Baroness recognizes value of wild horse herds

The following story was filed by Staff Writer KAREN WOODMANSEE for the Nevada Appeal, 16 Apr 2008:

It’s not only Nevada residents who are debating the fate of the state’s horses that roam the Virginia Range – residents of Europe are interested as well.

Antonia Umlauf, Baroness von Lamatsch of Austria, a prize-winning filmmaker, said that like many Europeans, she was fascinated with America’s wild horse herds.

“My curiosity for the most beautiful creatures in the world brought me here,” she said. “The last living monument to America, and it is the greatest thing to see them free.”

The baroness was busy filming the horses for a new production she hoped to showcase in the future – right now she’s prepared to accept eight awards at the International Film Festival in Houston Saturday. Among her prizes is a story called “Horses My Soul,” and “Riding Cooks,” both horse-related films.

She was guided Tuesday by country singer and wild horse advocate Lacy J. Dalton, and was enamored with the horses and the landscape of the Bureau of Land Management property and the Asamera Ranch just northwest of Silver Springs.

“You still have all this beautiful wild country,” she said. “This is not possible in Europe. Forget it.”

She said she was amazed that the need for Nevada tourism was not important in protecting these wild herds.

“This is a major draw for tourism,” she said. “It’s like whale watching, no one thought much about that at first, but now it’s big business.”

Umlauf said Europeans are entranced by the American West, in particular the legends of the cowboys and the wild horses.

“In Europe and all over the world, everybody loves the cowboy,” she said. “This is the image that we have of America. The horses represent America. To kill them now is terrible.”

When asked about Europeans who eat horse meat, she emphasized that happened only in France and Italy; that it was very controversial in northern Europe.

Her efforts come none too soon for the wild horse advocates that guided her, including Dalton, who founded and operates the Let ‘Em Run Foundation, committed to finding a sanctuary for the horses.

Dalton said she was furious at the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s intention to remove horses from the Virginia Range without consulting the many wild horse advocacy groups she said are trying to work with the state to manage the animals.

“I have declared war on the Department of Agriculture,” she said about her intentions to raise public awareness. “We’re not going to allow this to happen without a lot of resistance.”

Dalton said the state is being extremely short-sighted, considering the competition from California’s Indian casinos for the Northern Nevada tourist dollars.

“If we don’t have a reason, like the V&T or the wild horses, people are not going to come over the mountains,” she said. “And if they find out we’re killing our wild horses – excuse me, selling them for sale – they are really not going to come.”

Nevada Appeal Baroness Story Photo

Photograph Above. Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Photographer Gabi Gumpert films Antonia Umlauf Baroness von Lamatsch, of Austria, as she and Lacy J. Dalton and Sharon DeCarlo look for a herd of wild horses in Silver Springs on Tuesday morning. The crew was in town to shoot a documentary about wild horses for future release.

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