U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
California

Take Pride in AmericaNews.bytes Extra, issue 226

Virginia Freeman - "Making a Difference"

For nearly two decades, Virginia Freeman's passion has been the well-being of America's wild horses and burros.

She's trained them to become loyal companions, rescued the forgotten, and helped the Bureau of Land Management find loving adoptive homes.

Virginia -- known as Ginny in the wild horse and burro community -- shares a moment with Layla, a horse she gentled for a BLM adoption event.
Above: Virginia -- known as Ginny in the wild horse and burro community -- shares a moment with Layla, a horse she gentled for a BLM adoption event.

She has worked with the BLM to improve its Wild Horse and Burro Program for the benefit of animals and adopters, and spent thousands of hours on efforts to ensure that adopters succeed in gentling, training and enjoying their adopted animals.

Now, the BLM has recognized Virginia's dedication by naming her as a recipient of a national "Making a Difference" volunteer award. She will be honored with eight other recipients at a May 10 ceremony in Washington, D. C.

"Virginia's dedication has been astounding," said BLM California State Director Mike Pool. "She has been a pioneer in demonstrating the enormous benefits volunteers can provide to the BLM. Her efforts are now multiplying as the BLM in California greatly expands the wild horse and burro volunteer program, and through her own volunteer groups that are providing valuable assistance to adopters."

Virginia and her husband, David, entered the wild horse and burro world in the early 1990s by adopting mustangs. Their interest turned increasingly to burros, as they realized that these loyal, easy-to-train animals were misunderstood and "greatly under valued" by the public.

Their passion for the animals took hold in the early 1990s, when the couple visited the BLM's Litchfield Corrals near Susanville, and Virginia adopted "a sweet-faced burro" as a father's day gift for David.

"Aerial" and her new "parents" bonded quickly.

"She didn't have a clue that she was a burro. She thought she was one of us," Virginia says.

Ginnie riding Blare, a burro, at the Redding Rodeo grounds
Ginny shows the versatility of burros at BLM adoption events in California. Above, she rides Blare across the arena at the Redding Rodeo Grounds.

Over the years Aerial become a familiar face at BLM adoption events, where Virginia showed potential adopters the benefits of taking a burro home. The Freeman family continued to adopt animals, and helped find homes for animals. They also began assisting other adopters with training. Later, Virginia convinced the BLM that volunteers could hold and halter train horses and burros relinquished by adopters, making it easier for the BLM to place them in new adoptive homes.

With the support of other volunteers, Virginia later directed the founding of California BLM Adopters' Assistance (CABAA) which provides free taming and training advice to adopters nationwide, often through email exchanges.

Recognizing the value of promotion in building public understanding Virginia and her supporters created burro events in the National Wild Horse and Burro Show, established the "Long Ears Cele'bray'tion," (a light-hearted burro show) and founded EARS (Equus Assinus Recreation Society) as ways to celebrate "long ears." She embraced the power of the internet and enlisted help to create websites and chat rooms devoted to wild horse and burro interests

"Virginia has truly made a difference for the BLM, the nation's wild horses and burros and the people who love them," State Director Pool said. "We are proud that she represents our agency in receiving this prestigious award."

Ginny shows potential adopters that Dance, a mustang available for adoption, is gentle enough to allow its feet to be handled
Above: During an adoption event in Turlock, Ginny shows potential adopters that Dance, a mustang available for adoption, is gentle enough to allow its feet to be handled. Ginny gentled Dance prior to the adoption event.

Below: Ginny and adopted burro Ashley enjoy time together.
Ginny and adopted burro Ashley enjoy time together

Layla with her trainer, Ginny, at the BLM's adoption event in Turlock
Above: Layla with her trainer, Ginny, at the BLM's adoption event in Turlock.

Below: During a lunch break, Ashley is intensely interested in a crunchy green salad.
During a lunch break, burro Ashley is intensely interested in a crunchy green salad

"The latest news from Take Pride in America" - April 2006 Newsletter names volunteer winners, plus other information (PDF file, 280 kilobytes)

BLM California News.bytes, issue 226