Wild Horses … Return to Freedom!


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.

Return to Freedom:

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.

This is sanctuary’s stipulation: When we take one horse-we take the entire family. AWHS may be the only sanctuary in the country with this mandate.


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.

Their mantra:

“There is no use trying,” said Alice, one can’t believe impossible things.”

“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.


How You Can Help:

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. 





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35 thoughts on “Wild Horses … Return to Freedom!”

  1. Hi Charlene! I’ve always found horses to be beautiful, but am not the greatest rider. I think they sense my fear of huge animals, so now I just admire them from afar. 🙂 I do love to write about them, though, along with my horse-loving characters.

    I was very surprised to learn that horses were here before 1500. Amazing what modern biology can discover, isn’t it?

    What a worthy cause you’ve blogged about. I hope they do well!

  2. Hi Kate! Thanks for the post today. I’m so enamored by horses and my cousin’s mares are so sweet and gentle. Really, it’s like petting a friendly dog — they are very loving in their own way. Like any animal, if they are treated with care, they respond in kind.

  3. That’s a nice description (like petting a friendly dog). I never thought of it like that. I know a friend who has a friend who owns stables, and I’m mustering some nerve to have her show me how to properly handle a horse. Maybe that’ll do the trick and I’ll be more relaxed around them.

    Also, I had to laugh when you wrote that you had no idea your hero was going to handle wild horses. Funny how our characters surprise us, even though we invented them!

  4. Good morning, Cheryl!

    Kate, it’s makes me laugh too. It’s amazing how many times our characters do surprise us. I’ll say, “Oh, I didn’t know he was going to do that.”

  5. I had horses growing up. My famiy had one welch pony named Sparky.
    Our neighbors had three horses: Susie, Flicka and Sandy.
    We rode a lot but I was never really the horse lover my older sister was. I broke my arm falling off a horse when I was five or six. I don’t think I ever forgave horses for that.

    And my husband and I had three horses over the years. None anymore. They are amazingly expensive to feed!!!!!!!!!!

    Studly…he was NOT a good horse.

    Mae and Rex. My husband loved taking our daughters riding. He said they’d get away from the house and just start talking and talking and talking. He felt like the quiet and no distractions were somehow the cause of that but he really got to know them better and hear what was going on their confusing little female heads while they rode the horses.

  6. When I was probably around four I wrote a bunch of letters on a paper and asked my Gramma what they said. She told me it looked like Cyclops. I then told her that when I got a horse, that would be his name.

    Not long after that Grampa got a horse and asked what I wanted to name him. I said, of course, Cyclops. They tried and tried to get me to name him something else like Blaze or Star for his white facial markings. But I was a determined kid and Cyclops he remained.

    Cy was a grand old horse, patient when three, four or five grandkids all tried to ride him at once. I think the only time he was really feisty was when he ran away with Gramma on his back. Well, Gram decided that if he wanted to run, he was gonna run. So she kept him going. And going. He was one tired horse when they got back to the house. 🙂

    All my cousins remember Cyclops and his one, two, cha cha cha gait. He spent his retirement in Wyoming lounging on a ranch.

    Great post, Charlene. I’ll definitely be checking out Return to Freedom!

  7. Hi Mary – I’ve never owned a horse, but have been riding many times. It makes sense that your girls would feel free riding a horse and talk to their dad openly. It sorta gave me goosebumps when you wrote that…I can picture them chatting up a storm on those horses.

    After seeing my cousin work her stables, I know how hard it is to keep horses. She gets up at 5 am every day, mucks out the stalls, feeds them 3x a day. She has 12 horses and loves them all to pieces. I see the hard work and realize the expense too. But still … I’d love to own one and ride every day. Sigh..

  8. Hi Lizzie – I enjoyed your story about Cyclops so much! I can picture five kids trying to get atop Cy and ride him all at once. That must have been a sight! I’m glad you’ll check out Return to Freedom — it’s an amazing site filled with so much information. I still love learning things that I never knew and I’ve learned alot about wild horses!

