Activist chronicles furious equine roundups to ensure opposite indignity – Las Vegas Review

March 12, 2016 - fall Denim


Horse romantic Laura Leigh drives a monster-sized truck, an commanding Ford F-250 4-by-4 with a framework jacked adult so high she mostly contingency decrease down from a driver’s seat, a vehicle’s smashed white finish dirty and mud-caked from all of her bumpy, teeth-loosening, off-road escapades.

It’s her fourth pickup lorry in 7 years — a cost of a argumentative 100,000-mile annual tour opposite 6 western states and a winding lifestyle that mostly means sleeping inside her lorry cab or in inexpensive motels, guzzling reheated gas-station coffee and downing peanut-butter sandwiches behind a wheel. She’s always red-eyed, always on a road.

Leigh marks a people who lane and corral America’s furious mustangs.

She’s a tough-talking New Jersey internal with prolonged red hair, cowboy boots and a scruffy denim Carhartt jacket, a lady who slides into a Sopranos-like accent when she talks about her blue-collar childhood roving and caring for horses, revelation tales of a city lady who went to propagandize smelling like equine manure, who fast fell in adore with a animals’ unassailable spirit.

In 2009, Leigh fled an violent matrimony in Washington state and changed to Nevada to turn a high-desert loner. Four seasons a year, she papers a actions of regressive tight-lipped ranchers whose free-roaming cattle contest with mustangs for changed grass. And she hurdles sovereign officials from a Bureau of Land Management, a supervision stewards of a open lands whose process is mostly to mislay a horses from a range.

Leigh chronicles a story of a mustangs, these black of a American West, examination earnestly as a wild-eyed, bucking and kicking animals are herded by helicopter into corrals and installed onto tractor-trailers. Some have been adopted. Many have been sole later, usually to finish adult in unfamiliar slaughterhouses.

Her collection embody a high-resolution cameras she uses to constraint images of horses that are harmed and killed during a visit BLM roundups; her often-graphic photos and videos are posted on her website,, and used as justification in justice cases she files on interest of a mustangs. Her lawsuits have helped to successfully open horse-gatherings and holding yards to open inspection and emanate safer conditions for a animals.

Rolling down a highway and off-roading among a sagebrush, her 9mm handgun tucked divided for protection, blustering Metallica and a Boss on her lorry stereo, she’s turn a smart-alecky Bruce Springsteen of a Nevada outback.

Enemies abound

She has finished enemies, regulating her camera to request ranchers who graze their cattle out of season. She’s been a theme of unflattering coverage in cowboy-centric publications such as Nevada Rancher and Range magazine, that forked out that her final name rhymes with “pee,” a lady “Hollywood would have expel as a schoolmarm.”

Leigh, a repository wrote in a many new issue, “is a self-appointed wild-horse consultant and, depending on a day, is possibly a vicious censor or a proffer of and for a BLM. Her issue-driven-propaganda-producing fundraising website spins a ongoing predicament of furious horses from an anti-ranching, anti-livestock indicate of view.”

Leigh also has perceived meaningful write calls: “I know we have a daughter,” a masculine voice threatened, “and we know where she is.”

But Leigh carries on. With her camera and video recorder, she jokes, she’s like a hunter but a season.

In 2010, Doug Furtado, BLM’s Battle Mountain District manager, invited Leigh to a assembly during a Reno hotel after conference about this one-woman wrecking crew.

“There wasn’t a lot of trust there during first,” he said. “She was dissapoint with how a BLM was handling furious horses.”

He now views Leigh as a essential and challenging voice on a mustang issue. Furtado keeps a white douse house in his bureau to lane a BLM roundups Leigh’s advocacy has helped quash. He talks of her with a curt deference.

“Her favorite thing is carrying a conversation,” Furtado said. “And she’s peaceful to do that with anyone peaceful to open that door. You can’t contend that about all equine advocates.”

When it comes to a mustangs, though, Leigh sticks to her guns: She insists furious horses are scapegoats for operation repairs finished by domestic cattle and sheep, and disputes BLM claims that horses are failing of starvation and need to be private for private adoption.

Leigh smoke during supervision officials she says trust anything pronounced by someone in a cowboy hat. She dislikes condescending group who trust a high dried is no place for a singular woman.

“Any review that starts with ‘Laura, we need to know …’ Well, we ain’t havin’ that conversation,” she said. “I only tell ‘em, ‘We’ll see ya in court.’”

The final years have tested her willpower and stamina. Since 2012, when Leigh was diagnosed with breast cancer, she has undergone 8 surgeries and was exceedingly harmed as a newcomer in a head-on automobile collision. Through it all, she has abandoned a recommendation of friends and doctors, staying in bed only prolonged adequate to pattern a appetite to lapse to a range.

The conflict for a furious horses sustains her, giving pointy concentration to a life of a once-abused lady peaceful to quarrel for what she loves, she said.

“Horses have a largest eyes of any land mammal,” Leigh said. “They’re windows to a soul. In a eyes of those free-running mustangs, we can see ourselves.”

Tenacious Leigh

In 2010, Leigh’s advocacy began in aspiring when she documented a roundup in that an 8-month-old colt was pushed so tough by preying-mantislike helicopters over solidified volcanic stone that a animal’s hooves literally began to tumble off, she said.

In a indirect years, she would take cinema and video of harmed and failing horses. She filed countless lawsuits, including one seeking entrance to BLM roundups sealed off to a public. That fit was eventually inspected by a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

At first, she was timid, saying her name listed opposite a U.S. supervision in authorised papers. But she pulpy on. She filed freedom-of-information requests and lawsuit that halted violent strategy on a range. Horse gatherers engaged by a BLM can no longer accumulate mustangs if a continue is too prohibited or cold. They can’t use whips or electrical hotshots or impel a journey animals with helicopters.

“The contractors have indicted me of perplexing to emanate a play storm,” Leigh said. “The images we take aren’t about a drama; they’re about a continued gratification of furious horses.”

On down a road

Leigh’s pickup eases down a rutted mud highway in a center of Antelope Valley north of Ely. She’s on a surveillance for mustangs, creation certain they aren’t emaciated or blocked from H2O sources by ranchers. In a behind lies a pinch of hay. The cab resembles a cluttered ancient tomb before an excavation, or a domain of a equine romantic always on a road.

She points to a Canon camera with a long-range lens: “That one won all those justice cases,” she said, motioning to another on a dashboard. “This one shoots 11 frames per second.”

She’s on a smell of a flock of mustangs she’s speckled on a horizon. She hops down from a truck, picking her approach by a dumpy brush. She bends to collect adult a fistful of furious equine manure, violation open one pod to uncover a animals’ diet.

“I adore equine poop,” she said, “but we wouldn’t hold cow dung.”

That’s Leigh. In her Jersey voice, she vows to keep “riding opposite a West, looking for a fight.”

“I’ve listened to people speak about how a horses are doing all a destruction, and afterwards we tell them, ‘Now, when can we slap a crap out of you?’”

She’s assimilated by Jeanne Nations, a internal skill owners who sits on a BLM advisory board. Nations is a gray-haired lady who gets Leigh’s mission. The dual mount nearby Leigh’s lorry articulate horses when Nations spots a rope of mustangs on a run, entrance their way.

The 8 horses trot opposite a landscape as yet it were still 1870, their hair in a wind, a tone of a sole colt relating Leigh’s red hair. She grabs a camera and hustles in for a improved angle, a other lady behind her.

Then Nations stops and only watches a equine romantic doing what she loves most.

“Whoa!” she yells. “Go get ‘em Laura!”

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