Meet the woman who inspired a movement: Wild Horse Annie

We are forever grateful for the historic contributions and lifetime of advocacy of Velma B. Johnston. But many of you probably know her better as “Wild Horse Annie.”


During the 1950's in Nevada, Wild Horse Annie witnessed firsthand the ruthless and indiscriminate manner in which wild horses were being rounded up from public lands. America’s wild horse population was in rapid decline with ranchers, hunters, and “mustangers” capturing them for commercial slaughter.

From that moment onward, Annie began organizing a grassroots campaign to stop the mistreatment, abuse, and eradication of wild horses, driving national attention to this issue. Her efforts were successful and resulted in the passage of the Wild Horse Annie Act of 1959.

The Wild Horse Annie Act, which prohibited the use of motorized vehicles to hunt wild horses and burros on all public lands, did not include her recommendations for federal protection and management of the wild horse population (meaning that the vast majority of wild horses in the West were still vulnerable and lacked basic protections).

So Annie and the tens of thousands of Americans she inspired continued to push for legislation that would establish those protections. She mobilized so many citizens, especially school children, that wild horse protection was the second most popular issue that constituents wrote to Congress about in 1971.


As a result, Congress unanimously passed the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the most significant and influential piece of legislation affecting wild horses in the U.S..

On International Women’s Day, we wanted to express our deep gratitude to Wild Horse Annie and share with you the hard working and dedicated women who lead and work behind the scenes with the American Wild Horse Campaign.


And most importantly, we want to acknowledge all the women who make our work possible -- the volunteers who brave all kinds of weather to dart and document horses in our fertility control program, the donors who fuel our efforts and the supporters who use their voices to speak up for wild horses and burros in their communities, states and on Capitol Hill. You are the backbone of our movement and the key to our success!

We wouldn’t be where we are without Annie and we couldn’t do what we do without the tireless contributions of the women who follow in her footsteps and spend each and every day working to keep America’s wild horses and burros free!

Through each and every one of us, the legacy of Wild Horse Annie lives on.