Horse News

Diary of a First Time Wild Horse Stampede Observer, Part Three

Series by Lisa LeBlanc ~ SFTHH Investigative Reporter ~ Part One ~ Part Two


It’s important to note the generosity that made this observation possible: a Horse & Burro Sanctuary, that offered both home and haven for the duration of this stay.

When I set out to write this, I meant to brag openly about the Sanctuary. But as so often seems to be the case when Advocating for Equines, personal beliefs and morality of the heart are often punished by those who don’t think as you do. Still, it’s important to acknowledge there are Angels and Heavens among us.

The Sanctuary is 2000 acres of valley, hills and grassland, with no power lines to spoil the vistas. The site of a former cattle ranch has been, through sweat and love, transformed into a permanent home where Horses & Burros – the used, abused, unwanted and disenfranchised – can live out their lives, free from any human demands, where the only requirement is for them to behave as Nature intended.

One pasture is devoted specifically to Stallions & Geldings, a stress-free Men’s Only club. Although an incident that occurred a few years ago firmly illustrates, in herd hierarchy, who truly runs the show: A Ms. Randy Mare, in an act of self-fulfillment, broke into the Men’s Club, selected a Boyfriend and lived among them for a time.

Deemed too dangerous a situation for the humans to extricate her, she stayed. Even with a lady living in their quarters, the other gentlemen respected her choice, and resumed their peaceful existence, although security measures have been heightened a bit since.

Another pasture, some distance away, serves the needs of a large population of Mares, Captive Wild and Domestic, watched over by a single Gelding. Still another houses a group of frisky burros. And there’s a free roaming herd of Senior Citizens, including one ancient burro, slow-moving but healthy, bearing their infirmities gracefully, even given to occasional bursts of Horse foolishness and just plain joy.

Nearly all of of the broken and exploited are here, not to re-enter the world of humans, but to learn how to become members of a herd.

The Sanctuary’s Salad Chef, trough washer and Concierge is Barbara. At first meeting, she gives the impression of a tough & independent loner, the product of an off-the-grid existence. Until you engage her in conversation and the sunglasses come off. She speaks of the Sanctuary & it’s occupants with a quiet and factual passion, which extends also to her concerns for her Wild Horse and Burro neighbors in the Twin Peaks HMA, and is relayed in the stories of trials, successes and tribulations surrounding the Sanctuary’s history.

In keeping with the spirit of any Sanctuary, the environment is tailored for the Equine tenants. They are allowed and encouraged to behave naturally. No demands are made of them; there are no stresses. Many of these animals have already paid a heavy price for their servitude: In a herd of mostly small, young Mustang fillies towers a black Draft Mare. Having had what should have been the best portion of her life destroyed by humans, the Mare now has, according to Barbara, “absolutely no use for people”.  Here, the Mare reports to no one but her herd.

The Sanctuary is also refuge to a pack of similarly discarded canines, a mixture of last-chance Fellows, slated for an early or unjust demise, most now gainfully employed as the Early Warning system and as ranch hands, accompanying Barbara on her twice-daily supplemental feedings around the Sanctuary. Ensuring the sanctity of their home is a duty they take very seriously; all disturbances are loudly reported, day or night.

The Sanctuary should be a benchmark in the study of range sustainability. Even with the large population of Horses and much of the land free-grazed, it is a vital and healthy landscape. On a tour of the outer property, we traveled a dirt road shared by the Sanctuary & a grazing allotment. The line of demarcation was sharply evident: the poorly-managed grazing allotment severely lacks the small, tough bunches of ground vegetation needed to keep the soil & seed in place, to be nourished by precipitation & snow. Instead, there is bare, powdery grey soil between the short shrubs. On the Sanctuary side, the promise of a lush desert spring lays in profusions of bunch grasses and rye, going dormant in the summer heat but their stalks bearing the seeds of the next generation. Nearly every square inch of Sanctuary soil is occupied by plant life. Next spring, the Mares will be brought in, to graze and restore, dropping the next season’s seed everywhere they range.

The Sanctuary also has a field, planned for seeding bunch & hay grasses, which would further the Sanctuary’s ability to self-support. Operating on a shoe-string budget, being able to produce it’s own hay would be one less outgoing expenditure and more money for other things the Sanctuary may need.

The Sanctuary may be what many Advocates aspire to – a place of peace for those who have paid dearly either as tools for humans or annoyances to them. While these efforts are appreciated by most familiar with the Sanctuary, there are still others who view those efforts with open hostility:

Two of her beloved dogs have been shot to death from the Public road that runs through the property. Barbara herself has been confronted by men with guns. Law Enforcement has, in the past, shown a reluctance to respond & barely masked intimidation until reminded how unpleasant things could become should anything happen up here because the Sanctuary was left off their radar.

