Jul 26, 2021

Gilas Enjoying 2021

Aragon at Lompoc Headquarters
Aragon at Lompoc Headquarters

Life is Good for the Gila Herd...

Ever since Return to Freedom rescued 112 members of the Gila herd in 2017 from a troubled living situation, it has been an adventure for these beautiful horses. They have travelled as needed for space and care between spacious boarding ranches and RTF Headquarters, and some finally traveled to the sanctuary in South Dakota which had agreed to home them when they were first rescued.

RTF currently has members of the Gila herd in two locations. At RTF's Lompoc Headquarters, there are currently a total of 11 Gilas—one gelding, two mares and eight stallions. Several younger Gila studs are being gentled and trained to allow handling for their necessary husbandry and medical/farrier care. The older studs just get to hang out and... well, be studs!  

In addition, we have a very spunky Gila mare, Aragon, in the barn named who is refining her hoof trimming skills as well as providing company and friendship for another mare who injured herself several months ago, and is in the final stages of healing.  

Finally, there is a gelding, Watcher, and Isabella, a mare, who is integrated with a larger band. They tend to be the high-energy instigators of playtime out in one of RTF's front pastures. 

Meanwhile, at our satellite up north, Ranch Manager Jason's work never ends. He faithfully cares for 63 Gilas there. Among his recent projects were re-diking roughly 80 acres to improve flood irrigation while constantly rotating horses to new dry land pasture.

Thank you for beng an important  part of the Gila Herd's story—without the help of many caring people like you, they would never have had this new chance for a happy life. All of the Gilas, including those who have moved on to South Dakota, will always be a part of RTF's heart.

All of Us at Return to Freedom 

Coal in Lompoc
Coal in Lompoc
Little Ears in Lompoc
Little Ears in Lompoc
Shota, lead mare in Northern CA
Shota, lead mare in Northern CA
Gilas in No.CA. R-L Delilah, Soffel, friends
Gilas in No.CA. R-L Delilah, Soffel, friends

Links:

Jun 22, 2021

Halfway Through an RTF Year

Dear RTF Sanctuary Supporters,

It's trite but true—it's hard to believe we're halfway through 2021, but we are!

Sanctuary

Thanks to your support, things are running smoothly. We did have one big scare, which has resolved happily.

One of our beloved burros, Freya, disappeared deep into the brush alone for two weeks, as we frantically searched for her. Rejected by her mother as a young foal, and therefore lacking in socialization, Freya has been alternately amusing and difficult—but when she didn't show up first in line one morning for the feed truck, we knew something was very wrong.

Then, after our long intense-but-fruitless search, one day she just reappeared. But she was not braying and running to the feed truck. She was disoriented, dehydrated, shocked and had body trauma. She could not move her tail and fur was missing. What had happened to her? 

We immediately began intensive veterinary care at the clinic. Freya’s survival was still uncertain, but fortunately her relative youth was on her side, and after two weeks of dedicated state-of-the-art care, she came home!

Happily, we have Freya back and under the watchful eye of our equine staff and vet, but we are still struggling to cover her vet expenses. This is important even beyond Freya's case—our vet bills must be honored to maintain access to the equine medical clinic should Freya or any other of our horse and burro residents need their life-saving expertise. This is not optional at a sanctuary with hundreds of horses and burros. We do have faith that we'll find the funds.

Meanwhile, at our satellite up north, Ranch Manager Jason's work never ends. Among his recent projects were re-diking roughly 80 acres to improve flood irrigation while constantly rotating horses to new dry land pasture. 

Advocacy

Return to Freedom was victorious in our efforts to stop barbaric surgeries and illegal research on wild mares rounded up from the Confusion Herd in Utah. When the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its plans in 2020, RTF was the first group to sue the BLM, which was trying to take this illegal action for the third time.

In April, RTF was contacted by lawyers for the BLM who stated that the BLM would not be proceeding with the surgeries.  The controversial and dangerous surgery, known as ovariectomy via colpotomy, involves the blind grasping of female horses’ ovaries, twisting and pulling them out of their bodies. RTF was not willing to stand by and let this happen, and filed suit in December.

RTF has been involved with actions on multiple fronts to stop the surgical sterilization of wild horses, which violates the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and subjects these majestic animals to inhumane and unwarranted procedures. RTF has long been a proponent of the use of non-hormonal, reversible contraception for wild horses, to slow population growth and stabilize herds. RTF hopes that this decision suggests the administration will be taking RTF’s extensive lobbying in this area to heart.

