Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros

by Return to Freedom Inc. , (DBA) American Wild Horse Sanctuary
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Build a Hay cover for 300-Plus Wild Horses, Burros
Thank you for being a #hayhero like Joan Stanley!
Thank you for being a #hayhero like Joan Stanley!

Over the past year, your generosity has created much-needed protection for the life-sustaining hay that feeds RTF horses every day. Without a sheltering structure, hay is exposed to the elements, eventually gets wet and is ruined. Hay is a precious commodity for a mission like ours, it is literally life or death to the horses and burros who await it eagerly.  

With your kind help, we have built a large hay shed, which even in various stages of completion has done the job of keeping large stacks of hay dry and clean.

Although there are still repairs needed due to wind damage, the hay is safe. Over time, as with any structure, there will be maintenance needed, and now seems like a good time to thank you sincerely, and to consider this important need filled.

We hope you will consider our other projects here for support, and remain a friend to the approximately 500 wild horses and 42 wild burros in our care. Factors such as the California drought and increased competition for good hay continue to affect hay cost and availability, so we will always need the support of caring people who love and respect wild horses and burros. 

Again, thank you very much for your support,

All of us at Return to Freedom

 

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Daisy, Manzana, Estella and Midnight Dining
Daisy, Manzana, Estella and Midnight Dining

HAY, HAY EVERYDAY…

While we’ve been busy making sure the RTF horses’ hay is protected from the elements, we have also had to scramble to keep hay in it!

To those who have already chipped in for the Hay Shelter, our sincere thanks! 

Most may not realize it, but by donating here for the repair and completion of the hay shelter, our supporters also help us feed horses by freeing up our other funds for hay. It’s a double benefit. 

So a double thank you is in order.

Some needs pop up unexpectedly, and some arise just occasionally, but horses, like us, eat every day. And the only way that has happened dependably for 20 years, is that our RTF supporters chip in what they can, when they can, to fill our hay shed and give us freedom to work on big-picture issues.  

Some thoughts about the hay your hay shelter donation helps to protect….and why your donation to the shelter also helps us buy more hay…

Aside from water, hay is the single most precious commodity for a horse sanctuary like this one. RTF’s main location in Lompoc is not large enough to grow hay, and the recent years of drought have decimated what little forage there would have been in the past. Although our San Luis Obispo satellite location is larger, this past winter was very dry and we will need to begin supplementing their meals earlier this year with the bales of “green gold”. 

And every minute we have to devote to finding funds to buy hay is a minute our work to protect the wild horses still on the range and in government holding slows down. While we care deeply about them—ALL of them—the horses to whom we’ve made individual promises of lifetime care have to be cared for first. They are right outside our office door. 

As a business reality, the more money we have in hand when we call the hay supplier, the better we can stretch our donors’ hard-earned dollars. We are always aware whose money we are spending, and we honor that trust fiercely. 

Keeping that hay dry and protected is as important as buying it, and that’s where you can help now.  Winter will be here before we know it, and the weather will be less forgiving of an almost-complete structure. We still have building supplies to buy and laborers to pay, but if we can raise the rest of our goal quickly, we can get the shelter secure and sturdy for the less mild season ahead.

Whether helping to build the protective shelter or filling it, it’s as if you are on the truck with us, rolling through the pastures as grateful horses gather around excitedly for their much-awaited feast. 

As we continue our work to complete the indispensable hay shelter you are helping to make possible, we hope to “see” you on the hay truck, today, tomorrow, and as long as wild horses need us. 

With gratitude,

All of us at RTF

The Hay Shed- Doing the Job in Good Weather
The Hay Shed- Doing the Job in Good Weather
RTF Burros Appreciate the Protected Hay
RTF Burros Appreciate the Protected Hay
Volunteers Load the Hay Truck with Nice Clean Hay
Volunteers Load the Hay Truck with Nice Clean Hay
Hondo Eating Hay With His Friend Maisie
Hondo Eating Hay With His Friend Maisie
Joaquin and Ranger Chowing Down in Lompoc
Joaquin and Ranger Chowing Down in Lompoc
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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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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

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Blown Away
Blown Away

Unless you have a horse—or over 500 horses!—it’s hard to understand how precious hay is. It’s like nutritious, fragrant gold.

And once you lay in a supply, it must be protected like the treasure it is. For that reason, we asked for your help in building a protective structure for the RTF horses’ hay, and you responded generously, as you always do. 

We’ve kept you updated on the process of building the new shed, hard work interspersed in the daily hard work of caring for hundreds of horses and burros and maintaining the sanctuary overall. 

Now, with recent disasters around the world and in the US, we’ve all been reminded that Mother Nature is in charge.

On a smaller scale, RTF is no exception. The photo above shows what has happened to our precious shed since the last update. The wood panels you helped us to buy are attached securely on the sides, but recent especially-strong Santa Ana winds have torn and damaged part of the roof!

This setback hurt, but luckily, no hay was damaged, as the weather was dry. When we rebuild it, we will make sure nothing short of a tsunami will budge the smallest screw!

As well as the roof repair, more beams need to go up to complete the structure, and we need to pour a permanent slab to replace the pallets which currently hold the hay safely up off the ground. We have an estimate of $5,600 for materials, equipment rentals and additional labor to complete these final stages for the structure.

Although the shed is well on the way to completion, and in use, as soon as possible we have to do this work to “harden” it even further to ensure that it does its important job well into the future. The RTF Hay Shed will be prepared for the next strong winds.

As you know, the costs of caring for hundreds of horses is high, so we just haven’t had surplus funds for roof repairs, as critical as they are. 

So, we still need our friends to chip in toward our goal for the remaining work to complete the project.  Every little bit goes such a long way toward reaching our goal. It’s miraculous how it all adds up and how much every gift of every size helps the horses and burros living in safety at the Sanctuary.

In the end, it’s all for the horses and burros, so we don’t mind doing it, and we’re grateful you’ve taken this ride with us. Knowing that we have an army of friends out there makes everything we do much easier.  It’s like you’re standing on top of the shed waving “hello” as we load up hay for the eagerly awaiting horses. 

Be careful up there!

Thanks from all of us at RTF

Repair Area
Repair Area
Amante, Cerbat Stallion
Amante, Cerbat Stallion
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Organization Information

Return to Freedom Inc. , (DBA) American Wild Horse Sanctuary

Location: Lompoc, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ReturnToFreedom
Project Leader:
Andrea Wogsland
Lompoc, CA United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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