Mar 5, 2018

Water, Winter, and Wild Horses at Return to Freedom's American Wild Horse Sanctuary

RTF's Gift Shop Comes Down
RTF's Gift Shop Comes Down

For years, one of the first things that visitors to RTF have seen as they slowly drive onto the sanctuary grounds has been our small but quaint Visitor Center. Here, in a small space, we packed in information and merchandise which educates visitors and helps to support RTF’s sanctuary and programs. 

Sadly, last winter the Visitor Center flooded, and despite our efforts to save her, the old structure has been pushed beyond its ability to resist the elements. 

So we have regretfully dismantled our old friend, with hopes to incorporate our center into existing structures, when finances allow.

Speaking of water…

In 2018, RTF will continue working on water conservation programs to protect our precious supply of life-giving water for our sanctuary residents. 

In 2016, phase one of our water conservation project was to line our large existing reservoir so that the precious water that was collected there would not disappear so quickly. In 2017, this now lined reservoir filled to hold over 18 million gallons of water. Over the year of course there was evaporation but well into the fire season, over 20,000 gallons of water was always available to be used in case of emergency. We can’t even tell you how relieved we were to have this resource on the sanctuary during the recent fires in our county. 

Volunteers have helped strengthen the fencing around the reservoir with long thick branches from the area to protect the reservoir floor. 

We’ll be adding additional storage tanks, hoses and pumps for emergency use for the horses and to be more prepared in case of fire. We’ll update you when other projects like this begin during the year.

For most of the year, the wild horses and burros living at Return to Freedom's satellite sanctuary in San Luis Obispo, CA, graze naturally. During winter months, we supplement with hay. Hannah Robertson, a volunteer, has been gracious enough to share her experience with you helping us do exactly that:

"This January I was fortunate enough to be invited to Return to Freedom’s (RTF) satellite sanctuary in San Luis Obispo, CA, to help feed wild horses! It was such an amazing experience from beginning to end, and I am forever grateful that I was able to spend time in such an amazing place.

As an animal-lover, I was thrilled to bring my dog Macy to accompany the wonderful folks from RTF, who treated me to an adventure-packed day. The people I met all had such big hearts and were very passionate about their love of horses.

A group of us started the morning with a truck full of hay and a Polaris off-road vehicle. Not only were the location views breathtaking, but I was able to see 80 horses living in freedom as wild horses should. It was amazing!

As we drove down dirt roads, we threw flakes of hay out from the back of the truck, and the horses would run behind. At one point, we must have been driving too slowly in the horses’ opinion, because one brave horse impatiently grabbed some hay directly from the truck and started munching.

Along the way, I learned that, like us, horses have their own culture. I was shown the different bands within the group, told of their love stories, their fights and how they sometimes leave their original bands to join up with other horses.

Macy was unsure of what to think, and was very “barky” at the beginning of the trip, but the horses must have told her there was nothing to really bark about. She was so happy to spend the day in the Polaris with everyone, receiving cuddles as we drove alongside the beautiful horses.

The most amazing part of the trip for me happened as the visit neared its end, when RTF’s Development Director, Andrea, asked me if I wanted to spend time alone with a group of wild horses! I was hesitant at first, since I had so little previous experience with horses, but I was encouraged to stay and “have a moment,” as Andrea put it.

She quickly taught me how to approach a horse. When I finally took a deep breath and, for the first time, walked slowly by myself toward a group of wild horses, they scurried away from me! I assumed I had approached them incorrectly. But as I stood there watching them and wondering what my next step should be, one single horse came slowly towards me, and even allowed me to pet him. Excited, I thought, “This must be my moment!” As my heart beat fast, I began to bond with my first wild horse acquaintance.

Eventually, the horse I had just befriended left me, rejoining the rest of his horse group. Before I could feel too let down, he quickly returned, and this time he brought with him another horse! They both spent time with me and again, allowed me to touch and stroke them. It was as if he had gone back to the other horse and told her, “it’s ok, she is alright, come meet her.” I was in awe that these horses wanted to say hello, and so generously become friends with a new human visitor.

The whole trip was wonderful from start to finish. Thank you to Andrea Wogsland, Neda DeMayo, Steve and Leslie Carlson, and all of the people who work with and contribute to this wonderful organization, for the amazing work that you do. You folks are truly making the world a better place.

