Deer Trail, Colorado
“The horses are coming!”
On a snowy morning in November, the cry went out of the approaching Mustangs. We watch spellbound as the herd comes towards us with heads held high, trotting swiftly over ground once framed by barbed wire just the day before. What a sight to all of us who worked tirelessly to remove all hazards and encumbrances, spurred by the love of the wild ones now running free on Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary lands. This is why we do it! All of it–the work, the challenges, the sacrifices… for this wondrous vision of free spirit before us. This land, these horses, are the manifestation of a legacy, a vision of hope, for the wild ones. The land is ready.
It’s now been almost 10 years since we let that first band of mustangs loose on the land, 900 acres of beautiful rolling hills, large open meadows, ponds, stands of trees, arroyo’s…land perfect for the wild ones.
The Mustangs; ancient, highly social, sensitive and intelligent, are disappearing. A vital piece of our history, disappearing right before our eyes. With over 48,000 wild horses in holding facilities nationwide and 82,000 in the wild, when Appropriate Management Levels (AML) are called to be closer to 27,000, something different has to be done, a new model needs to be explored. We believe that organizations partnering directly with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and specific Herd Management Areas (HMA) will not only help alleviate the pressures on holding facilities and tax payers wallets, but also keep manageable numbers of wild ones running free on their native lands for generations to come. This is exactly what we’re doing. By offering support on and off the range, we are able to be an effective solution to a growing need.
We now have an established collaborative working relationship with the BLM and the Sand Wash Herd Management Area, in Northwest Colorado. As an on the range project of GEMS, the Sand Wash Advocate Team (SWAT) volunteers work tirelessly to provide support in the form of herd documentation, fertility control, special range projects, promotion and education about Sand Wash Basin and most importantly, keeping Sand Wash wild.
Off the range, and at the sanctuary in Deer Trail, Colorado, we are home to American Mustangs, Spanish Mustangs, as an educational herd, and Burros. How can you not love those little long ears and want to help give them a voice as well? In addition, we have formed a unique partnership with BLM Colorado and the Mustang Heritage Foundation to find collaborative management solutions for wild horses and burros and to match animals with adopters. We just opened Colorado’s first “storefront” location where selected horses from the BLM’s facility in Cañon City, Colorado, can match with trainers from the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Trainer Incentive Program.
At the sanctuary, we also offer Mustang and Burro adoptions, day programs, school field trips and tours. Our goal of education and awareness is also now taking a more in depth route…we have retreat cabins and are excited to announce that we can offer overnight and extended experiences at the sanctuary! We have been very busy creating programs with varying focuses, such as Natural Horsemanship, yoga and mindfulness, as well as artistic endeavors, and children’s summer camps, all drawing from the inspirations and interacting directly with the magnificent creatures that grace the sanctuary pastures.
We also have a full time training and adoption program because the key to a successful adoption is training, and one main avenue to managing the horses is through successful adoptions. There will be some that spend the rest of their days at the sanctuary, and we are so proud to offer them a place to live wild in herds just like they did when they were free.
Our work never ends, our days are long, some days it’s hard to make ends meet. But through your support, we know that we’ll make it…we really have no choice. We do it all for the animals.
It’s the clouds…the clouds in their eyes. You can see reflections in their eyes.
Who you are, who they are, the past, present and future all reflected in their eyes. Forgiving, understanding, patient, gentle, willing, trusting. Stop to listen. It’s the silence. It’s the unspoken communication we can learn from. Listening to them is our job, we are the custodians.
To fulfill a need that has become apparent in our community for formerly wild Mustangs and Burros needing owner surrender, rehabilitation, and training we have evolved a new program we’re calling BRANDED. For many Mustangs and Burros, being adopted from the BLM is just their first introduction into the community, and sometimes these adoptions don’t go as planned.
Launching Spring 2021, eligible trainers and foster homes will be invited to become BRANDED Partners to participate in our exciting new program under the GEMS umbrella. Trainers will be paid to rehabilitate Mustangs and Burros that have found themselves unwanted or ‘untrainable’ and assist in finding secure, safe new homes. This will focus on all avenues of the community except for ‘bailing’ from horse traders/slaughter shippers. In this way we hope to circumvent a way that BLM Mustangs and Burros are exploited and provide a much needed resource.
In the meantime, we have many horses in our sanctuary herd at GEMS that are available to SPONSOR!
This article originally published in the July 2016 issue of Sport and Trail Magazine. Some updates have been edited into the article for currency.
As a 501c3 non-profit organization, we exist on your donations. We appreciate donations of any size for continued care, maintenance and training programs and deeply value the volunteer spirit!
Please visit www.greatescapesanctuary.org to see the many ways you can help. And as always, your donation is fully tax deductible. By working together, we are giving the wild ones an opportunity and a voice.