Aug 17, 2018

Digging in at the Sanctuary

Burros Pitching In
Burros Pitching In

Some of the work to run RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary is routine and ongoing, like feeding the over 500 horses and 42 burros currently in residence with us. Some horse management like hoof trimming and worming is routine, while other medical issues arise on their own schedule.

With 310 acres to maintain and all the fixtures needing repair and upgrade, work is always being done to not only maintain the status quo, but to improve the operation of the sanctuary. 

All of these necessary tasks are made possible by our supporters.

In the months since we last reported to you, we resourced two mobile offices that we are using for storage and processing merchandise for the RTF store. Work was needed to prepare for the installation of the offices. We cleared branches and overgrown weeds, levelled the ground and built an earth pad for each trailer. All of this was done by our dedicated ranch crew with equipment and materials sourced here on the ranch.

In the stallion barn, the paddocks were resurfaced with shale, and sand was hauled in to create a soft place for senior horses to roll and rest. Ranch staff also built a new feed bin for the stallions, eliminating adverse conditions created by an over-population of ground squirrels.

In our event barn, we replaced or built latches for all the doors on the south side, and repaired broken boards, both inside and out. Ranch staff also built a new drain for rain water at the feed room. 

A labor-intensive project has been moving, with our new trailer, our herd of 25 wild burros every 3 to 4 days. Strategic areas of grazing were chosen for fire prevention and weed control. In many cases, this was the first-time animals were placed in these areas, creating the need for temporary fencing and/or gates, and moving water tanks to the grazing areas. 

Once the burros cleaned the grass and weeds we did a follow-up clean up, including cutting down non-viable trees and making fence posts to be used later on ranch. The work has been worth it, because the burros are doing a great job helping us create wider safe zones from potential wild fires.

Our ability to have high-quality hay delivered by the semi-tractor trailer-load will be essential this year—a drier-than-usual winter means that the grass is woefully short. Last spring, the grass stood almost chest-deep on our wild horses in places; this year, the blades ranged from stubble to barely knee-deep, with a long, dry summer and even drier fall season looming as we continue to haul water in 

We’re digging in, as we must, for another hard fight in Washington, D.C., to protect the right to freedom for wild horses and burros on the range, but caring for our resident animals is our first priority, as it has been each and every day of RTF’s 20 years.

As you can imagine, it is a huge challenge to pay for all this. Our small dedicated crew is willing to do the hard work involved, but we are only able to succeed with the help of many other people like you, most of whom we will never be lucky enough to meet in person.

However, the wonderful thing about sanctuaries is that there is always the possibility that you can visit, meet the team and the mustangs and burros you are helping, as well as participate in any number of ways including Family Days, educational safaris, herd immersion, tours and volunteer days. 

Currently on our calendar—

* Tour day on the last Saturday of this month, at our 300-acre Lompoc sanctuary; 

* Photo safaris at the Lompoc sanctuary and our stunning 2,000-acre San Luis Obispo satellite sanctuary on September 8 & 22, October 6 & 20, November 3 & 17; 

* Reiki and animal communication classes with Cindy Rackley September 15-16. 

Thank you to those who have already generously responded. Last year’s rescue of the 120-member Gila herd—many of whom would likely have gone to slaughter without your support—increased significantly the number of horses in our care. We knew that would make keeping in a good supply of hay and water more challenging than ever, but we could not look away from those animals in need. 

We will never waiver from our efforts to speak for the wild horses and burros living on the range and in government holding facilities, but Job One remains keeping our promise to the family bands and the individual horses who have found new families here, to which we’ve given a home at RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary.

Thank you for helping to make this possible.

Amante's Family Band - Photo credit: Rich Sladick
Amante's Family Band - Photo credit: Rich Sladick
Herd in San Luis Obispo-Photo credit: Rich Sladick
Herd in San Luis Obispo-Photo credit: Rich Sladick
Aug 9, 2018

The Importance of Family in the Gila Herd

Gila herd in Lassen County, CA
Gila herd in Lassen County, CA

Recently on a beautiful warm day, Neda along with a volunteer and RTF tour coordinator, visited the Gila herd in Northern California. Neda and team found a herd full of vitality and playfulness, among diverse age groups.

From Neda’s notebook—

“The horses are now utilizing more of the available acreage. Of the 1,800 acres, some of it is good meadow, with juniper and sage, and other areas are more wooded featuring pine trees and a beautiful lake. It was gratifying to see them using more of the grazing land. Their hoofs look great, rocks are nature’s farriers!

The horses are fat and shiny. The males are still working things out amongst each other, with politics and standoffs from time to time. For the most part, they work things out successfully. There is still occasional “conversation” between the males going on as they move throughout the area.

Two baby foals – a colt named Forest and a chestnut filly whose name eluded us at the time were observed in good health. Their yearling brothers and sisters play really well together. We watched an intense game of tag. The young horses are very athletic, running up mounds of dirt and winding between trees. We watched them playing and roughhousing while the rest of the herd was resting in the late morning.

