Candlelight vigil reflecting on plight of wild horses |

Candlelight vigil reflecting on plight of wild horses

Sandi Hoover

“Keep Their Light Shining,” an international candlelight vigil that will also be held in Carson City next week, will pay tribute to Velma Bronn Johnston, known as “Wild Horse Annie,” for the many years she spent bringing legal protections to America’s wild equines.

Locally, wild horse and burro advocates are invited to participate in the candlelight vigil in Carson City from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at Comma Coffee, 312 S. Carson St., across from the State Legislature.

Wild Horse Annie is credited with the unanimous congressional vote that passed The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, signed into law by Richard Nixon on Dec. 15,1971.

Animal welfare advocates will gather in cities across the U.S., Canada, Sweden and England to mark the 40th anniversary of Johnston’s law, which brought the wholesale slaughter of America’s wild horses and burros to a halt.

“While intent of the original act has been greatly diluted over the years, we feel it important to acknowledge this date,” said Washoe County event co-organizer Carrol Abel. “Remembering the work of Wild Horse Annie inspires us all to continue her efforts.”

“The 1971 protections Act which Wild Horse Annie worked tirelessly to get, was for the wild horses and burros. It was about them then, and it is about them now,” said Cat Kindsfather, Carson City organizer for the event.

“The Act of 1971 has been turned on its head. The intent of Congress at the time of the writing is not in effect as is it should be today. Amendments have tainted the pure protection intended for the wild horses and burros,” she said.

A speech by wild horse enthusiast and ecologist Craig C. Downer will be offered from 4-5 p.m. Downer is a fourth generation Nevadan and author of two books about wild horses and burros.

One of the books, four years in the writing and now being released, “The Wild Horse Conspiracy,” highlights the positive contributions by wild horses and burros to the North American ecosystem, including proof that they are native to this continent. It also exposes official corruption in the program, while outlining an intelligent solution to reforming this aspect of American Life, one so linked to its spirit and soul, Downer said.

Slide photos of horses in their natural environment throughout Nevada and the West also will be shown, followed by a question and comment period.

A candlelight vigil on the sidewalk in front of the Legislature will be from 5-7 p.m.

“This will honor the true magnificence of wild horses and burros living in freedom, and signal the urgent need to restore the heart of the law, to restore the now largely empty legal areas with wild horses/burros in the wild, on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands, with fair resources allowed for them by our public servants,” Downer said. Downer hopes to have a large group of participants for the event.

“Be present in testimony against their current outrageous treatment and demand much-needed reform to reinstate wild horses and burros in the wild where they have been largely and illegally replaced,” Downer said.

“It is important that we make an impressive showing so that the true intent of this noble act be restored, meaning larger, truly long-term, viable herds. Wild Horse Annie worked tirelessly to achieve this groundbreaking legal protection, and it must not be ignored. We must learn to share freedom with such noble and freedom-deserving animals as these,” he said.

Singing legend Lacy J. Dalton will join the candlelight vigil in Reno around Wild Horse Annie’s gravesite at Mountain View Cemetery, 435 Stoker Ave., from 4-6:30 p.m. There will be 148 candles representing the horses that died in the Calico roundup of 2010.

For more information, contact Downer at or 775-901-2094 or Carson City organizer Kindsfather at: om.sweethome or 530-314-1612.