Aug 13, 2019

The Gila Herd-Good and Getting Better

Hey, we have company!
Hey, we have company!

The rescued Gila herd continues to do well at their current home on 1000 acres of leased pasture in Alturas, CA. Changes are coming, as RTF now has an opportunity to move more than half of the herd to a private Ranch in Shasta County, CA, mirroring our other satellite in San Luis Obispo and expanding our Mustang Conservator program to facilitate ranch owners to provide private life long sanctuary for rescued wild horses and burros.  

These satellites are the beginning of what we hope to be an eventually more common practice of private landholders willing to take in family bands and herds who have been removed from public lands, allowing them, as RTF has, to keep their social structure intact even though they have lost their homes on the range.

In preparation for this move, we have had 100 tons of meadow grass hay harvested from the ranch and stored in the barn there at the new location in preparation for the coming winter.  Also, in the next couple of weeks, we will be tearing down old fencing at the new ranch and building new ones.

While this relocation reduces lease costs, we still carry the cost of on-going operational needs for daily oversight and care.  It’s only knowing that our supporters—like you—are with us, that we can have the faith to proceed with this exciting opportunity.

We have also been caring for several Gilas at our headquarters in Lompoc, CA, and 2 more geldings have recently been adopted together and will go to their new home in September.

Thank you for getting the herd to CA, and for helping them find interim pasture as they make their way down the trail to lasting sanctuary and new homes and friends. We—and they—still need you by our side as we undertake this new chapter in the story of the Gila Herd.

All of Us at RTF

RTF Biologist Celeste chats with Gila herd member
RTF Biologist Celeste chats with Gila herd member
Thank you for helping me
Thank you for helping me
We still need you
We still need you
Happy Hour
Happy Hour
The day comes to an end...
The day comes to an end...
Jul 5, 2019

Spring Has Come And Gone, But the Work Goes On

Aaron on weed control!
Aaron on weed control!

It’s hard to believe that 3 months have passed since we last checked in with you, but when you’re taking care of over 500 wild horses and burros, providing programs to educate the public about wild horses and advocating for them daily on the national stage, time moves quickly.

As far as work on the Sanctuary and our satellite locations, weather and its lingering effects figure heavily into the daily non-horse tasks. We had a total of 28 inches of rainfall, and when it rains, the adobe clay at our headquarters in Lompoc makes everything more challenging. The sanctuary sustained damage to structures, many fallen trees, and a lot of damage to our access roads and erosion to the creek beds that run through the sanctuary property.

Feeding horses, administering routine health regimens and special attention to horses with extra needs never ends. Repairs of damage from wind and rain, and everyday maintenance, like checking and repairing fencing, keep our ranch staff busy. With the rain also comes accelerated growth of undesirable weeds, which must be kept in control for access to every area of the sanctuary. Fencing also had to be added to the land in Alturas, CA, where RTF’s rescued Gila Herd resides.

Sometimes there are strenuous missions which are out of the ordinary. Jason, RTF’s Ranch Manager, flew to Virginia to pick up a horse trailer that was kindly donated to RTF, buy a much-needed used ranch pickup, then drove to Pennsylvania pick-up a Choctaw stallion for the Choctaw herd, also donated to RTF. With the horse securely and safely loaded, he then drove back to our Lompoc, CA headquarters. A 3655-mile drive- all in several days work for dedicated Jason.

Due to changing weather, medical needs and other logistics, we sometimes move horses and burros around on the Sanctuary in Lompoc, and between our several satellite and pasture holding locations.

In Aprilhorses were released from smaller pastures and winter corrals at Lompoc headquarters, including16 stallions, 5 from Chief’s herd, 7 from Bear’s herd, and 9 Gila geldings went out in pastures to graze on the grass growing from the rains. On the 21st, the Choctaw stallion, Runner, arrived in Lompoc from the Virginia trip. At the end of the month, our 8 horses who had been in Santa Ynez, escaping the months of Lompoc mud, came back home to a warm welcome. By end of April we were able to start safaris at the 2000-acre satellite in San Luis Obispo, once the roads dried up!