When you have a variety of age groups, it is particularly fun to watch. They are engaged and social, adding a lot of dimension and vitality to the herd. Teenagers playing, adults calling them back to them, stallions being roused to play by younger colts—the whole scenario feels the way it is supposed to feel—families.

Watching the group, we could see how the extended herd family participates in shaping the youngsters’ character as they learn different things from members in varied ages and seniority. There is a lot of activity, communication, and evident relationships in the herd. The situation feels very healthy and there is a strong sense of well-being in the herd members.

One stallion has some challenge to his mobility, but he does try to keep up with the herd. A couple of his band run back to make sure he is still ok, but he’s having a hard time and is dropping a lot of weight. We are concerned about his immediate future in terms of his ability to overcome his difficulties. We’ll support him as well as possible.

One stallion, blind in his right eye, let me stand near him for quite a while. He is with a band of horses and seems to have somewhat of a leadership role. This mature horse still has respect and seniority in his band.

At this time, the horses are grazing the forage there along with some supplemental meadow grass we provide every other day. Early every morning the horses come down from the forest for their hay. Some have muddy legs, so you can tell they’ve been enjoying the water. On the lake is a small row boat. Ever playful, the horses have been playing with it and have taken the oars out!

Of the horses who were born here last summer, the foals are very leggy and are growing larger than their predecessors and larger compared to the yearlings that came from South Dakota last winter. The nutrition they have been receiving, between the hay we give them and the natural forage is having an extremely positive effect.

It took a while to identify some of the foals born last summer! As they grow, some of their colors have a changed a bit. Easter, a foal born last year, looks beautiful. Sage is a steady and beautiful young colt who has already developed a strong thick neck. The younger horses are growing up fast!

One foal from the previous year sustained an injury to his shoulder, and Jeff, the caretaker, had to doctor him. His scar healed really well. He is quite friendly now because of the care and kind human contact we provided. He and a couple of others will be very adoptable as they enjoy human contact.

Things change quickly, including the horses themselves. Soffel is bigger than her mother now. She is also not as red as she was when we first saw her. The youngsters are all still staying close and stealing drinks from their mom.

Last year we had a mild winter, but even so, some days Jeff (their on-site care taker) had to cut the ice in the pond twice a day to make water accessible. Jeff is concerned that a harsher winter might be too much for him to properly care for the horses. Since this property has been sold, the new owner does not want to continue the lease and we are looking for another location for the Gilas, before the winter sets in.”

Thank you for your support which makes all this possible. It’s only being united with other caring people that RTF can do the things we do. Thank you!

 

Photo credit: Kaitlynn Toay

Gila mare resting in Northern California
Gila mare resting in Northern California
Foal stealing drinks from mom
Foal stealing drinks from mom
Gila mares and foal in Lassen County, CA
Gila mares and foal in Lassen County, CA
Seven's Coloring Changes
Seven's Coloring Changes
Soffel Growing Up Fast!
Soffel Growing Up Fast!
Jun 12, 2018

The Hay Shelter, Inside and Out

The Hay shelter doing its important job.
The Hay shelter doing its important job.

While we have been using the new Hay Shelter for some time, we have reported that there are repairs and upgrades still to come. We have located and priced the material and equipment rentals necessary to do the work, and it will be completed when finances allow. Due to drought and other considerations, we have had to spend more time raising funds to keep hay in the shed than repairing it.  But we look forward to having both, thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

Hay is the fuel for the sanctuary residents. Our program activities not only help to raise funds to feed horses, but fuel the creation of new advocates for them and those still on the range. 

A bit down the trail from the Shelter is where our programs, designed to instill appreciation of our wild ones and to show a path toward advocating for them, take place. Registration is now open for Return to Freedom’s summer programs, including a new lineup of Youth and Family Day events.

On the first Saturday of the month, now through August, RTF will host special events for children ages 8-16 and their parents. They will find out what it takes to run a wild horse sanctuary–including the chance to groom a tame burro or wild horse–and learn Native American songs and blessings among the herds.

Also on RTF’s program calendar are tour days on the last Saturday of each month, from May-August, at our 300-acre Lompoc sanctuary, Photo Safaris at the Lompoc sanctuary and a number of engaging workshops, including: photography with renowned equine photographer Tony Stromberg, natural horsemanship with Carolyn Resnick, and Reiki and animal communication classes with Cindy Rackley.

Our Volunteer days are held on the last Saturday of every month all year long. Every non-profit depends on their volunteers. There is too much work for staff alone, and RTF’s volunteers are among the best and most dedicated.

With the teamwork of RTF staff, volunteers and supporters, the Hay Shelter will continue to provide nourishment for the deserving residents of RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary. 

Drought-affected fields-Why we need precious hay
Drought-affected fields-Why we need precious hay

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