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:

Feb 19, 2021

Goodbye to the old year and Hello to the new...

Eros, RTF Lompoc's new resident with Mom
Eros, RTF Lompoc's new resident with Mom

Dear Friend of the Wild Ones,

Like it did for everyone, last year presented extra challenges to Return to Freedom. Our programs, like tours and other events offered to the public, had to be postponed, modified or conducted virtually, online. This was the case with our Spirit birthday celebration. (Spirit was the animation muse and model for the DreamWorks animated feature, "Spirit; Stallion of the Cimarron") But the Birthday Spirit was strong nevertheless, and many friends of RTF took part in the extended Celebration for Spirit.

Work at Return to Freedom's Lompoc headquarters and at our several satellite locations is a constant, but with occasional twists.

At the end of January, the ranch in Lompoc received almost 10” of rain in 4 days. The adobe clay mud here is very hard on the horses and for staff to get around in. Thanks to a generous and compassionate person, we were able to evacuate 16 horses to her empty ranch in Santa Ynez which had shelter and dry ground for the horses. During an intense hailstorm we were able to relocate some of our halterable horses to her empty facility, which made room for other horses here at our headquarters to come in out of the unrelenting storms. 

Our farrier and part time superhero, Brian, continued supplemental feeding for the horses living in the rolling hills at our San Luis Obispo (SLO) satellite sanctuary as weather conditions allowed. We did have to relocate two seniors from SLO to our Lompoc facility so that they can receive more individual care now, in keeping with their age.

83 horses were taken off our pasture lease in Alturas and relocated to Dreamcatcher ranch for the Winter. At our Northern CA satellite, Thomas and Jason 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 along with two special-needs senior mares from the Calico herd who need vet attention were safely transported by Thomas to our Lompoc headquarters. 

Our ranch manager, 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.

Two foals have been born in 2021. 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 or two slip through the cracks, the whole herd celebrates! We welcomed one Gila filly (still un-named) in December, and a Spanish Brislawn colt just before Valentine’s day. His name is Eros!

Advocacy

As you know, Return to Freedom also works on the national level for the wild horses still running free on the range. There is always a lot of activity to report in this area of Return to Freedom's mission.

Since our last report, Return to Freedom scored a legislative win and has filed a lawsuit opposing the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to surgically sterilize wild mares. 

On Dec. 21, Congress approved a $14.2 million increase in the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, in part to fund “a robust expansion” of “proven, safe, effective, and humane” fertility control. Altogether, the wild horse program received $115.8 million, part of a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the government through September.

The additional funds from Congress come in response to a May 15 BLM proposal to “institute an aggressive, non-lethal population control strategy to address the current unsustainable trajectory of on-range wild horse and burro population growth.” RTF found BLM’s report to be vague and often self-contradictory.

Fertility control and on-range gathers are to be “maximized,” the committees wrote, “even if Appropriate Management Levels (the number of horses the government believes can be supported in a given Herd Management Area) are not immediately achievable.”

RTF has serious issues with maximizing removals, although BLM has been clear since 2017 that that is how it would handle cumulative population growth. However, the language about maximizing fertility control is critically important because BLM has for years insisted on capturing and removing wild horses down to its population target before implementing any fertility control, so that is a positive step forward.

The committees wrote that in Fiscal Year 2021 BLM must also continue to abide by its Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program, a humane-handling protocol, during roundups, transportation, holding, and adoptions, as well as restrictions against selling wild horses or burros without restriction (to slaughter) or killing healthy animals, both requirements for which RTF has lobbied.

The final bill also included language barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from hiring horsemeat inspectors. The bill did not include specific language barring surgical sterilization of wild mares.

Near year's end, RTF filed suit in federal court in California to halt a Bureau of Land Management plan to surgically sterilize wild mares using a procedure that is dangerous, inhumane, and an unnecessary risk especially when proven, well-studied and previously utilized modes of alternative fertility control exist. 

The BLM, in December, completed a helicopter roundup on the Confusion Herd Management Area in Utah. The agency plans to hire presently unknown veterinarians to perform on 17 mares a painful and invasive surgical procedure in which a mare’s ovaries are crushed then pulled out with a looped chain instrument. The mares would later be released onto the range.

The BLM continued to move forward with its plan despite 58 members of Congress sending a letter to the Secretary of the Interior calling on BLM to drop its plan. The letter came as a result of lobbying by RTF and colleagues.

RTF's management of hundreds of horses and burros in multiple locations, and our campaign to replace traumatic roundups with safe birth control are difficult tasks, but with the help of so many caring supporters we have and will continue to provide a great life for our sanctuary residents and fight for the lives of the mustangs and burros on our public lands.

