Brieanah Schwartz: A herd of horses on public lands changed my life

Brieanah Schwartz, American Wild Horse Campaign

In celebration of #NationalPublicLandsDay, we're sharing our staffers' own most memorable wild horse experiences on public land. These are their personal accounts. We hope they’ll inspire you to get out there, explore public lands, and learn more about free-roaming horses and burros.

The first day that I stepped foot on Cumberland Island National Seashore (an island comprised of U.S. Park Service and private land), I was enthralled by what was before me. The island itself seemed barely affected by the progression of time. Little did I know that waiting at the end of the tree-lined trail, was a herd of horses that would capture my heart. That visit was surreal, and I felt as if the horses had put on a programmed show for my mom and I. We ended up observing one herd, from a respectful distance, for the entire day and I knew this would not be my last trip to visit and check on them. By the end of that visit, in 2010, I was inspired to help protect the freedom of our wild horses. 

At the time of my first visit, I did not know how reluctant many people had been to allowing the horses to be managed by the island’s environment alone - let alone continue to live on the island. Similar to their counterparts out west, the horses on the island find themselves the topic of conversation and debate; are they feral or are they wild? 

Unintentionally, the horses had brought me into their world, which became a comfortable and secure place for me; especially in the devastating wake of my mother’s passing. Cumberland Island, and the horses who still live there will forever feel like a second home to me - somewhere I can go to reminisce and feel whole again. I feel the least I can do to thank the horses for what they have done for me, is work for the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), an organization that is working to preserve wildness and secure wild horses and burros in the wild for generations to come. I want future generations to have the chance to experience wildness like I did, whether on the islands of the east coast or the rangelands of the west. At the end of the day, it is undeniable that our wild horses and burros are special and deserving of protection.

Brieanah Schwartz, Government Relations and Policy Counsel

Schwartz received her J.D. from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated with a concentration in Environmental Law. She is now barred in the District of Columbia. Brieanah is responsible for advancing AWHC’s position before Congress and this administration, for producing comments that AWHC submits, and for assisting the litigation teams on all of AWHC’s active cases.

A long-time lover of wild horses, she self-published a book with her photography and research on the Cumberland Island wild horses while she attended Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. area with her horse, Eire, dogs, Lady, Drover, and Dandy, and kitten, Pippy.