This experience will forever be in my heart."

If you would like to be a volunteer too, learn more at returntofreedom.org/visit/volunteer

The reservoir, located near the oak forest.
The reservoir, located near the oak forest.
Hannah with the burros
Hannah with the burros
The view from the ridge--one reward for hard work
The view from the ridge--one reward for hard work

Links:

Feb 6, 2018

The Gila Herd Story Continues to Be Told

Lumpy with trainer Angi Murray
Lumpy with trainer Angi Murray

We’ve been keeping you up-to-date on the progress of the Gila herd, from their rescue from danger, their preparation for their move to California, and how they arrived and reunited with their precious families.

If you just joined our Gila story, at this time last year Return to Freedom was working with colleagues and volunteers against all odds to find solutions for 907 hungry wild horses standing without shelter in below-freezing, blizzard conditions in South Dakota. The horses had been impounded by the state and scheduled for a public auction where most would have been sold to be slaughtered. Because of the generosity of people like you, and the determined work of our team and fellow animal-welfare groups, all those horses are now safe. RTF then took responsibility for the 120-strong Gila herd, presently living on beautiful leased Northern California pastures with their foals, as we work to ensure a future for that historic herd.

A favorite Gila youngster is Lumpy. He got his nick-name due to a growth on his face we saw when we first met him. Born in a winter storm, knee-deep in snow, he was transported to Nevada with his mother and the rest of the herd to be stabilized and brought to good health. Along with five other colts under 11/2 years of age, he came to RTF in May. We have removed the lump, but his nick name has stuck! Lumpy is now making great progress with our trainer, who is getting him ready for a great adoption. Lumpy is setting a good example for his other young Gila friends, also learning to trust humans in preparation for their adoptive homes.

When we asked his trainer to describe him, her observations made us smile— 

“He is SO cute and very friendly but just a tiny bit baby sassy wiggly—we are starting to take him for walks around the ranch and he is still a little worried about new places …

He is a funny horse­He seems to think he should be a human, not a horse. He likes to be out playing with us and doesn't even mind leaving his friends behind—he prefers you take him out when you are trying to take his friends! He is goofy silly baby, happy and playful, not scared at all, just tricky…he thinks he can outsmart you, and he probably can!

He is cocky…he learns everything and then is looking for what’s next, kind of like a child genius! He is the smartest and he knows it…” 

We’re excited that these rescued horses are doing so well, and we’ll make sure that Lumpy and all these Gila youngsters are adopted to great homes. 

Every day brings new challenges. We recently learned that the current pasture property in Northern California has been sold, and that we will have to find a new location by September, 2018. We’ll need your help to secure another great one for the resident Gilas once we’ve found it, so we hope you will continue to follow our progress as the herd marches proudly into the future.

In addition to the young weanling colts, we also brought 17 gelded colts 1-5 years of age to our Lompoc facility for socialization and preparation for adoption to qualified and safe homes!

RTF is committed to the entire Gila herd, and, with your help, will do what it takes to make sure their important bloodlines are conserved and that they all have a safe permanent home in the near future. We hope you will continue to be a part of this historic rescue and to help us write this inspiring story.

Thank you!

Lumpy navigates the obstacle course
Lumpy navigates the obstacle course
Nov 22, 2017

Your Support Takes the Fight Beyond the Sanctuary

GivingTuesday
GivingTuesday

Time flies when you’re taking care of over 500 wild horses and burros and working to keep them free. 

Thanks to you and your generous support, the time has been productive and rewarding. Since we last checked in, we had a very successful email Fill the Hay Shed summer fundraising effort!

The money raised enabled us to negotiate the best price possible from our supplier, so that we were able to fill our new Hay Shed, made possible by GlobalGiving donors. We appreciate each and every one of the 609 donors who together made 674 donations for a total of $41,023.58!  Each of you always come through for us. We are still making repairs from recent high winds, but the precious hay is safe! 

All that hay makes our wild horses and burros happy—but it means so much more. Stretching each generously donated dollar gives us more freedom to fight on behalf of the wild horses and burros still in government holding or running free on the range. 