In May, a New York Times story exposed the misuse of BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program, through which adopters are to receive $1,000 apiece. The Times story found that at least one family pocketed the money and then sold horses to slaughter. In response, RTF called for an Interior Department investigation. RTF also created a targeted letter to Congress allowing supporters to call for changes in the program, such as the use of vouchers for adopters to use pay trainers and veterinarians instead of cash.

Also in May, members of the House of Representatives reintroduced the SAFE Act, which would ban horse slaughter and the export of American horses for purposes of slaughter. RTF continues to lobby lawmakers to finally push this important bipartisan bill toward becoming law.

Finally, in May, President Biden announced a budget proposal that included a $35 million increase, to $152.6 million, for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. In response, RTF issued a statement calling on the agency to use the funding to implement safe, proven and humane fertility control to slow on-range reproduction so that BLM can phase out its decades-old practice of shattering wild horses and burro families in heartless and dangerous roundups.

 “The Bureau of Land Management needs to stop kicking the can down the road. It can no longer use the excuse that it lacks the resources needed to implement available, proven safe and humane fertility control immediately, so that the agency’s decades-long practice of capture, removal and warehousing of America’s wild horses can be brought to an end,” said Neda DeMayo, president of RTF, in a press release. “Congress must hold the agency accountable for doing so.”

Running a large sanctuary while fighting for the future of free-roaming horses and burros is quite a challenge, but amazingly, we've been here doing just that for nearly 25 years. And we're only here because of people like you who respect and love America's wild equines. We're so grateful for and to you.

All of Us at Return to Freedom

Field work at RTF's northern CA satellite ranch
Field work at RTF's northern CA satellite ranch
Horses rotating to new dry land pasture
Horses rotating to new dry land pasture
Mar 12, 2021

RTF Gilas Doing Great with Your Help

Surprise!-Gila foal beat our birth control...
Surprise!-Gila foal beat our birth control...

RTF and the Gila Herd, rescued in 2017 from a collapsing living situation, made it through a tough 2020 and here we are, all on the other side of the calendar year.

With a number of Gilas migrating to our Lompoc Headquarters for special care, 52 finally making their delayed way to colleagues at the Black Hills Sanctuary in South Dakota and the rest enjoying the good life at our satellite location in northern California, we are keeping our promise to them for a good safe life after their close brush with auction sale and probable slaughter.

Although we did not expect the Gilas to be with us this long, we are not sorry it worked out this way. Watching them flourish in our two locations, under the watchful and expert care of our Equine and Ranch Managers, ranchhands and other staff, we are grateful to them and to all the supporters who have made this new good life possible for them. It could have ended badly for them, but together we have, and continue to, create a great resolution to a difficult situation.

Up north, Ranch Manager Jason works hard to maintain not only the herd but the facilities they call home. 

This Winter, Jason and Thomas worked in 18” of snow to set up sorting pens and the squeeze chute, and safely sorted four young Gila colts for gelding. The four colts  were safely transported by Thomas to our Lompoc headquarters. 

Jason is always busy repairing fences, solving problems and caring for horses. He continues to manage a private ranch set up exclusively for the 66 Gila horses, and we are all ready for him to come back to Lompoc!  The maintenance on a ranch is never-ending hard work, and we are lucky to have Jason on board with his many skills and his dedication to the horses.

Although all RTF mares are treated with native PZP, a non-hormonal fertility control, some mares don’t respond to it. We have had a 98% efficacy rate, but when one slips through the cracks, the whole herd celebrates! We welcomed one Gila filly (yet un-named) in December. 

This new filly is special in another way— in the middle of her head she has 3 whorls or cowlicks, which is very uncommon. According to cowboy folklore, this means she will be smart and have different personalities. We'll see!

Taking on the Gilas to save them from a tragic fate really added to RTF's load, but thanks to so many caring supporters, they have never lacked for anything, and with continued help from people like you, they will always have the great life they deserve.

For the wild ones, and those who stand with them,

All of Us at RTF

Setting up Panels in January
Setting up Panels in January
Chute for safe hoof trimming and medical attention
Chute for safe hoof trimming and medical attention
Repaired fence is sturdy and safe once more
Repaired fence is sturdy and safe once more
A tasty meal in the snow thanks to you...
A tasty meal in the snow thanks to you...
Paloma, a 4 year-old Gila filly
Paloma, a 4 year-old Gila filly

Links:

 
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