A Few Words with our Good Friend, Terri Farley
As a girl in Southern California, the future author of the 24-book Phantom Stallion young-adult book series learned to ride despite a severe allergy to horses. By the time she was 8 years old, she was writing about horses, pecking out her first story — about a wild pinto named Pagan — on her grandmother’s Selectric typewriter.
As an adult, she moved to Reno with her husband, journalist Cory Farley, where one of the first people she met was Wildhorse Annie — real name Velma Johnston — a fellow horse advocate who died in 1977.
After years as a high school teacher and writer of romance fiction, Farley started on the Stallion book series, giving her a clear identification among her young readers as an advocate for the West’s iconic horses.
Today, Farley, 60, continues to write and to champion wild horses. Her efforts include being a party in a lawsuit filed last year, but later dismissed, aimed at stopping a U.S. Bureau of Land Management practice of rounding up wild horses and moving them to long-term holding facilities.
Where did your love of horses come from?
Part of it was, I lived in suburban Los Angeles. I did not get around horses often. I was practically terminally allergic to things with hair. Once a month, my parents took me to a stable. Between the hay, dust and the horses, I would end up in the emergency room. They (my parents) would suffer with me. I outgrew that, and began to hang around horses more.
What came first, the advocacy for wild horses or the book series?
I’d always cared for wild horses “» so one grew out of the other. When we moved here, I realized this was the wild horse capital of the world. They were not that far away; I could actually go out and see them. When writing romance stories, there were threads of the horse subplots. My agent said, “That’s what you should write about. You can go see them, then you can write about them as something symbolic.”
I was on a cattle drive, and I thought I saw a white horse — this was really the birth of the “Phantom Stallion” series. I went back and looked (for the horse), but there was nothing there. But I thought, “What if it was a white stallion that came and went so quickly?” I thought it would be one book, but found an editor who bought a trilogy. Then, it was eight, then 10, now there are 24 books in the “Phantom Stallion” series.
I understand the young girl fans of the series keep in contact with you on wild horse issues through mail, email and other electronic media.
I love it. I guess if I had a legacy in books and horses, it would not be a bad one. They (young readers) are ready to take action. I have a blog, a newsletter, 3,000 are on it. “» Kids can see they don’t have to just stand and complain. They can do something. If that becomes a habit (for them), that will make me very happy.
What do you worry about the most regarding the future of the West’s wild horses?
The gene pool is so watered down. There are fewer and fewer horses, and they do not mate with relatives. If a disease came along, they could be wiped out.
The horses that are left out there are not resistant. We’re going to lose them all. It sounds dramatic to say that the last wild horse may have already been born, but that’s what I worry about.
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