Dear Friends of the Gila Herd,,
When RTF stepped in to rescue 112+ members of the Gila Herd in 2017, our intention was to have the herd's genetics analyzed, hoping that they would be candidates for a conservation project undertaken by another organization well-equipped to do that. We were committed to their secure future, but taking them in increased our expenses by a third, and so we expected to be their home for 2-3 years. This is when we made this appeal for help with their care and feeding, and you really came through. They have thrived because of you.
When they turned out not to be candidates for a this type of program, they became more permanent sanctuary residents, with our minds open to them going to another situation more appropriate for them, should that present itself.
When another sanctuary, which had originally intended to take in part of the herd, but was then experiencing problems which precluded that, got on its feet, we did finally send bonded members of the herd to that sanctuary. To give them—and our other Lompoc residents—more room to roam and run, we boarded another group at a larger location in Northern CA. As several herd-members began to need more individual support, we moved six of them to our Lompoc headquarters.
Now, six years after their initial rescue, the herd has become a part of our overall Sanctuary operations, as are the other herds we worked to keep intact after they were removed from their range on the orders of the government.
For that reason, and because we feel you will enjoy looking in on all of RTF’s approximately 450 resident wild horses and burros, we are folding this GlobalGiving Gila Herd project into our “Run the RTF Sanctuary” Project. The Gila Herd, who touched your hearts and inspired you to become our supporters are an important part of this, and we think you will enjoy meeting our other great resident equines as well. We hope you welcome this expansion of your access to the rescued Wild Ones at Return to Freedom, and we are sure you will be captivated by them as you have been with the beautiful and deserving Gilas. Your donations still help support them, and you don’t have to take any further action to join us at the Sanctuary Project. You will continue to receive our quarterly reports.
For today, we hope you enjoy these photos of the 61 Gilas currently enjoying Life—and each other—in their Northern California home. (All photos by Maya Horsey)
Please feel free to contact RTF with any questions about the Sanctuary, the herds or any of the individual horses and burros who lost their home on our public lands, but found their safe home at Return to Freedom.
We are deeply grateful for your love, respect and support of the Gilas, and welcome you to continue your friendship with them now, as one of the cherished herds who live and thrive at RTF.
With our deep thanks,
All of Us at RTF
Dear Friend of the Gila Herd,
The Gila herd, which Return To Freedom rescued in 2017 from a troubled living situation, are still substantially with us these five years later. What we thought to be a brief stay has turned into a permanent home, and that's fine with us. Taking them in greatly increased our expenses, and we've only been able to serve them with the help of many kind people who love, value and respect them as we do—including you.
The Gilas who are at RTF headquarters in Lompoc, CA, are there for more specialized care. As horses kept at our satellite locations age and acquire special needs, we bring them in closer to us to keep a closer eye on them.
The Lompoc Gilas—
Thor and Company—Thor is 22. Always calm, no matter what is happening around him, he has been an invaluable educator to two young stallions, Cole and Little Ears.
Cole, six, is a shy, stunning coal grulla stallion of the Spanish Iberian type. He and Little Ears have grown up together. They are short but strong, and remind us of the horses on the Mongolian Steppes!
Little Ears, six, is a bay dun stallion, dominant and very competitive with other males. He patrols his fence lines and burns a lot of energy.
The “Special Needs Three"—
Isabella is 12. In 2016/17, Isabella was one of 903 horses impounded by the state of South Dakota. She was extremely undernourished and struggling to survive in the heavy winter. She was nursed to health by a volunteer and then sent to RTF’s sanctuary in Lompoc. She continued to have problems gaining and maintaining weight and suffered from chronic ulcers and diarrhea.
She. along with Aragon and Watcher, were kept together in a large corral area for special feed and care. But after a few years of diligent special care by RTF’s equine team, Isabella, Watcher and Aragon were released into a pasture with seniors and other special needs horses.
Aragon is six. Before she was even a year old, this filly nearly died. Freezing in the South Dakota winter, undernourished, her tail was frozen solid. During rescue efforts, she was scheduled to be euthanized, but a devoted volunteer took her to Arizona and nursed her back to health. Aragon is beautiful, friendly and loves attention. She is now living happily in the hills at RTF’s Lompoc sanctuary with her friends, Watcher and Isabella!
