Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd

by Return to Freedom Inc. , (DBA) American Wild Horse Sanctuary
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Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Help Care for the Rescued Gila Herd
Newly arrived Gilas explore Black Hills Sanctuary
Newly arrived Gilas explore Black Hills Sanctuary

Checking in on the RTF Gila Herd on the move...

Dear Friends,

In 2017, RTF rescued 117 members of the historic Gila Herd from a troubled living situation to keep them from the auction and the kill pen. This was just one herd that was part of a 900-horse rescue led by Fleet of Angels, who worked hard with RTF and many others to ensure that all horses found a safe home. 

The Gila herd is believed to be descended from the horses brought to Arizona in the 1600s from Spain by Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino. The Gila herd was originally captured by the BLM in 2003 from the Painted Rock Herd Area in Arizona.

Return to Freedom and The Black Hills Sanctuary in South Dakota pledged to share the responsibility of providing sanctuary for the Spanish Gila herd, in an effort to maintain their bonded families and unique 13-generation-long heritage. In 2017, the Black Hills Sanctuary was not yet able to take in the Gilas, so the entire herd made the journey to Return to Freedom’s leased pasture in Northern California, and has been protected and managed by RTF over the past three and a half years. 

In 2019, the large herd sorted itself into two large herds. A bonded group of sixty-five horses were moved to a pristine private ranch. The rest of the herd remained on the leased pasture until Black Hills Sanctuary was prepared to take them on permanently.

Just recently, our colleagues at Black Hills Sanctuary were in a position to take the 51 Gila horses living on the property in Alturas, CA, to their forever home on 14,000 acres in South Dakota! A three-year-old colt named Bandit, and Thor, an older Gila stallion, will remain in Lompoc with a handful of other Gilas who live in our special needs /senior pasture. Thor is also a mentor to younger males, to whom he is a calming influence. Bandit is a three-year-old colt who will be gentled and available for adoption with a buddy to an approved home.

Return to Freedom continues to care for the now-66 Gilas at our satellite on a private ranch in Northern CA, under the expert care of our Ranch Manager, Jason, in addition to their counterparts who remain with us in our Lompoc and San Luis Obispo sanctuary. These past few months at RTF’s far north satellite, a lot of work was done on Irrigation and irrigation system repairs, including pouring concrete and fixing broken valves to fix the irrigation system. Necessary improvements were also made to the chute used to hold horses for medical needs. 

Under Jason’s supervision, 58 tons of hay were cut, baled and stacked in the barn for winter. Four-plus acres of star thistles were removed and cleaned. Temporary fencing was continually moved in order to rotate the Gilas for grazing. Additionally, 1,600 feet of temporary fence was installed to improve grazing in another field. This ranch had no sunshine for nearly 40 days because of fires and smoke, creating very poor conditions for the pastures to grow grass, so we will have to begin to feed hay earlier than we did last year. The good news is we have already contracted the cutting and stacking of hay for the Gilas up there!

While we are so grateful to the Black Hills Sanctuary for being able to fulfill their pledge to provide refuge for half of the Gila herd after their rescue, it was bittersweet to see them leave. But seeing them kick up their heels as they unloaded at the Black Hills Sanctuary and galloped off to explore thousands of acres filled our hearts. Thankfully, we still have a total of 75 of our Gila friends in our RTF family, and with your help we will always ensure their safety and happiness. We at RTF are so grateful for your loyalty to the historic and beautiful Gila herd. 

All of us at RTF

Taking in the last days of California Dreaming
Taking in the last days of California Dreaming
Coggins tests and health certificates for travel
Coggins tests and health certificates for travel
Gilas arrive at Black Hills Sanctuary
Gilas arrive at Black Hills Sanctuary
Thor, senior mentor stallion with younger friend
Thor, senior mentor stallion with younger friend
Some of the 71 RTF Gilas living in Northern Calif.
Some of the 71 RTF Gilas living in Northern Calif.

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Gilas
Gilas

As we've told you previously, in 2017 RTF rescued 117 members of the historic Gila Herd from a troubled sanctuary to keep them from an imminent auction at which they most likely would have been sold to a killer buyer and sent to a horrific slaughter.

When the horses were rescued from that unfortunate situation, Return to Freedom and The Black Hills Sanctuary stepped up to help Fleet of Angels with this effort and pledged to share the responsibility of providing sanctuary for the Spanish Gila herd, in an effort to maintain their bonded families and unique heritage.

Due to the declining health of the founder of The Black Hills Sanctuary, they were unable to receive the horses in 2017-2019. The entire herd has been protected and managed by RTF over the last few years on 1000 acres of leased pasture, and you have helped to make that happen.

