top of page

MEET OUR SPEAKERS!

We are so honored to be welcoming a diverse and inspiring group of expert Speakers

IMG_6306.jpeg

Laura Leigh 

 Laura Leigh, Founder and President of Wild Horse Education,

identified a pressing need due to her journalism background.

Recognizing a lack of accessible information, she founded WHE to confront challenges head-on, focusing on combating abuse within the wild horse management system.

Through fieldwork, research, and litigation, Wild Horse Education has made significant strides in advocating for these animals.

With over 15 years of on-the-ground data collection, her record has been instrumental in court proceedings, securing unprecedented rulings and driving policy changes. Notably, WHE is the only org to directly address inhumane treatment during roundups in the courts

Beyond roundup advocacy, Leigh's work extends to First Amendment cases securing public access and preventing unjustified removals. Through her relentless advocacy and legal victories, Laura Leigh has become a leading voice in the fight for the humane treatment and preservation of America's wild  horses.

 

Wild Horse Education 

scott Beckstead.jpeg

Scott Beckstead

A lifelong student and admirer of American wild horses, Scott Beckstead is a leading voice for our wild herds. He grew up with horses on his family’s farm and spent much of his childhood and youth on horseback in the mountains of Idaho. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Utah State University and his JD from the University of Utah, Beckstead worked as a litigation attorney in private practice for 17 years on the central Oregon coast before going to work full-time in the animal protection sector. During his time on the coast he also served as the mayor of Waldport, Oregon from 2002 to 2007.

 He became known for his special expertise in the field of animal law, and has taught that subject at the University of Oregon and Willamette University law schools. In 2000, he co-authored Animal Law, the first casebook on the subject, and continues to teach animal law, wildlife law and policy, the Endangered Species Act, animal agriculture law, and cannabis law and policy as an adjunct professor at Willamette University.

 

 Because of his close familiarity with horses, livestock, and farm animals, Beckstead provides training to law enforcement agencies on how to handle and work with those animals, and how to investigate equine and livestock cruelty and neglect.

 

 Beckstead lives with his family in Sutherlin, Oregon.

Ginger and Sax.jpg

Ginger Kathrens

Ginger is the founder and Board President of The Cloud Foundation, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to the preservation of wild horses on our public lands with special attention given to isolated, historically significant, and genetically unique herds - like Cloud's. She is an informed, impassioned, and entertaining speaker on behalf of wild horses. She is an expert on Spanish wild horses and has served as a consultant for the television documentary, Horses of the Conquistadors. Ginger has an undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University. She graduated from Florida State University with a master’s in communications. She received a Distinguished Alumnus award in 2006, was the commencement speaker in 2007, and in 2010 received the BGSU Centennial Alumni Award, “100 of the Most Prominent Alumni.”

The Cloud Foundation

Whitehouse photo.jpeg

Tim Whitehouse

Executive Director

 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Tim Whitehouse has more than 30 years of experience working on a wide range of environmental issues with governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and community groups. His interest is in the intersection of science, policy, and the civil service. Tim started his career an attorney at the United States Environmental Protection Agency and is a former head of the Law and Policy Program at the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation in Montreal, Canada. His interest is in the intersection of science, policy, and the civil service and in protecting public lands, wild spaces and wilderness areas.

AshleyAvis_Headshot_B_Smile1.jpg

Ashely Avis

Ashley Avis is a feature filmmaker, best known for Disney's BLACK BEAUTY starring Kate Winslet and the upcoming CITY OF ANGELS for Warner Bros.  A passionate advocate for horses, Ashely serves as the Founder & President of 501c3 The Wild Beauty Foundation.

 

She recently wrote, directed, and produced the award winning documentary WILD BEAUTY: MUSTANG SPIRIT OF THE WEST.  In addition to being in over thirty film festivals worldwide, the film received a Congressional Commendation in 2023 and was nominated for a Critics Choice Award. 

 

Ashley Avis

Wild Beauty Foundation

Dave grassland.jpg

Dave Stricklan

Dave Stricklan is a Sagebrush Specialist for the Sagebrush Habitat Conservation Fund and Western Watersheds Project. He is the Executive Director of Rewilding Idaho and the Co-Board Chair of the Friends of Camas National Refuge. 

 

Prior to working in these positions he was a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Animal and Range Science Department at New Mexico State University. He also worked for fourteen years as Biology faculty member at Brigham Young University-Idaho. Before working at BYUI he was employed by the U.S. Forest Service for twelve years as a wildlife biologist/range conservationist. He is a former Board Member of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He also served as President of the Idaho Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Dave is the discoverer of two Mississippian/Pennsylvanian age fossil species: The insect Brodioptera stricklani, and the fish Bourbonnella jocelynae, which was named in memory of his daughter Jocelyn. 

