Did you know that a horse can scream?
Did you know that horses were here before the 1500’s?
Did you know that wild horses are endangered?
Last week I spoke with my cousin, who owns a 12 horse stable in Las Vegas. She boards horses, she owns horses, but she also adores horses. She’s got the sweetest, most beautiful horses I’ve ever seen. And while talking to her, she spoke about her newest endeavor, a line of clothes aimed at horse lovers around the world. I asked her why she’s doing this and her passion came through on the telephone clearly and earnestly. She lost her beloved horse last year and upon his death, she decided to give something back to the horse community. A healthy portion of the proceeds from the new clothing line will be donated to the Return To Freedom foundation.
The cornerstone of all Return to Freedom’s efforts rests in the management and philosophy of The American Wild Horse Sanctuary. The American Wild Horse Sanctuary provides a safe haven for wild horses, herds and burros who might otherwise be separated, slaughtered, abused, or left to roam without food or water. Here these animals can live out their lives in freedom. Simultaneously it creates an opportunity for people to directly experience part of America’s living heritage-the wild horse in its natural habitat.
Currently home to over 200 wild horses and burros, the American Wild Horse Sanctuary offers a number of unique conservation and preservation programs that include preserving natural herd groups, using non-hormonal birth control methods, and habitat preservation Preserving Natural Herd Groups
Horses are herd animals and thrive within their family groups. When separated from their herds, wild horses have been known to panic and sometimes even run themselves to death. It’s their way of screaming.
In April 2007, there was a federal court ruling that closed the doors on horse slaughter in the United States. Despite efforts by equine welfare organizations to take over care of the slaughter bound horses, most of them were re-routed to plants in Canada or Mexico. Amazingly, 28 horses that were inside the slaughter plant were given over to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who worked to place all of them in permanent homes. These horses might be the only horses in history to make the terrifying journey into a horse slaughter plant and live to tell their story.
Return to Freedom offered to take in any wild or untamed horses, offering them a safe haven at their 300 acre sanctuary in California. The wild horse sanctuary promotes the use of Non-Hormonal Birth Control Methods to help manage the wild horse population while at the same time rescue horses who have been abused or are ready for the slaughter house.
One Miracle Rescue:
On Wednesday, April 18th, the sanctuary welcomed the “miracle horses” Ginger, Flicka & Scout to their new home. Each of these 3 mares ended up in an auction feedlot and were picked up by a buyer in Utah. They traveled to Wyoming and then on to a slaughter plant in Illinois. These mares, all healthy and aged 3, 5 and 15, were a breath away from a grisly ending to their life on this earth. They were literally inside the plant when the judge handed down the decision.
Having survived the trauma of their journey to the slaughter plant and back, the mares are settling into their new surroundings. The two youngest are curious and eager when the staff approaches their paddock. Scout, a 15 year old paint mare, who was literally on the floor of the horse slaughter facility when a U.S. Federal Court ruling saved her life, is a little more cautious.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of everyone working to end horse slaughter in the United States, Scout and the other two mares are facing a happy ending at Return to Freedom.
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice”, said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for a half hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
– Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland
The Cerbat Stallion:
The Mustangs from the Cerbat Mountain area of northwestern Arizona are some of the purest Spanish descendants in the United States. With less than 70 living in the wild, and very few in domestic breeding programs, he is a rare find. The handsome stallion named Ambrasador Amante (translated as Fiery Lover) had wandered off his range and managed to break into a neighboring ranch taking several mares back into the hills with him. The owner of the mares went through quite an ordeal to gather them back up. Since his capture, this stallion has been held in a government (BLM) corral for three years looking back at freedom and the high snow covered peaks that were once his home. Now the Cerbat stallion is a new resident at the sanctuary and plays a significant role in the conservancy’s Preservation Program.
Horses at Risk:
The US Government is considering the mass murder of thousands of wild horses. On June 30th, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at their Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting announced a proposal that involves the phasing out of long-term holding facilities where they house some 22,000 wild horses that they removed from the range. Though they can only find adoptive homes for some 2000-3000 wild horses each year, the BLM has continued for decades to remove horses by the tens of thousands. Faced with budget cuts and more horses than they can afford to care for, their “solution” to years of mis-management is to simply kill them. With additional round ups scheduled this year, up to 30,000 wild horses could face the bullet.
They Were Here Before:
Did you know that our wild horses are actually a re-introduced native wildlife species? Traditionally, horses were thought of as an exotic species that arrived on this continent for the first time with the Spanish in the 1500s. However, advances in molecular biology prove that the modern horse, Equus Caballus, actually evolved on this continent and migrated across the Bering Land Bridge. Though the horse disappeared on this continent between 11,000 and 13,000 years ago, when the Spanish brought horses back to North America they were simply returning home.
Return to Freedom have living history tours, clinics, youth programs, retreats and so much more than I can begin to name on this blog. I urge you to take a peek at this fantastic organization, by clicking HERE.
While this isn’t a call for donations though they certainly welcome them, we can do something easy to aid this cause. When you shop at Ralphs, register your card number at www.ralphs.com/ccprogram.htm and choose Return to Freedom with the number 90094 and a portion of your purchases will be donated to the Return to Freedom cause. It’s that simple. You can find details on their site for more ways to help!
Funny, but when I started writing this blog, it was informational only, until I perused their site for hours, learning more and more about what Return to Freedom does and how important it is. Now, I find I’m as passionate as my cousin about helping to save these majestic animals. Killing off herds isn’t the answer — the animals aren’t starving, they survive quite well on their own. I’ve seen pictures of the wild mustangs in Red Rock Canyon where many roamed free. My cousin got some amazing shots of those mustangs before they’d been taken out of the canyon. As a result, without the horses grazing the land keeping the brush down, the entire area caught fire recently.
I love horses, and had grown up wanting to own one on my own. That wasn’t in the cards for me, but I’ve always held great admiration and fascination for them. These wild mustangs are as American as the cowboy. In my story, Five-Star Cowboy, Trent secures wild horses to roam free on his property and when I wrote that book, I hadn’t a clue that he would do that. I guess my love of horses came through, even before I learned about their plight.
Do you own horses? How many of you have ridden a horse? Do you find them as stunningly beautiful as I do? I’d love to hear your horse stories.