  9. Wonderful post, Charlene!!! I too LOVE horses and the BLM is a huge interest of mine. I live in the country and am surrounded by horse ranches and like you, I so wish I owned my own horse…not yet 🙁 But I’m still hopin’.

    Thanks for sharing all the fab info 😀

  10. Hi Stacey – I’ve always wanted to live on a ranch. But I am a people person too, so I think living in the city has its merits. Though I’m not exactly in the city, but the ‘burbs’. Still, there’s horse properties just minutes away from my house. VERY EXPENSIVE, gated communities or so much land, you’d have to have millions to own the ranch. I’m talking Malibu Canyon and Mulholland area.
    When we moved to CA, I thought for sure as a child, I’d see ranches all over and that everyone owned horses. We were moving out WEST, but I was disappointed — my 7 year old imagination had gone a little wild.

  11. What a wonderful post, Charlene. The story of the three mares almost brought tears. I love horses but have never owned one and have only ridden a little. Here in Utah, on the Nevada side that’s mostly desert, we have wild horses. There are a lot of issues with what to do with the growing population. They try to adopt some out. But I fear the authorities may end up destroying some. So it was inspiring to read your blog.
    Hey, I just bought Five Star Cowboy! Can hardly wait to read it!

  12. Hi Elizabeth – I know there’s issues of the growing population of wild horses. And it brought tears to my eyes too to learn about these horses. Land owners don’t want them around, but they’re being slaughtered on some instances. My cousin’s been up to Red Rock where they were pushed out. She claims (and I have pics to prove it) they are healthy animals, not starving, but BLM wants the land they occupy. It’s so sad.

    I hope you enjoy FIVE-STAR! Thanks for your post today. Have a great Weekend!

  13. Charlene,

    Your post broke my heart. How sad that healthy horses were and still are being slaughtered. I’d love to rescue them all and give them the freedom they deserve. I’ll definitely be checking into Return to Freedom.

    I’ve never owned a horse but have always admired them. They’re such noble majestic animals. That’s why I love writing about them and the deep bond with my characters.

    I loved that scene in Five Star Cowboy where he decides to rescue horses and put them in the canyon near the hotel. It showed another, more deeper, layer of Trent’s character. Isn’t it amazing at the little surprises that surface in the actual writing of our stories? I love when that happens. It always makes the book so much better. Five Star Cowboy gets five stars from me. It’s a wonderful tender love story!

    Wishing you lots of luck with book sales! 🙂
    And with saving the horses.

  14. Hi Charlene!

    I love this post. Although I don’t ride and am allergic to horses that have been in a stable (not to horses that graze on the open land, however), I love horses. They do symbolize freedom and independence.

    Your research is impecible and I learned alot just from reading your post. Fascinating.

  15. We owned a horse, kind of. My daughter started the ‘I want a horse’ tirade at the age of 9-like most little girls. My husband’s friend had a minature horse that his kids had outgrown and he gave Billy-Bob to us.

    Allie’s first time on the horse, she wouldn’t listen to instructions and kicked him in the ribs, which of course caused him to take off like a shot. Allie bounced along with him for about ten steps and then bounced right off to the ground. Needless to say, Allie wasn’t hurt (it was a minature horse, after all) but her pride took a beating and she HATED him after that.

    We lived on a pretty big farm with my family all around us, so we let Billy-Bob roam alot. He ended up being a huge pet-he even tried to follow me into the house-until he got into my uncle’s garden and then he was sentenced to horse jail (corral). Only recently did my uncle sell him to another family.

    My niece is horse crazy and has two horses, Stormy and Shadow. My mom has three or four horses. To this day, Allie (who is 14 now) won’t even pet them. Billy-Bob scarred her for life.

  16. Hi Charlene, This story has to touch the heart of every western writer and reader. I grew up with the Black Stallion books, among others. I love horses and am glad Return to Freedom is looking out for them.

  17. Hi Linda – thanks for your kind words about my story! It’s fun to write a modern day cowboy type, alpha all the way. And I swear that I never thought of him rescuing those horses, until I wrote that chapter. It must have been in my mind stirring around.