PATCOP~1.jpeg

Pat Craig

 

"Pat Craig, Founder and Executive Director, started rescuing captive wildlife over four decades ago upon learning about the plight of surplus animals in zoos. At just 19, he became the youngest licensed Zoological Director in the US, establishing the first sanctuary dedicated to saving large carnivores and exotics. Today, his sanctuary is the world's oldest and largest nonprofit of its kind. Recognizing the need, Pat expanded his efforts to save wild horses, creating the largest sanctuary for them in the US. He's a nationally recognized expert in captive wildlife rescue, lecturing on the subject and working closely with government agencies. Pat's sanctuary spans thousands of acres across Colorado and Texas, rescuing a variety of animals. His expertise and dedication have earned him numerous awards, including recognition from the USDA, American Veterinary Medical Association, and Animal Planet."

The Wild Horse Refuge

1675204440391.jpeg

Manda Kalimian

 

 

Founder and president of Rewilding America Now, which for over a decade has worked to rewild America’s wild horses and land to promote environmental and climate sustainability. Through Rewilding America Now, Manda has not only raised awareness of issues surrounding America’s wild horses and environmental destruction but she’s also worked with lobbyists for years to create sustainable policy initiatives in DC for wild horses. Manda is the author of “Born To Rewild: Triumphs of a Now Fearless Woman". She helped secure a scientific grant to fund McMaster University’s Poinar lab on "Quaternary ecosystems using environmental DNA drawn from sediment cores (sedaDNA), with a primary goal of collecting additional evidence regarding last appearance times for horses in North America. Manda is also an active participant at The Native Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and a founding member of The Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. She spearheaded the effectuation of rewilding language for managing America’s wild horses in the FY2020 Interior Appropriations budget bill and presented at the Cambridge Conservation Forum in the UK in 2019.

Rewilding America Now

Ginger-and-Finn_12-22_edited.jpg

Ginger Fedak

Ginger Fedak has dedicated decades to teaching and advocating for both domestic and wild horses. Her writings have been featured in numerous publications including The Observatory, AlterNet, Countercurrents, CounterPunch, LA Progressive, and NationofChange.

From a young age, Ginger immersed herself in horsemanship, beginning her professional journey at 14 under the guidance of a natural horsemanship trainer. This passion led her to co-found Sun Pony Ranch, where she emphasized natural horsemanship and the importance of the horse/rider partnership.

In addition to her equestrian pursuits, Ginger pursued a career as a research scientist, working with prestigious medical universities and diagnostics companies. Her scientific background equipped her with a deep understanding of equine fertility control, further enhanced by her completion of the intensive 3-day PZP training from the Science and Conservation Center.

Ginger holds a B.S. in Range Animal Science and Range Management from Sul Ross State University, which significantly informed her work as a horse ranch owner and her advocacy efforts for wild horses and burros.

After retiring as the Wild Horse and Burro Senior Campaigner for In Defense of Animals in 2023, Ginger continues to share her expertise by teaching natural horsemanship classes on weekends.

cynthia.jpeg

Cynthia Smoot 

Cynthia Smoot is an Emmy award-winning television journalist of 40 + years, having covered a myriad of subjects from women's and children's issues to the environment.  During her 25 years as a main anchor at WTVT, FOX 13 in Tampa, Florida, Although Cynthia recently retired , she continues her advocacy for all animals, wild and domestic, on her own platform, "Cynthia Smoot News." She is an Ambassador for The Cheetah Conservation Fund. In fact, she just recently returned from Ethiopia, where she moderated an international summit dedicated to saving the world's most endangered big cat. 

Cynthia serves on the advisory board of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, and the Board of Directors of The Cloud Foundation, a Colorado-based wild horse advocacy organization. Horses, in particular our wild horses, are Cynthia's passion, and her own wild horse, "Dream the Mustang," is her partner in wild horse advocacy.

Cynthia Smoot

IMG_0768.JPG

Vickery Eckhoff

A NYC-based screenwriter and journalist.

Her focus on writing about government disinformation, wild horse roundups, public lands ranching,

 You can find her work in Forbes, Counterpunch, Newsweek, HuffPost, AlterNet, Salon, Newsweek and the dailypitchfork.org,  

 The Daily Pitchfork fact-checks, reviews and publishes corrections requests to news organizations and reporters to improve accountability. Her work on wild horses and public lands ranching has also served as source material in two books:

(Christopher Ketcham’s “This Land” and Stephen Nash’s “Grand Canyon for Sale”) in the peer-reviewed journals in Bioscience and Idaho Law Review; and in Pacific Standard (among other outlets).