We also continue to work with the now 120+ members of the Gila herd which RTF took on earlier this year as part of the largest horse rescue in US history. We are determining if they belong in a special conservation program, and if so, will ensure that they're cared for and managed responsibly.

To date we've adopted six of the Gila horses under the age of five, with five others gentled to be handled and ready to adopt now! 

Click here to watch Karen realize her dream with Adoe, a mare from the Hart Mountain herd.

As you know, as well as being committed to our sanctuary residents, RTF advocates on the national stage to replace traumatic roundups with humane on-the-range management solutions developed or tested here at our sanctuary, including reversible birth control.

Bolstered by thousands of calls and letters from supporters, Return to Freedom’s lobbying efforts helped ensure that the Senate Appropriations Committee included language in the Fiscal Year 2018 Interior Appropriations bill barring the Bureau of Land Management from killing healthy unadopted wild horses and burros. It was a major win for wild horses. More must be done, however, both in the short and long run. The Senate must reconcile its differences with the House on allowing BLM to euthanize wild horses and on horse slaughter, both of which are included in House bills. We’re also striving to see a long-term plan put into place that finally provides a safe, sustainable path forward for America’s wild horses, rather than fighting year-to-year budget battles. Our lobbyist, Chris Heyde, meets often with staff from both houses of Congress, and Return to Freedom and a coalition of national allies are holding ongoing discussions with congressional and agency staff about implementing humane solutions.

Recently, Heyde also spoke at a successful and engaging benefit dinner hosted by actress and advocate Wendie Malick. He discussed our work on Capitol Hill -- and how supporters could help Return to Freedom in its battle to protect wild horses. Return to Freedom is also working to draft legislation that would provide incentives for landowners willing to allow wild horses to live on their property. We hope this will encourage others, like the generous supporters who own our San Luis Obispo satellite location, who have land and resources and are willing to welcome wild horses and burros into their lives! We were also among the first organizations to support a new bipartisan House bill that would ban the inhumane use of double-deck trailers for horses under any circumstances and are actively promoting the SAFE Act, which would ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter.

RTF also engages in selective litigation. The Department of Justice confirmed in October that BLM will not take any action to sterilize the Saylor Creek, Idaho, wild horse herd, after U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge’s Sept. 29 ruling in favor of Return to Freedom and other advocates.

We bear witness to BLM roundups in person through Return to Freedom's Humane Witness Steve Paige. Paige’s presence again allowed RTF to document dangerous behavior on the part of BLM contractors -- such as not flagging barbed wire fences on at least two occasions, and led to changes both in this instance and to advocate for it to be an ongoing and established humane safety standard.

Roundup updates continue to be some of the most shared and commented upon of RTF’s social media posts. Photos from October’s Wyoming roundup and of healthy wild horses in the area enabled us to inspire social media followers to make phone calls to Congress stressing that the same wild horses, having already lost so much, could also be killed by BLM if some in Congress have their way.

We at Return to Freedom will not rest until wild horses and burros on the range are as safe as our beloved Sanctuary residents. We know you won’t, either.

We are excited to announce that Return to Freedom has been selected to be part of the Newman’s Own Foundation $500,000 Holiday Challenge, which will take place Tuesday November 21, 2017-January 3, 2018. Special bonus prizes will be given throughout with amounts up to $50,000 awarded on #GivingTuesday and up to $150,000 to the organization who raises the most overall. To put that number into perspective, a prize of that size can secure a leased sanctuary for our wild horses for one year. We are honored to be able to maximize your hard earned donor dollars to as many horses as possible. Contact us if you would like to be a fundraiser for the campaign.

Thank you for all your help and for never forgetting the horses--or RTF! Happy Thanksgiving!

Stallion helpless as family is trapped-WY in Sept.
Stallion helpless as family is trapped-WY in Sept.
On the Range Accountability: What We Are Doing
On the Range Accountability: What We Are Doing
Wendie Malick Hosts RTF's Wild Autumn Supper
Wendie Malick Hosts RTF's Wild Autumn Supper
On the Range Accountability: What We Are Doing
On the Range Accountability: What We Are Doing
Join Ed Harris and Return to Freedom in the Fight
Join Ed Harris and Return to Freedom in the Fight

Links:

 
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