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Wild about wild horses

by Susie Vasquez

Olivia Fiamengo has been defending Storey County’s wild horses for so long it would be difficult to separate the woman from her passion.

She is director of the Wild Horse Museum in an old rail car on Virginia City’s C Street. She operates it on behalf of Lacy J. Dalton’s Let ’em Run Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to providing sanctuary for the horses.

Fiamengo quit her job as customer service manager for a computer repair company about 10 years ago to devote herself to the cause.

She said most of the horses are descendants of pioneer stock brought in during the Comstock Lode era, which started around 1859.

“My focus is to preserve and protect Comstock wild horses and the heritage they represent,” she said. “This store is our educational launching pad to help visitors and residents learn about the history of these horses, and why they’re so important.”

Fiamengo fought for the horses as president and equine liaison adviser for the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association. But she started as a concerned citizen.

“After my husband and I built our house in the Virginia Highlands, I found the horses in my yard every day,” she said.

“The sick and injured animals were at my front door, and the state had no manpower or money to care for them. No one attempted to help them and return them to the wild. I was a board member on the VRWPA at the time, so I volunteered to take them on.”

The daughter of a career U.S. Marine, Fiamengo said she got on a horse about the same time she started walking.

Her mother was an avid horsewoman, preferring English riding over Western.

“We lived all over the country, from Hawaii to the East Coast, but I was born in Vista, Calif.,” she said. “Whenever we got to a new base, I’d head for the stable. I did a lot of shoveling for rides. They all knew me by my first name.”

Vista, just east of Oceanside in Southern California was Fiamengo’s home when her father, a lieutenant colonel, was overseas, and ultimately she graduated from high school there.

She attended the University of California at Santa Barbara for one year, majoring in art and Spanish, before she married Matt, an insurance broker. They’ve been together 35 years and have two children.

Jennifer, 21, is married and lives in Texas. Alita, 17, a senior at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, just earned a volleyball scholarship to Montana Tech.

Contact Susie Vasquez at svasquez@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.