I also wrote, The Judas Horse, a feature drama based on the closure of Dallas Crown, one of the last slaughterhouses for horses in A Willie Nelson’s adoption of 12 slaughter-bound Paint horses that was an official selection of the HollyShorts Film Festival.

OPINION-Guest-Ed-C-Downer2-PORTRAIT-for-

Craig Downer

A wildlife ecologist and descendant of mid-1800 Nevada pioneers, boasts a broad education and has conducted research and taught at universities across North and South America and England. Specializing in the Perissodactyla Order of Mammals, including Horse, Tapir, and Rhinoceros families, he has conducted extensive field studies and published peer-reviewed and popular works on wild horses in several Western states, the Endangered Andean Tapir, and the entire Order. Downer is an advocate for America's wild horses and burros, defending their rights to natural habitats and viable population levels in various forums, including court cases. He has delivered talks and presentations globally, authored encyclopedic articles, and contributed to wildlife conservation efforts as a member of the World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission. Collaborating closely with Wild Horse Annie in the 1970s, Downer has authored two books on wild horses and burros, notably "Wild Horses: Living Symbols of Freedom" with a foreword by Wild Horse Annie, and "The Wild Horse Conspiracy." His websites include https://andeantapirfund.com and https://thewildhorseconspiracy.org.

image_123650291_edited.jpg

Britta Stark

I'm Britta Hesla. At 12, I fell in love with horses while working for lessons on my father's farm. Mornings at the barn became my sanctuary, but I pursued college and a career before returning to horses. In 2005, I trained in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Tragedy struck in 2011 when my heart horse died on Christmas Eve, leaving me shattered until friends helped me heal.

In 2016, I began volunteering at a rescue, learning about the slaughter pipeline and advocating for equine welfare. I served as a congressional district captain for the ASPCA, lobbying for the SAFE Act until leaving due to differences over the Adoption Incentive Plan. Now, I'm honored to be the legislative liaison for Advocates for Wild Equines National Lobbying Coalition. .  We work with a Lobbying Firm in DC where I go often. 

I applied to an Animal Law Graduate Program in 2022,  driven by a childhood journal entry and my activist mother's words: "To be silent is to condone. Speak up for others." Today, my growth is owed to rescues like Sassy Athena, Sahara, and Americus Mirage. This is my path—to live congruently with my values and advocate for those without a voice.

.

  

headshot.jpeg

Natalie Awash

Natalie earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Legal Studies, Administration of Justice, French, and Mathematics. She received her master’s degree from The George Washington University in Secondary Mathematics Education. After working as a collegiate mathematics instructor for over a decade, Natalie is proud to take her passion for animal welfare full-time with Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy.

Currently residing in Pittsburgh, Penn., Natalie helped found Humane Action Pittsburgh, a grassroots organization advancing animal protection through education, policy, and community action. She has helped pass dozens of local laws, including Pennsylvania’s first ban on circus animal performances.

Natalie has several awards and accolades, including the 2023 City & State PA Power 100, 2019 Incline’s “Who’s Next” Animal Advocates, and PUMP’s and Pittsburgh Magazine’s "40 Under 40" honorees. She was awarded a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship in 2023.

Importance of Lobbying

Marty copy.jpeg

Marty Irby

Marty Irby is one of the top lobbyist in DC and advocates for equine welfare, renowned for his efforts to improve the lives of horses through legislative action. Growing up with a deep love for horses, Irby developed a passion for their well-being and has since channeled that passion into impactful advocacy work.

As a lobbyist, Irby has played a pivotal role in advancing legislation aimed at protecting horses from cruelty, abuse, and exploitation. He has successfully championed bills advocating for stricter regulations on horse racing, improved standards of care for working horses, and the prohibition of practices such as horse soring and slaughter.

Irby's advocacy extends beyond legislative efforts; he is actively involved in various equine welfare organizations, serving on boards and advisory committees dedicated to promoting the humane treatment and responsible stewardship of horses. His collaborative approach and expertise have earned him respect and recognition.

IMG_0777.heic

John Hadder

John E. Hadder is currently the Executive Director for Great Basin  Research Watch, and teaches chemistry and math at Truckee Meadows  Community College. His academic background is in physical chemistry  with a MS from the University of Cincinnati, and continued graduate  

studies at the University of Nevada, Reno in the area of theoretical  chemistry.  

In 1991 he first visited the Nevada Test Site and became involved  with work around nuclear issues in Nevada. Since that time he has been  applying his knowledge of chemistry and science to public policy and  environmental issues. 

