Message from Wild HorseEducation President Laura Leigh: Those of us that take time from the rigors of daily life (and daily life right now, in this world, is a challenge all it’s own) to advocate for the well being and protection of another, are a special breed of human being. Possessing the ability to see suffering, feel empathy and take action can be a gift that may become a burden. “Compassion fatigue” is a very real thing. Those that care for relatives with long term illness, or work in jobs that put them at close contact with suffering, are the most vulnerable. However being an advocate of any kind can leave you overwhelmed as the need to empathize, yet function effectively to complete tasks required to care for that which you advocate for, day after day take a toll on your personal resources.
There are things you can do to “help” yourself as you advocate. Marta Williams, VP of Wild Horse Education, wrote an article last March called “Coping When it Hurts.” The article deals with ways in which you can ease your pain and frustration when you constantly view things that hurt. A great cure is becoming “active” in advocacy.
But what about when advocacy itself becomes the “hurt?” What then?
In my personal journey to tell the story of the wild horse and burro so that people will “know” not just “what the issues are,” but “who” is caught in the issue, I have seen some things that are unacceptable and haunt me. I have seen literally thousands and thousands of wild horses lose everything they know during a government stampede. I have seen death and sorrow. I have heard the human beings involved in the process of creating the policies, and those advocating, do the things only human beings do (like lie, cheat, make excuses) and that is the hardest part for me because I know it is the root of the problem. Greed and ego are the greatest obstacles to protecting any that are vulnerable and powerless.
But that is not all there is. Every once in awhile I find I need to step back from the things that wrack my soul and step into the beauty that exists, even in this horror. I have been asked numerous times by reporters and others “how do you not go nuts?” I tell them I see not only the horror, but the absolute sheer beauty.
There is balance. That balance is what we, as advocates, need to find in ourselvs to remain effective. I answered once that “In anger lies recklessness. In sadness lies helplessness. Somewhere in between is effectiveness.” But I was wrong. The ability to “balance” is not between anger and sadness, they occupy almost the same space. The balance can be gained in one place only, the love that exists for an amazing being. It is all right there.
When you feel overwhelmed by the mounting opposition against our wild horses, the frustration with government or advocates, the horrific images and fear of slaughter… take a moment and stand in the light. The ugliness will run from your soul like cockroaches do when the light goes on. You might cry as the last vestiges of “ugly” leave you. Crying is cleansing and not a sign of weakness. Your sadness will be replaced with hope, and your anger will be replaced with renewed determination. It also helps to know you are not alone and many share your frustrations.
To find the light is simple… it lies in the eyes of the wild ones. Take a minute and find that light. There are many places you can find it even if you can’t get to the range. There are many people that create visions of that light and we have featured a few on our “Inspire” pages on our website (more to come). Music, painting and photographs can take you there. Finding a rescue or friend that has a Mustang can give you a chance to touch that light.
If you are hurting and finding yourself caught in a cycle of frustration that is leading you to ineffective places (apathy, gossip, rage and thoughts of inappropriate responses) find the light of the wild horse. It will heal you and strengthen you. You will find yourself focused and ready to be the most effective advocate you can be. There is a truth there that is inescapable and you find the strength to do what needs “done.”
We know this road is not an easy one…. remember you are not alone…. and take time to look into the light in the eyes of a wild horse. You will then have your “shield and armor” and step back into the line of “wild horse warriors.” We will create a road to change as we all stand side by side… if we remember the eyes of the wild horse where even during capture, reflects a strength and beauty beyond our own.
Wild Horse Education remains committed to creating protection from abuse, slaughter and extinction for wild horses and burros.