In May, Silver King, who was brought to our Lompoc facility for 3 months to recover from an injury, went back to join the herd at our San Luis Obispo location, a new colt was born to Esperanza, and a filly was born to Ebony, two of the Spanish mares who arrived from Wyoming this winter with 30 other Spanish mustangs. The newly-arrived mares were all treated with PZP,  a non-hormonal, reversible birth control to keep the sanctuary population stable while maintaining natural herd behaviors. It does not interfere with existing pregnancies, so as of this update, two foals have been born to the new group from Wyoming with another on the way. From April to June we administered birth control to 37 mares, including all 26 Spanish mares who just arrived in December.

Finally, in Juneour new jenny, Freya, arrived in Lompoc and was gradually introduced to the RTF burros and went into their forest lair with them. During this month, RTF ranch staff at our Lompoc location also trimmed the hooves of 31 horses by hand and 75 in the chute, dewormed all 157 of the horses here and did tick treatments as well. Staff is still concerned about and treating one of the Spanish mares who arrived this winter with an infection (mastitis), as her foaling date seems to be coming soon.

Our 24 burros at the Lompoc location were moved around the ranch, grazing down the grass in ravines, alley ways and along access roads--the best kind of fire control there is. Before bringing them back to their oak forest, they were all dewormed and hooves trimmed. We are also moving horses strategically around the ranch for more balanced grazing opportunities.

Educational programs are a large part of RTF’s mission. Even events like photo safaris and workshops are used not only to teach skills, but also inform participants about the plight of America’s wild horses and burros, and to make them better advocates, well-equipped to spread the word accurately about the issue.

Between Volunteer Day, Tours, Photo Safaris and Special Event clinics, RTF has had nearly 300 program attendees since May. We have had the good fortune to meet so many wonderful people, and they never forget their experience at RTF, spending time up close and personal to the herds living here.

Return to Freedom also works every day to change and improve the way horses are managed on our public lands. Some of the policies we support affect all horses. Slaughter is one of those practices which threatens all equines, both wild and domestic.

Return to Freedom is working hard in the fight against horse slaughter: the ultimate betrayal of the horses, burros and other equines so important to our country’s history and culture. 

In the House of Representatives, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act has amassed 155 bipartisan cosponsors since being reintroduced in February as H.R. 961. The bill would permanently ban slaughter and the transportation of horses out of the country for that purpose. 

Until the SAFE Act becomes law, RTF works each year to ensure that language is included in the annual Agriculture appropriations bill prohibiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture from using tax dollars to hire horsemeat inspectors. This serves as a temporary ban and has helped keep horse slaughter plants in the United States closed since 2007. 

As part of Fiscal Year 2020 Interior Appropriations bill, which funds the Bureau of Land Management, lawmakers have included key protective provisions for which RTF lobbied hard. These would bar BLM from selling wild horses without restriction -- a path into the slaughter pipeline -- as well as the agency itself killing healthy wild horses and burros. 

RTF remains involved in federal court-ordered settlement talks with the Forest Service over that attempt to sell captured wild horses without restrictions. For now, a stipulated prohibition remains in place, keeping the agency from selling horses without slaughter protections. 

We are also supporting a California bill, A.B.128, aimed at strengthening the state’s existing anti-slaughter law. The bill has passed in the Assembly and moved on to the State Senate. 

We are also part of a joint proposal to Congress by RTF, the Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA and other rangeland stakeholders intended to force the Bureau of Land Management to implement for the first time a meaningful fertility control program to end roundups as the primary means of managing our nation’s wild horses. 

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted a bill to fund several agencies for Fiscal Year 2020, including the Department of the Interior. The bill includes $6 million to partly fund the proposal to use safe, proven and humane fertility control alongside removals from two to three Herd Management Areas. As mentioned above, it includes language that would bar BLM from killing horses or selling them to slaughter. It also demands for the first time that BLM follow its own humane handling guidelines in the agency’s own Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program for each horse removed from the range; relocate captured horses from corrals to cheaper, more natural pastures; and requires BLM to report back to Congress quarterly on the progress of the wild horse program. 