Over the years he has worked in areas of community planning, non violence and peace work, energy, sustainable transportation, indigenous  rights, and general environmental protection. He has developed skills in  activism and organizing, and spent time traveling within the Great Basin  learning about the land and its people.

Great Basin Resource Watch 

DR photo.jpg

Delaney Rudy

Delaney Rudy is the Colorado Director of Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit conservation group working to protect and restore wildlife and watersheds throughout the American west by addressing the ecological threats of domestic livestock grazing and appurtenant issues. Before working at WWP, se worked for the US Forest Service for 8 years on doing trailwork and packing mules on wilderness crews, as a biology tech, and as a wildland firefighter. She was born and raised in Colorado and lives on the Western slope.

Western Watersheds Project

marty W.jpg

Marty Wright

Originally from Houston, Where she announced horse shows for over 20 years  She has always been a horse girl.  Wright's journey led her to Nevada's rugged landscapes, where she became captivated by wild horses. As a dedicated wild horse photographer and guide based in Dayton, Nevada, Marty seamlessly integrated into the community, advocating for and photographing these majestic creatures. 

Marty is currently an active volunteer for American Wild Horse Campaign,Wild Horse Connection, Chilly Pepper Miracle Mustang, and Virginia Range Wildlife Protection. She's a former director for the Wild Horse Preservation League, 

      Witnessing the intricate social dynamics of wild horses firsthand, Marty's dedication to knowing each horse by name and lineage reflects her deep connection to the community. Her transformative journey began with a chance encounter with a stallion named Bodie during a Nevada road trip, sparking her relocation to Nevada and commitment to wild horse preservation.

Leaving behind city life, Marty embraced Nevada's wilderness, finding her true home among the wild horses. In Marty Wright's story, we see the transformative power of nature and the profound connections forged by answering the call of the wild.

Wild Horse Adventures of Nevada 

AuthorPhoto.jpeg

Terri Farley

 An award-winning author who has always loved horses. She taught middle school and high school language arts and journalism in L.A. before moving to the state of Nevada.

Inspired by the glimpse of a lone gray stallion on a misty morning, she wrote 24 fact-based PHANTOM STALLION books which have sold over two million copies.  She’s written both fiction and non-fiction. Her biography of Velma “Wild Horse Annie” Johnston will be published by the University of Nevada Press. 

Terri adopted mustang mares Sage and Ghost Dancer after witnessing their capture by the BLM near the Calico Mountains. Terri joined a successful effort to purchase the real Phantom, his lead mare and son from the Nevada Department of Agriculture. The horses were relocated from government corrals to a 5,000-acre wild horse sanctuary. 

As an advocate for literacy as well as the West’s wild places and wildlife, Terri works with young people and adults learning to advacate. She speaks at schools, libraries, and conferences nationwide, and was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. 

She lives in a hundred-year-old house with her family,  

Terri Farley

IMG_0765.jpg

Jim Brown

A multi Award winning Photographer "For over forty-five years, I have enjoyed the nature of the world. Born and raised in Wyoming, amidst the Teton Mountains, Devil’s Tower, and the great high plains, I’ve never been in want of something to photograph. On my eleventh birthday, my parents gave me my first camera, which instilled in me a higher love for nature and photography. It started with my father, who, when I was old enough to follow along, taught me the behavior and habits of wildlife. I would spend countless hours in the wilderness,  photographing nature. After starting a family, I spent several years working by day and taking photography classes at Central Wyoming College at night. I continued to study under some of the top photographers of our time, such as Jay Maisel, Tom Mangelsen, John Sexton, and more. I work to bring the life of nature to those who look on the trails less traveled. Most of my time now is spent photographing the Wild Horses of Central Wyoming, working to keep them wild and free for generations to come. Artists who changed my life and the way I see nature include Ansel Adams, Tom Mangelsen, Bev Doolittle, Vivi Crandall, and Galen Rowell, just to name a few."

Jim Brown 

Roe.jpg

Charlotte Roe

Charlotte’s love of horses grew from childhood adventures on a family farm in upstate New York and expanded when her husband, who hails from Mapuche territory in southern Chile, shared his affinity for burros.  After a career as democracy advocate and AFL-CIO field representative, she served abroad in six countries as political officer, environmental and science attache.  Charlotte’s essays on wild horses and burros have been published in Natural Horse magazine, Counterpunch, Sierra Nevada Ally, Salt Lake Tribune, Washington Examiner, Foreign Service and the Boulder Camera.  She earned a Master’s in political science from Ohio State University and a BA in political sociology and languages from the University of Colorado.  A science advisor for The Cloud Foundation and several non-profits, Charlotte lives in Berthoud, Colorado, where a small herd of mustangs and burros count her as their chief “rescued” human.

Burros

bottom of page