    I’m going to keep posting about Return to Freedom on my personal site too, to make people aware of this. I LOVE horses and this is such a shame.
    Thanks for your post today!!

  18. Hi Karen! I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Are you allergic to all animals or just stable raised horses?

    I wish I could spend more time around horses … it’s been a lifelong dream.

  19. Hi Estella!
    Glad you liked the pics. I could have posted a ton of them, but had to chose some favorites. I’ll do another post sometime, with pics from my cousin’s area … where she visited those wild herds.

  20. Oh Terry- your story about your daughter, made me laugh a little as I envisioned her kicking Billy Bob in the ribs.(I know she didn’t hurt him, the horse was being snarky) Sorry she had such an ordeal as a child, and having been thrown must have frightened her a good deal!

    I rode my cousin’s horse once, when I was twelve, the horse spooked, then took off and nearly threw me. I was scared at the time, but probably because I was older, I didn’t let that fear keep me from horses.

    Love those names, Stormy, Shadow and Billy Bob!

  21. Hi Vicki!

    I grew up watching Fury! Did you if see that series? I also read Black Beauty and National Velvet as a child! Thanks for your post and I’m glad this post is touching hearts along the way.

  22. I remember as a child entering a naming contest for a pony, I was so sure I would win lol. Of course I lived in the suburbs and I never could have had one but I’ve always thought they were gorgeous creatures as your photos show.

  23. This city girl (LOL) has never ridden a horse or
    owned one. In fact, the only photograph of me and
    a horse shows an approximately 1 y/o me, sitting
    on a dark-colored horse. Are any of you old enough
    to remember the photographers who would bring along
    a horse and take children’s photographs. Well, I
    don’t actually remember that myself, my mother told
    me about it. This was back in about 1937 in Houston.

    Pat Cochran

  24. Hi Pat!

    I don’t remember that, but I do remember the roaming carousel of pony rides coming down the street. My father always put me on those horsey rides.

    Do you remember the horse on the stick we would ride when we were children?

  25. Charlene-what a beautiful post you wrote! This is dear to my heart, My best memories growing up with my horse, her name was Gypsie she was a blue eyed Palimino a barrel racing horse, she was as wild as they came except with me we had a bond and we were wild together but she would never hurt me, just other people. I think sometime before i came along she was abbused and hated men. I know I wrote you ladies about the field trip I went on at Shackleford Banks in N.C. and i saw at least 25 different wild horses there, I got up close to some of them and took some beautiful pictures of these amazing animals. I was so moved by seeing them in Their enviroment i felt very priviledged at the same time, however it is also sad people are not allowed to feed them because they’ve learned to live off the land and dig in the ground for fresh water they are seen only once a year by a vet to check for disease or health problems. However at times they are allowed to be adopted out but there’s strick stipulations about how many acres and fence type and size. I wish i were able to give some of them a home just to know they were cared for as they should be. I’m so glad i stopped by today, i’ve had so many things going on in my life lately I’ve missed you ladies 🙂

  26. Hi Lori,

    Gypsie sounds like such a lovely horse! I’m so glad you stopped by today too! Hope you have a great weekend. We’ll be here tomorrow with a great guest blogger.

    Hi Penney,
    Thanks for stopping by today too. I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures!

  27. Oh Charlene, I didn’t get to the junction yesterday…traveling…so must say how heart-warming and inspiring this post is! I love horses and burros; they are an integral part of our Western history, and to find that there are those who deem them disposable is heart-breaking. Arrrrgh.

  28. Kathryn,
    I have always liked Horses especially the Mustangs on the NC coast, and I sure wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.

  29. Hi Charlene, I was browsing the web and came upon this. I am so happy you like the sanctuary. They do amazing things. We have put all our summer stuff on sale. Maybe you can pass the web site around , http://www.freedomforwildhorses.com We did a golf fundraiser last month and it was a great success, we raised over $1500.00 for the sanctuary. Hope all is well, miss you guys, love Carol

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