Being simultaneously a sanctuary and an educational and advocacy organization is a tall order, but with the help of so many loyal supporters over our 20-plus years of operation, Return to Freedom continues to provide a good life for our own residents, and to fight for justice for their counterparts on the range. 

Thank you for always being there, so that RTF can always be here.

All of Us at RTF

 

Pasture maintenance
Pasture maintenance
Putting up fencing
Putting up fencing
Gerri Halsey with Fuego and Nora on Family Day
Gerri Halsey with Fuego and Nora on Family Day
You might meet anyone on a Tour
You might meet anyone on a Tour
Doing dishes for the horses
Doing dishes for the horses

Links:

May 13, 2019

The Gilas Thriving in Alturas

All Gila Herd Photos-Kayla Grams
All Gila Herd Photos-Kayla Grams

                                                   Checking in on the Gila Herd

As we've related previously, the original property on which RTF had housed the rescued Gila Herd was sold, early in our lease agreement, which necessitated moving them again to Green Valley, onto a 1,000- acre pasture. The move was successful, and the herd is doing well there.

An added opportunity has arisen, as the owner of this property is open to selling us the property, and applying our current payments to the purchase. We have long needed a larger property with water, so this is an exciting goal for the longer term if we can find the funding.

We rescued the Gilas from public auction and almost certain slaughter, and our intention from the beginning was to find a conservation organization to take them on as a project. At this point the herd will largely remain together in bonded groups on a private ranch and some of the younger gelded horses are being adopted to individuals or organizations equipped to provide them a secure and happy life.

As part of the eventual movement of the herd out into the world, two untouched wild Gilas were sent to a clinic to teach people the first approach to horses. As a result of the four-day clinic/workshop, both Gilas have been adopted. To date, five younger Gila geldings have been adopted to a beautiful sanctuary, two have joined four of RTF horses at Midland School for their youth equine program where they live in beautiful pastures in Santa Ynez CA, two others have been adopted to another wonderful organization and two others have been successfully adopted. 

Caring for large numbers of horses means we are periodically faced with both births and deaths. Although the Gila’s came through a long, cold winter rather well, one very old stallion passed.

Spring 2019 also saw two viable births. Our statistics have not changed from last year, in terms of PZP efficacy:  7% of reproductive aged mares became pregnant, and our efficacy rate is 93%. Our years of experience with this non-hormonal and reversible birth control provide a basis for the on-the-range management practices we advocate for wild horses on public lands, as a way to replace or minimize traumatic roundups which shatter family bands.

Because of the long winter, which brought mud, snow, and ice complications to the ranch where the Gila’s are pastured, our pending fencing project has not yet been completed.  Weather is beginning to improve, however, so this is an upcoming task.  Meanwhile, the Gila’s still reside in their smaller pasture totaling 400 acres, but it is large enough to be interesting, with hills, two ponds, many trees, and several large, open areas.  

The two-year-olds and yearlings are inquisitive, and this makes birth control administration challenging. 
Celeste Carlisle (RTF) and Kayla Grams (the Science and Conservation Center) darted 50 mares with PZP boosters April 26-27.  Fifteen more will be boosted later in the month, and one young mare will receive her first inoculation.  An RTF volunteer who lives close to the ranch where the herd is located is assisting Celeste with photo updates.

The overall condition of the herd is excellent, with body condition scores solid. The herd is still very curious and friendly with visitors.  Though there are obvious family bands, the entire herd moves about as one group much of the time.

As much as we love them, the addition of this many additional horses has strained our finances, and this large rescue has challenged us from the beginning. However, RTF is committed to their welfare and future, and with the support of people like you, they will never lack anything, and will never again face the dangers from which they were saved.

We are, as always, grateful for your support, both moral and financial. You are an important part of everything we do for horses, both here and on the national stage. Thank you!

All of Us at RTF

 
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