Last summer the herd sorted themselves quite naturally into two large herds and 64 were relocated to a private ranch managed by RTF and the remaining 45 horses remained on the 1000 acres of leased pasture.

After the sad passing of Dayton Hyde, the founder of Black Hills Sanctuary, their director Susan Watt is now able to receive the horses. We are thrilled for the horses that Black Hills Sanctuary is now ready to welcome them to their permanent sanctuary.

On June 13, the RTF team traveled to Alturas, CA and spent the week preparing the 45 Gilas that remained on leased pasture for their final journey to Black Hills.

In Alturas 39 horses were prepared for transport. Forest Service staff came to help on their day off, bringing water and Jute fencing to help funnel the horses. It took 3 three days to catch them and once we were able to create the funnel we were able to get the herd into the corral area. The portable corrals were set up and our new hydraulic squeeze chute was utilized. Dr. Nicole Eller came to draw blood and look over the horses for their Health Certificates. All horses were wormed and then transported to the Dreamcatcher sanctuary nearby, where they are enjoying a 200-acre pasture while awaiting transport to South Dakota.

Six of the horses were brought to RTF’s Lompoc facility. Three are stallions who will be gelded, and one is an older stallion who will remain in Lompoc with a handful of other Gilas that live in our special needs /senior pasture.

After they recover from their gelding, two of the mature stallions, along with a mare and her soon to be 2-month old filly, will travel in separate compartments to The Black Hills Sanctuary and rejoin their herd who will arrive there ahead of them. One of the stallions we brought to Lompoc is a 3-year-old colt who will be gentled and available for adoption with a buddy to a safe, qualified home.

We will miss our Gila friends, who were always destined to leave us, but we are happy that they will never be moved again and will enjoy the protection offered by our colleagues in the Black Hills. Return to Freedom continues to manage a conservation program with the now 66 Gilas still under RTF's care in Northern CA and a dozen of their counterparts who remain with us in our Lompoc and San Luis Obispo sanctuary. 

In addition, we are grateful to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for taking some of the young Gila colts to be gentled and adopted from their facility in Kanab, Utah.

Thank you for your help caring for the Gilas, and we hope you will continue to follow their lives and be an important part of them.

All of us at RTF 

Gilas
Gilas
Gilas
Gilas
Gila happy to be out of the chute and on her way!
Gila happy to be out of the chute and on her way!
Gelding will stay with mentor(Father?) Thor at RTF
Gelding will stay with mentor(Father?) Thor at RTF
This savvy Gila mare is ready for the Black Hills!
This savvy Gila mare is ready for the Black Hills!
Veterinarian working at the chute
Veterinarian working at the chute
Thor and his friend soon to be reunited
Thor and his friend soon to be reunited
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Yes, it is!!
Yes, it is!!

If you have been seeing our quarterly reports, you know that since the Gila Herd was rescued by RTF in 2017 they have been on the move until settling into their current 2 locations. The horses were originally captured from the Painted Rock Herd Management area in Arizona in 2003. When the South Dakota sanctuary which had taken them in foundered, RTF spearheaded a campaign, working with other rescues and individuals, to get all the nearly 900 endangered horses into secure situations. RTF spoke up for the 120+ Gilas.

The herd traveled from South Dakota to Nevada to Northern CA , and moved from one location to another there when the first boarding location was sold.  Then, when a private ranch owner in Shasta County, CA, generously opened his gates to 64 herd members, part of the herd has settled in there over the past few months. Weather there has been above normal temperatures, with below normal precipitation. Many of the major projects and work there to prepare it for the herd has been completed, although there is always routine maintenance, such as fence repair. RTF’s biologist, Celeste, will begin administering birth control at both Gila locations on first of March. This is the same non-hormonal and reversible fertility control we have been using with success at RTF headquarters for over a dozen years. 

Because the Gila horses are situated firmly for now, you may notice that we have changed the name of this project to “Care for the Rescued Gila Herd”, from “Transport the Gila Herd to CA”. These are the same horses, and they are thriving in their current homes. Great care was taken to identify the herd members who needed to stay together, so there are no issues with the herd’s current division. All are happy in their respective locations.

When RTF first took in the Gila’s, we went to great lengths to determine their lineage and genetic significance through DNA testing and phenotyping, in the hope that the herd would be a good candidate for a dedicated conservation organization to take them over.  That did not turn out to be the case. 