Watcher was also rescued by RTF with over 116 other Gila horses in 2017. He was gelded and later taken to RTF’s sanctuary in Lompoc, CA for special care. He suffered from chronic diarrhea and had a hard time keeping on weight. Extremely alert and beautiful, Watcher assimilated well with Aragon and Isabella, and now sticks close to them.
The really great news is that all three have maintained their health, and are now out in the rolling hills with the front-hill herd!
As well as the Gilas at our headquarters in Lompoc, CA, the 62 herd members who had been boarded at a satellite ranch in Northern California, cared for by our Ranch Manager, Jason, were recently moved to another boarding facility up north. They continue to do well there, thanks to our friends at Dreamcatcher Sanctuary, who have allowed them to be housed on their rangeland.
Looking ahead, there are a few very senior Gilas in the herd who may drop pounds this winter, so we are adding alfalfa hay to their feeding program to keep them at a good weight.
Speaking of hay, this is a particularly challenging time—hay prices have exploded in the past year by 41%, and to make things worse, it's even harder to find. There is more competition globally than before, so we are challenged more than ever. As in all negotiating, having the money in hand to bargain gets us the best deal possible. We really need and appreciate your help to meet these skyrocketing costs! You can't know how much your generosity is appreciated and needed, especially now. RTF does many things to help horses, but feeding them is #1!
Thank you for sticking with the deserving Gila Herd—they lost so much, but thanks to caring people like you, we have been able to give them a happy life in spite of how human needs and politics have taken away their original home.
To the Wild Ones, and those who stand with them—
All of Us at RTF
Dear Friend of the Gilas,
As someone who has helped care for the Gila herd, rescued by RTF in 2017, you are a permanent part of their herd history, and the reason they had somewhere to go when they lost their previous sanctuary home in 2017.
At present, there are 11 Gilas at our headquarters in Lompoc, CA. Four are here because they were not doing well in the larger herd, two are younger stallions and five were younger colts brought down to Lompoc for gentling and adoption-—Bandit, Nathani, Casey, Jaden and Seven are waiting for their forever safe homes. The 62 herd members who had been boarded at a satellite ranch in Northern California, where they had been cared for by our Ranch Manager, Jason, were recently moved for now to another boarding facility up north.
Although RTF uses a non-hormonal and reversible birth control regimen to keep our sanctuary population stable, a few mares prove to be non-responsive, and so there is the occasional beautiful foal who joins us. When these foals are no longer as dependent on their mothers, some of the friendly ones undergo some gentling and training to make them candidates for careful adoption.
One of RTF's part time trainers, Thomas Smittle (Native Horseman), worked with five Gila boys consistently for a few weeks to this end, and they learned a lot very quickly. Haltering, tying, leading, picking up feet, and learning about saddle pads and ropes will allow them to interact safely with their eventual new guardians. They are far from trained, but they are on their way.
As we just mentioned, we are pioneers in a form of birth control which does not change herd behavior and which obviates the necessity of most gelding to control the size of our horse population.
Here is a short recent report from our RTF Biologist, Celeste—
"The 62 Gilas spent the winter in Northern California, in the sagebrush hills of a ranch south of Alturas. It was a mild winter, but snow did fall and the herd seemed to enjoy playing and rolling in patches of snow. A week ago, I ventured to the ranch to administer an immuno-contraceptive vaccine to the mares (PZP), and to check in with the ranchers overseeing the day to day care of the horses.
"We started the work day with updates about the herd and which pastures they could utilize as the winter snows melt away and portions of the ranch difficult to access during winter become available again. The horses had been brought down off the hill pasture to an area near the barn. A happy crew of local ranchers helped me quietly move the horses through narrowing alleyways and into a livestock chute for thorough examinations and safe hand-injection of the vaccine...
"The Gilas’ coats were fuzzy, but I expect soon they will be slick and shiny. Everyone was energetic, alert, and had a healthy weight. Some of the young colts were beginning to get a bit rowdy out in the pasture, playing and (play)"fighting" with one another, then chasing one another through the mares and older stallions. A few of the foals from years ago, perfectly proportioned when they were born, were leggy and awkward looking. They'll begin to fill out and mature this summer.