We're so grateful for your help in this important work for America's wild equines and we hope you'll continue to be an important part of it.

For the Wild Ones, and those who stand with them,

All of Us at RTF 

RTF Gilas in No. CA enjoy a winter meal
RTF Gilas in No. CA enjoy a winter meal
Setting up panels to get entire herd into a corral
Setting up panels to get entire herd into a corral
Fence repairs in progress
Fence repairs in progress
RTF Alturas horses ready for their Winter move
RTF Alturas horses ready for their Winter move
December surprise-Gila foal beats birth control...
December surprise-Gila foal beats birth control...
Nov 6, 2020

Checking in-the RTF Gila Herd on the move...

Newly arrived Gilas explore Black Hills Sanctuary
Newly arrived Gilas explore Black Hills Sanctuary

Checking in on the RTF Gila Herd on the move...

Dear Friends,

In 2017, RTF rescued 117 members of the historic Gila Herd from a troubled living situation to keep them from the auction and the kill pen. This was just one herd that was part of a 900-horse rescue led by Fleet of Angels, who worked hard with RTF and many others to ensure that all horses found a safe home. 

The Gila herd is believed to be descended from the horses brought to Arizona in the 1600s from Spain by Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino. The Gila herd was originally captured by the BLM in 2003 from the Painted Rock Herd Area in Arizona.

Return to Freedom and The Black Hills Sanctuary in South Dakota pledged to share the responsibility of providing sanctuary for the Spanish Gila herd, in an effort to maintain their bonded families and unique 13-generation-long heritage. In 2017, the Black Hills Sanctuary was not yet able to take in the Gilas, so the entire herd made the journey to Return to Freedom’s leased pasture in Northern California, and has been protected and managed by RTF over the past three and a half years. 

In 2019, the large herd sorted itself into two large herds. A bonded group of sixty-five horses were moved to a pristine private ranch. The rest of the herd remained on the leased pasture until Black Hills Sanctuary was prepared to take them on permanently.

Just recently, our colleagues at Black Hills Sanctuary were in a position to take the 51 Gila horses living on the property in Alturas, CA, to their forever home on 14,000 acres in South Dakota! A three-year-old colt named Bandit, and Thor, an older Gila stallion, will remain in Lompoc with a handful of other Gilas who live in our special needs /senior pasture. Thor is also a mentor to younger males, to whom he is a calming influence. Bandit is a three-year-old colt who will be gentled and available for adoption with a buddy to an approved home.

Return to Freedom continues to care for the now-66 Gilas at our satellite on a private ranch in Northern CA, under the expert care of our Ranch Manager, Jason, in addition to their counterparts who remain with us in our Lompoc and San Luis Obispo sanctuary. These past few months at RTF’s far north satellite, a lot of work was done on Irrigation and irrigation system repairs, including pouring concrete and fixing broken valves to fix the irrigation system. Necessary improvements were also made to the chute used to hold horses for medical needs. 

Under Jason’s supervision, 58 tons of hay were cut, baled and stacked in the barn for winter. Four-plus acres of star thistles were removed and cleaned. Temporary fencing was continually moved in order to rotate the Gilas for grazing. Additionally, 1,600 feet of temporary fence was installed to improve grazing in another field. This ranch had no sunshine for nearly 40 days because of fires and smoke, creating very poor conditions for the pastures to grow grass, so we will have to begin to feed hay earlier than we did last year. The good news is we have already contracted the cutting and stacking of hay for the Gilas up there!

While we are so grateful to the Black Hills Sanctuary for being able to fulfill their pledge to provide refuge for half of the Gila herd after their rescue, it was bittersweet to see them leave. But seeing them kick up their heels as they unloaded at the Black Hills Sanctuary and galloped off to explore thousands of acres filled our hearts. Thankfully, we still have a total of 75 of our Gila friends in our RTF family, and with your help we will always ensure their safety and happiness. We at RTF are so grateful for your loyalty to the historic and beautiful Gila herd. 

All of us at RTF

Taking in the last days of California Dreaming
Taking in the last days of California Dreaming
Coggins tests and health certificates for travel
Coggins tests and health certificates for travel
Gilas arrive at Black Hills Sanctuary
Gilas arrive at Black Hills Sanctuary
Thor, senior mentor stallion with younger friend
Thor, senior mentor stallion with younger friend
Some of the 71 RTF Gilas living in Northern Calif.
Some of the 71 RTF Gilas living in Northern Calif.

Links:

 
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