If you have been paying attention to what’s been going on at the Oceti Sakowi Camp, better known as Standing Rock, your focus has probably been on the plight of the water protestors. One Utah veterinarian, however, decided someone had to step up to help the protestors’ horses.
Dr. Charmian Wright traveled an astounding 900 miles from Utah to North Dakota to treat horses injured during the protest. Moved by videos that showed horses being injured, Wright knew she couldn’t just continue to watch the protest play out from afar. She needed to help.
During this months-long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, law enforcement authorities inexplicably used dogs, plastic bullets and even water cannons on the peacefully protesting Native Americans. Rather than discouraging them, however, the protestors’ numbers continued to grow.
As we now know, the protest succeeded — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on December 4 that it declined to issue the necessary easement for the pipeline and will consider alternate routes instead. A few weeks ago, though, the situation at Standing Rock was dire. Many of the water protestors had their horses with them, and this put the animals in potential danger as well.
I am passionate about the issues that are being addressed at Standing Rock, Wright told The Huffington Post. But when I saw videos of horses being injured, I knew I had to go there.
Here’s a video uploaded to YouTube showing one horse’s injuries:
Wright asked on Facebook whether she could be of any help to the people of Standing Rock. A horse caretaker at the Oceti Sakowin Camp contacted her and told her that her presence with them would be of great value to the people and the horses. That’s all she needed to hear.
Wright posted on Facebook her plan to travel to Standing Rock, establishing a GoFundMe campaign seeking contributions that would assist in getting necessary supplies and equipment to take with her. Donors came through in a big way. Wright packed up her pickup truck and a supply-laden trailer and began the trek to North Dakota.
When she got there, she determined that the horses at the camp were actually “very well cared for,” but some injuries and other conditions needed tending to. Because she knew she could not stay on a long term basis, Wright’s biggest goal was to teach the protestors how to provide medical care for the horses by themselves.
I taught them how to do an in-depth physical exam, including the use of a stethoscope, how to assess for lameness, how to body-score for weight, and how to examine teeth, Wright told The Huffington Post. We discussed how to assess different types of injuries and how they are treated. I showed them the uses of different medications, such as antibiotics for infection and anti-inflammatories for pain and colic.
Wright also taught horse owners things like suturing, bandaging, and proper equine nutrition. Armed with this knowledge, the Standing Rock protestors can now do an even better job of keeping their horses as safe and healthy as the situation allows.
Here’s a brief video that shows a confrontation that could have turned ugly and possibly injured both riders and horses:
Wright’s “Helping the Horse Nation” GoFundMe campaign is still up and running to provide continuing medical supplies and equipment to the Standing Rock horse caretakers. Wright posted on her Facebook page this moving final thought about her time at Standing Rock:
So many people have thanked me, calling me a hero, a warrior, an angel. Right now I feel like I am none of these things. Maybe someday I will.
The simple fact is, my heart called. And I listened. And I answered the call. I may not feel like a hero. But one thing is for sure: I listened. I am a Listener. And right now I feel like a damn good one.
There are plenty of heroes in this battle. The brave Spirit Riders. Their fine and fiery horses. All those givers who turned their back on the status quo to reach into their hearts long enough to find love and compassion and vision and glory.
Most of us will watch this protest from the comfort of our sofas. We’ll express anger or sadness on social media. Maybe we’ll donate to funds intended to help the protestors. There are some people, though, who are moved to do so much more than that. Dr. Charmian Wright is one of those admirable people.
She doesn’t believe she’s a hero, but she is.
Photo credit: Thinkstock