"After the horses had made their way through the chute, we let them stay in a large paddock with hay on the ground so that we could slowly walk through everyone and make certain all was well. Some of the older stallions are showing their age, moving a bit slower than they used to, or choosing to stay out of a fracas, but all in all, the herd looks as they always do: vibrant and strong and together. "
This is good news, and more evidence of the excellent care we've been able to provide to this rescued herd, thanks to supporters like you. We never expected the Gilas to remain in our family permanently, but we guess it was meant to be, and we're not sorry. What might have been a burden without so many caring people chipping in has instead been a rewarding experience for all of us, our sanctuary visitors and, of course, the Gilas themselves.
To the Wild Ones, and those who stand by them,
All of Us at RTF
Dear Friend of the Gilas,
If you've been following the story of the Gila Herd, you know that Return to Freedom rescued 112 members, (several then pregnant!) of this herd in 2017 from a troubled living situation. This was an unexpected large expansion for our sanctuary, but fortunately you and our other supporters have come through consistently to help with their care.
The horses have travelled as needed for space and care, between spacious boarding ranches and RTF Headquarters, and some finally journeyed to the sanctuary in South Dakota which had originally agreed to welcome them in 2017, and whose circumstances required a delay.
At present, there are 11 Gilas at our headquarters in Lompoc. The 63 herd members who had been boarded at a satellite ranch in Northern California, where they had been cared for by our great Ranch Manager Jason, were recently moved for now to another boarding facility up north. This fully staffed situation freed Jason to return to Lompoc where everyone is very happy have him back. He works very hard to enrich the lives of all the horses and burros here, including the Gilas on site.
Here in Lompoc and at our other location, the Gilas are safe and not at the mercy of outside forces—here, they are a priority, not seen as in the way of the competing interests of the outside world.
At the ranch, five of the Gilas have been readied for adoption: Casey, Natahni, Bandit, Seven and Jaden. We have started to work on haltering with Seven and Bandit. Time flies—they are all turning five years old in the Spring. Earlier this summer, Navajo horseman and musician, Clayson Benally, worked with this playful bunch, using a drum to keep them focused and on the beat. The horses seemed to really respond to this! More recently, Native Horseman Thomas Smittle continued to work on halter training.
We hope you can visit RTF one day for a tour during which you can see the horses you help in person. In the meantime, we've included recent pictures of pals Isabella, 11, Watcher, 7, and Aragon, 5, having some lunch. It’s difficult to get a picture without Aragon photo-bombing because she is extremely curious and friendly! There is no doubt that she is the leader of her little band.
Check out the photos of Gilas Natahni, 6, Casey, 4, and Jaden, 4. They are as rambunctious as ever!
The Gila herd were unexpected guests who immediately became beloved residents. Your help enables us to give them the happy life they deserve. There is no RTF without people like you,
To the Wild Ones and those who stand with them,
All of Us at Return to Freedom
Life is Good for the Gila Herd...
Ever since Return to Freedom rescued 112 members of the Gila herd in 2017 from a troubled living situation, it has been an adventure for these beautiful horses. They have travelled as needed for space and care between spacious boarding ranches and RTF Headquarters, and some finally traveled to the sanctuary in South Dakota which had agreed to home them when they were first rescued.
RTF currently has members of the Gila herd in two locations. At RTF's Lompoc Headquarters, there are currently a total of 11 Gilas—one gelding, two mares and eight stallions. Several younger Gila studs are being gentled and trained to allow handling for their necessary husbandry and medical/farrier care. The older studs just get to hang out and... well, be studs!
In addition, we have a very spunky Gila mare, Aragon, in the barn named who is refining her hoof trimming skills as well as providing company and friendship for another mare who injured herself several months ago, and is in the final stages of healing.
Finally, there is a gelding, Watcher, and Isabella, a mare, who is integrated with a larger band. They tend to be the high-energy instigators of playtime out in one of RTF's front pastures.
Meanwhile, at our satellite up north, Ranch Manager Jason's work never ends. He faithfully cares for 63 Gilas there. Among his recent projects were re-diking roughly 80 acres to improve flood irrigation while constantly rotating horses to new dry land pasture.
Thank you for beng an important part of the Gila Herd's story—without the help of many caring people like you, they would never have had this new chance for a happy life. All of the Gilas, including those who have moved on to South Dakota, will always be a part of RTF's heart.
All of Us at Return to Freedom
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.