguring bout with polio as a child and channeled her energy and intellect into her career and marriage — until she encountered a truck of injured, half-dead horses on her way to work in 1950. Those horses, destined for a pet food rendering plant, launched Johnston into a decades-long campaign against ranchers and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to stop the roundup and slaughter of mustangs. At a time when animal rights was barely a cause and women were still expected to stay at home, Johnston embarked on dangerous vigilante missions to free captured horses and document roundups, and began a highly organized one-woman campaign to raise public awareness of their plight, all while continuing to work and maintain a household.

Johnston’s courage, determination, and innovative tactics — she initiated a children’s letter-writing campaign that flooded Congress with more mail than it had received on any issue except the Vietnam War — pitted her against ranchers and powerful politicians, but eventually won her support and admiration around the world, including the friendship of celebrated children’s author Marguerite Henry, who fictionalized her story in a children’s novel.

In this absorbing and carefully researched biography, Cruise and Griffiths depict the ups and downs of a remarkable woman’s life and mission, reveal her lasting legacy, and capture the romance and magic of the wild horses that inspired her.

9 Nickers »

  1. LeadMare,
    You are amazing! I am doing a history fair project on Wild Horse Annie. I came to GHC looking for some information on the roundups that she was fighting against. Then I saw today’s post! Thanks, this really helps!

  2. That’s awesome! Wild Horse Annie is really my hero! She was so strong even when everyone was against her. I have the book, and I read it almost religiously, lol! Thanks for posting this, LeadMare!

  3. amazing…I am at awe right now. I have read many a tale of Wild Horse Anne and this clip is just another grand addition about her. Wouldnt it have been wonderful to talk with this wonderful lady who endured so much physically herself and then also for the mustangs that she cared so deeply about.

    The Mustangs will always live on…


  4. Pony Princess, I love it when serendipity happens (plus I love the word serendipity). Enjoy doing the research for your project — you couldn’t pick a better subject than Wild Horse Annie!

  5. It was terrible what they did to the mustangs then!!! The video was amazingly beautiful, but my mom said I was torturing myself watching what they did to the horses!

  6. What awful things they used to do to the wild horses back then!! It shocks me to the core. What a great person Wild Horse Annie must have been to keep on fighting for the mustangs even though she was knocked down (so to speak) so many times by all those cattle ranchers and everything.

  7. It did break my heart to see the mustangs being beaten to be slaughtered. Though Velma is really inspireing.. It’s good to see that one fact has been proven: One person can change the world.

  8. Wild Horse Annie is such an inspiration, her story is so empowering and it really makes you go “Wow, she’s so determined, so heroic, so deserving to be idolised”. She gives everyone so much hope and courage. This’ll be one book I HAVE to read.

  9. Thank you for the wonderful comments about our book and Wild Horse Annie. She was truly an inspiration to us since we have raised a daughter with a disability and we know what obstacles life throws at those who are not like everyone else.

    Folks might want to check out our blog, Also if you order the book through the blog link or through Velma’s original organization, then a portion of the proceeds (as much as we can!) will be donated to efforts to strengthen legislation and keep the wild herds intact.

    Feel free to send us questions through the blog and we’ll answer them all. Alison Griffiths and David Cruise