Horses have been a constant in Makendra Silverman’s life. Now, protecting wild horses is her life’s work.
Silverman started riding horses when she was six years old and rode throughout her childhood and young adulthood in Ashland, Ore.
When she was a first-year student at Colorado College, a friend put her in touch with Ginger Kathrens of Colorado Springs. Kathrens founded and directs The Cloud Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection of wild horses. (Cloud is a wild horse that Kathrens has documented in films and continues to follow.) During her first year at CC, Silverman worked for Kathrens as a production assistant filming Cloud’s herd in Montana.
While she was at CC, Silverman kept in touch with Kathrens, and after graduating in 2007, Silverman went to work as associate director of The Cloud Foundation and a production manager for a film company, Taurus Productions, Inc., that has produced three award-winning documentaries about Cloud’s herd for PBS’s “Nature” series since 1995.
As associate director of The Cloud Foundation, Silverman works to educate everyone — from elementary school children to politicians — about the plight of wild horses. According to Silverman, wild horses are quickly disappearing from the American West as a result of the management practices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Her job draws heavily on writing and communication skills she honed at CC; she’s writing news releases, managing the website (www.thecloudfoundation.org), and has almost daily conversations with the media and politicians. It also helps that she majored in biology at CC. But she also uses a skill she didn’t learn at CC: filmmaking.
“That, I’ve had to learn along the way from Ginger and through experience,” said Silverman. She’s been on location filming in the mountains of Montana more than 15 times, where often they film from daybreak to sundown.
Silverman came to CC not quite sure what she wanted to study, much less pursue as a career. She knew she loved wildlife and wanted to be outside as much as possible. At CC, Silverman thrived in the liberal arts atmosphere. As a biology major, she studied, among other things, flammulated owls in the field with Professor Brian Linkhart. But she also loved her fiction writing class with former CC Professor Chris Bachelder.
Silverman lived and studied in Tanzania for three and a half months while attending CC, and knows that she will travel much more in her life. “The world seems more accessible to me now than before CC,” she said.
She’s happy she went to CC and loved the liberal arts experience, as well as the Block Plan. She’s even a little glad she was unsure of her ultimate goal when she came to CC.
“Part of my CC education is that I don’t see the world as just a career path. I see it as more of a beehive of opportunities.” In addition to her work advocating for wild horses, Silverman is an artist who sells her “livewire” sculptures of, of course, horses. Silverman also now trains a mustang mare, Arrow (a Cloud granddaughter) who was rounded up from the wild last fall. Arrow came with an unexpected surprise: a foal, Arroyo, who arrived this spring. Silverman says she fought hard to stop their removal from the wild, but tries to make a great life for them in captivity and loves the process of training these mustangs.
“So many people have fallen in love with Cloud and become more aware of wild horses in general. I feel we’ve made tremendous headway in the work to save them, although there is still a long way to go. The creative education I received at CC helps me every day in this work.”