Because of our hope that they would be candidates for a conservation program, we originally planned to be responsible for their care for a maximum of 2 years, until a program could be established. Now that is not an option.  Removing them from the danger of auction and probable slaughter into our care significantly increased our expenses by over a third, and it has been a challenge to shoulder the additional financial needs. But many supporters, caring people like you who read these reports, are the reason that the Gilas have not only survived the danger, but have found a happy, peaceful and safe home. As long as people care, the Gilas will survive and thrive. We hope that you will continue to keep them in your thoughts when you consider a project to support. They have lost a lot in their lives, and they deserve the stability that together, we can give them.

We hope you enjoy the video showing the Gilas eating their hay in the snow in Shasta.  It’s because of our supporters that they can count on their meals. We are grateful for you every day.

Thank you for standing with the Gila Herd!

All of us at Return to Freedom

New Gila Filly!
New Gila Filly!
Gilas in Alturas
Gilas in Alturas
Alturas living
Alturas living
New fence repair in Shasta County, CA Gila home
New fence repair in Shasta County, CA Gila home
Living the good life...
Living the good life...

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Gilas at their new home
Gilas at their new home

The Gila Herd rescued by RTF in 2017 has been thriving in their Alturas, CA home, and the overall herd health has dramatically improved both mentally and physically. 

However, we had a great opportunity to move some of them to an even better location in Shasta County, CA, in a situation mirroring our other satellite in San Luis Obispo and expanding our Mustang Conservator program to partner with private ranch owners to provide life-long sanctuary for bonded wild horses. Giving a home to displaced herds keeps their family bands together instead of splitting them up, never to see each other again, as they are when they are heading to Government or private profit-based holding.

In late summer, RTF Ranch Manager Jason began improving the infrastructure at a new satellite location in Northern California to prepare a new sanctuary for the Gila herd. After haying some of the meadows, we were able to stack 100 tons of hay for the horses there to have during winter months. Next came fencing. The fencing allows for good rotational grazing for holistic management to keep the land healthy and productive. Good fencing is a must, to keep RTF’s horses and burros safe and gently managed. In September our ranch manager moved up north to continue the improvements and to get ready to receive the herd to these greener pastures. Developing watering holes, bridges and safe handing corrals all needed to be done.

With the new location prepared, it was time to move the members of the herd who would be going to the new ranch location.  

Jason went to Alturas and set up corrals to stage horses for shipping. After he had sorted the horses who were to move from pastures to the pens, Neda DeMayo, RTF Founder and President, joined him in the large moving task. Neda and Jason, along with our newly-arrived resident volunteer from Norway, using two pickup trucks and two trailers hauled 64 horses to the new spot. This was roughly a 145-mile round trip. The move was done very carefully, so it was very successful and no injuries or unnecessary stress to the travellng horses occurred.

On Oct. 6tha total of 64 horses, including 4 mares with foals, were released onto green pastures in Shasta County.

The amazing thing is that the horses really sorted themselves! We created a large corral of 70 acres, that was fenced within the 1000-acre pasture in Alturas. Leaving the gates open for a few days and distributing hay all around, 64 horses closely bonded to each other ended up in the large corral trap, and 45 others remained out in the 70-acre field. Once assured that the horses were all settled in with their rightful bands, the gates were closed for a few days to be sure that anyone crying for someone was either let out or let in. Among the horses who made the trip are the younger yearlings and two-year-olds, with a handful of older horses who needed a boost and who will have an easier time at their new home. It was really amazing to see how the horses really did it all themselves, because trying to sort them in these larger areas would have been challenging.

Winter has started up North and snow is on the way! There is still a lot of work to be done, but the horses have plenty of natural forage and water.

We are so grateful to private landowners who have partnered with Return to Freedom as Mustang Conservators. 

45 of the Gila horses remained in Alturas. They may eventually also find a new location and may even be joining the others next spring, but for now, they’re doing great, and we are so glad we took the leap of saving them from auction and probable slaughter in 2017. Without continued support from people like our Global Giving Community, none of this would be possible, and the Gila story would have been a tragic one.

Thank you for your continued help and support in the saga of the Gila herd and their journey to and around California! We hope you watch the video linked to this update, it will show you what you have helped to accomplish. We are so grateful to you!

All of us at RTF

Let's have lunch...
Let's have lunch...
Horses sure like to eat!
Horses sure like to eat!
Small but Mighty work vehicle ready for liftoff
Small but Mighty work vehicle ready for liftoff
Gilas enjoying their new view
Gilas enjoying their new view

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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...
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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:
Jack Carone
Lompoc, CA United States
$23,148 raised of $100,000 goal
 
460 donations
$76,852 to go
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