Horse News

For the Love of Wild Horses

written by Susan Skorupa of

A Few Words with our Good Friend, Terri Farley

It seems like poetic justice — or at least good karma — that novelist and wild-horse advocate Terri Farley ended up living in Nevada.

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.

12 replies »

  1. Thanks Susan for the chance to get to know Terri and thanks RT for posting. Terri is a well-respected advocate who has a heart for the horses.


  2. I worry most about genetic viability. If horses are released into the same HMA they came from, that doesn’t expand the gene pool. In fact, it narrows it. Better to find WILD horses with similar characteristics from other HMAs and introduce them into genetically endangered herds.

    On the BLM Internet Adoption site, I see more and more young horses who display characteristics of inbreeding. They’re the ones who are usually passed over, especially those “unfortunate” to be born bay. The older horses still display strong genetics, but, as the young ones left on the range age and breed, they’ll contribute to a downward spiral of quality.

    The stated intent of the Wild Horse and Burro Program is not only to maintain a thriving
    ecological balance on public lands, but also to protect the wild horses. Allowing the
    remaining animals to interbreed is no protection.


  3. I also worry about the effect helicopter roundups have on the psychology and trainablity of wild horses offered for adoption or purchased for training from Short or Long-term holding. I’ve been told it can take up to three times longer to gentle a wild horse removed by helicopter than by passive trapping. Does the BLM want successful adoptions and a low rate of returns or not? They’re worried about their “reputation”. Passive trapping, leading to quicker postive outcomes for horses, burros and adopters, should help rehabilitate their public image and take some of the stress off their employees.


  4. A HUGE thank you to Terri Farley. Terri has been to many roundups and events and even to court hearings of other advocates suing Ken Salazar and the Dept. of Interior. It seems that whenever there’s something important to help the horses, Terri travels many miles and makes the effort to be there. I know she does a tremendous amount of traveling to educate kids (and their parents) about the plight of the wild horses. Terri, thank you for your dedication to the wild ones.


    • Yes, many thanks to Terri for everything she does. As our Mustangs continue to disappear from the range, it’s doubly important to educate coming generations about their plight. Terri does it in a way that young people relate to better than history … through stories that will encourage them to dig deeper and stay involved. “The Force of the Horse” must continue long after “oldsters” like me are gone.


  5. Thanks RT & all! KIND comments are always appreciated.
    FYI I will be at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, CA, Fri-Sun this weekend mostly in the Book Corral. If you know anyone who’d like to talk mustangs, please send them my way.
    I ‘ll be giving two workshops for kids about wild horses & writing, but I’ll have plenty of time to share while I’m signing in the Corral. I just bought a life-size cardboard mustang for the booth, so I should be easy to find.


    • Much success, Terri…and, hey….how about all equine issues while you are out there?

      Gotta’ love wild equines!

      Make a difference while you can; I know you always have.


  6. I’ve heard that the BLM is pretty humane after they catch the horses, but I completely agree about traumatizing them while they round em up with the helicopter’s. I’ve also heard that they use quads and dirt bikes. I’m not sure if that last is true. I would def. save every last horse on the planet if I could! Keep up the good work!


  7. It is so good to know the girls are still loving the wild horses… that is all it takes to begin a lifetime of love and interest! Way to go, Terri!!


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