Stargazer’s story

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The following is from the American Wild Horse Campaign:

My name is Melissa and I just joined AWHC as their new Deputy Director. I’m reaching out today to share my story about why I’m all in on the fight to protect America’s wild horses and burros.

I’ve always been a photographer at heart. As a passionate advocate for animal protection, I’ve been behind the lens — as the owner of RJStein Photography — to bring awareness to the plight of wild mustangs.

My journey began in 2018, when I attended a photography workshop in Utah with the beloved Onaqui wild horses. I’ll never forget the moment — first I saw the dust clouds on the horizon, then I heard their hooves from afar. All of a sudden dozens of the most magnificent wild horses crested the hill and I was able to capture every stunning moment through the lens of my camera. It was truly life changing.

When I looked at my photos, I was awestruck by a beautiful dun pinto stallion who was known as Stargazer. He was living as a bachelor back then, and hadn’t yet started his family. I was in love. I continued to go to Onaqui over the next several years to visit with Stargazer and was delighted when he finally found his first and only mare — a beautiful grey mustang named Northstar, or Nora for short.

In 2021, the BLM’s helicopters descended on the Onaqui wild horses, and Stargazer was captured. This once brave stallion looked so lost and confused. Not only that, but he was without Nora.

At that moment — looking at the photos of him being rounded up still makes me cry — I was determined to reunite him with Nora so their story could continue on. I refused to allow their bond to be destroyed by the BLM. My husband and I adopted the pair so that they could live happily together on our farm — the next best thing to being wild and free. It is so special to know that they can never be torn apart again.


Photo credit: Darlene Smith Photography

I wanted to share this story because it’s a critical part of why I joined AWHC — it is the largest grassroots organization in the U.S. doing real, meaningful work to protect our cherished wild horses and burros.

So if you can, please consider making a donation today to support AWHC’s efforts in the field, on the Hill, and in the courts to protect more wild horses and burros like Stargazer and Nora!

We couldn’t do this without you,

Melissa Tritinger
Deputy Director
American Wild Horse Campaign


Melissa with Stargazer on her farm.

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