Article by Wild Beauty Foundation Staff
In 2018, Los Angeles based writer and director Ashley Avis was tasked with creating the modern-day reimagining of Black Beauty for the silver screen. The film, which would later be acquired by Disney, would change the course of her life forever.
An equestrian since childhood, Ashley had always been passionate about horses. But it wasn’t until she embarked on writing the screenplay for Black Beauty that she learned what wild mustangs were going through in the Western United States. The issue, which is sadly ultimately little known, immediately grabbed her.
In an effort to preserve the original messages and intentions of Anna Sewell for the movie, Ashley was stunned to read about the devastating helicopter roundups, the breaking apart of families, and the overall plight of wild horses—who, based on a law passed by President Nixon in 1971, are supposed to be federally protected.
“I was heartbroken,” she states, “to read about, and then later witness in person, how wild horses in our country are being treated.”
“In a roundup,” she continues, “families are chased for miles by low flying helicopters, which buzz dangerously close to their eyes. We have filmed pregnant mares and newborn foals driven to exhaustion, and worse. After these stampedes, the horses are taken by truckloads to holding facilities, many of which have no shade. And when I learned what was really going on behind the scenes, and why this is all happening— the bit was firmly between my teeth. Film is a powerful medium, and we are excited to use our platform to help expose the truth and raise a new level of awareness for wild horses.”
In 2019, alongside her husband and producing partner Edward Winters, the team raised the first bit of financing to embark on a documentary project called Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West which is currently filming for a release in 2022. The immersive, cinematic experience will introduce audiences of all ages to the beauty of wild horses and the startling facts behind the issues they face.
Next, Ashley and Ed launched their own nonprofit organization, The Wild Beauty Foundation, in the summer of 2021.
The goal of The Wild Beauty Foundation (WFB) is to bring about a unique level of awareness for both wild and domestic horses through the creation of film projects, educational programs, and doing “boots on the ground” rescue and adoption of horses in need.
The founders are passionate about including children in their efforts. “The voices of tomorrow are the ones who can protect our world, and the wild horses, of today,” states Ashley. “Through powerful, elegant messaging, we feel it is important to encourage young people to learn more, and how they can help. They too can raise their voices and make a difference, regardless of age.”
The Wild Beauty Foundation has launched a variety of programs including a short story competition for kids where finalists have a chance to have their work read aloud by equine loving celebrities on social media. Entry is open now.
In April 2021, WBF debuted “A Day With a Horse” for the patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where kids got to meet a special gelding called “Ghost” who is battling advanced melanoma. Black Beauty movie star Mackenzie Foy participated in the live, virtual experience, and did a Q&A with the patients about the movie. You can also watch a video that captures the story on the WBF website.
“Our goal is to bring the wonderful, therapeutic world of horses to more people while also protecting the wild and domestic horses of our time,” says Ashley. “We’re very excited to use our backgrounds in the creative space to do so.”
To support the efforts of The Wild Beauty Foundation, you can help by spreading the word, making a donation, writing a letter to lawmakers (visit the website to learn how), or by learning more about wild horses on their website.
The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.