Even so, one morning, sometime after the Observers left in the hours before dawn for the Litchfield briefing, someone sprinkled the turn-off to the access road with a large number of roofing nails and attempted to jimmy the lock on the Mare Pasture gate. Given that the road is also used by semis, this act of petty vandalism could have become horribly tragic, for Horse and human alike. And makes the rigid and adversarial treatment of Observers that much more puzzling.

I offer my gratitude for the kindness, council and the educational opportunity afforded me by this Sanctuary and by it’s Keeper.

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18 replies »

  1. Thank you for reporting, Lisa. I would like to learn more about the Sanctuary. Is there a way to safely find out the name?


  2. I too would be most interested in finding out more about this sanctuary. If need be let RT know and he can get word to those of us interested perhaps. An oxymoron to see that a “sanctuary” comes under attack. Bless Barbara and the many roles she plays all to help the animals.


  3. I think most advocates know the name of this sanctuary and the graciousness of the owner. Why the secrecy?

    Its leaving a very bad taste in my mouth, the terrible things occurring from the public road access that runs through it. Not shocking considering what we are constantly up against. The accounts you have reported, pure evil.


  4. Lisa, thank you for this glimpse of what we all want for these animals.
    Those are ugly, miserable wretches that threw those nails and more than likely they have already met some of their “reward”, because usually they are outcasts and nobody wants to be around them. They don’t even like themselves.
    On the other hand, the keeper of the Sanctuary has peace and love in her heart. There is an old song titled “A satisfied mind”. A satisfied mind and a satisfied heart. You can’t buy that.


    • The humor in this is that those people that threw the nails out..probably drive this road on a regular basis..and will themselves get the flat tire..if there is justice in this world..what goes around..comes around


      • The humor in this is that Barbara said she needed just that kind of nail for a Sanctuary project she’s working on.
        Talk about Margaritas from lemons!


  5. Lisa, thank you so much for this report. It is so good to know there are caring people out there that allow the horses to live as close to normal as they can. I am sorry to hear about the vandals, & just don’t know what is wrong with people in this world.


  6. Thanks for the report Lisa. It is so good to hear of true sanctuary for horses, donkeys, dogs and other creatures. Thanks to Barbara. I too do not know of this place and would
    like to know more.


  7. Thank you for letting us know about that good sanctuary.
    There should be stiffer penalties for persons shooting animals. I guess that is local jurisdiction, like county or city??
    Love the Randy mare story.


  8. Lisa, thank you for sharing such a beautiful image amongst all this stress. I slept a little better last night – in between hearing the foals at Twin Peaks I could call up this wonderful sanctuary to fill in.

    It is truly sad that these wild horse haters don’t get their fill of destruction at BLM and Cattoor and have to go looking for more harm to do.


  9. The open hostility in these areas is shocking, to say the very least! Is it just directed toward the horses and their advocates, or are the locals hostile to each other as well?

    These vandals must be very unhappy people, to do such horrible things to people/animals that never did anything to them.

    It makes me very sad, not only for the horses but for our country.


  10. Oh, I think these people hate each other, too, the sanctuary just makes for a convenient target. People like that really HATE to see others who are happy in their skins, and doing good for themselves and others. They have little itty bitty hearts and souls themselves, and just loathe big-hearted people who do good in this world. WHen the “charm” of shooting at the do-gooders wears off, they go back to whacking on each other.


  11. Another incredibly well written and TRUE article by you, Lisa, and I again thank you for spreading the truth. If only “everyone” could read what you are saying, perhaps the truth would overpower the lies and injustus. Please continue your learning and sharing. Thank you very much.
    I have a question for everyone but in all sincerity I ask it:
    I have not read the whole 1971 Wild Horses/Burros act but have it on my list of things to do. In the meantime, read below what Nancy Haug says about it and explain how she (BLM) can interpret the law this way when what I have read says just the opposite! (see below statement by Nancy Haug, BLM):
    She says: “…Under the federal Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, the BLM is required to ensure wild horses and burros can be supported by the forage and water resources in each herd management area. When populations exceed these levels, animals are removed and offered for adoption by the public, or cared for in long-term pastures…”
    WHERE does she see this in the law! The law clearly states: THE WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS ACT OF 1971
    (PUBLIC LAW 92-195)
    §1331. Congressional findings and declaration of policy Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros SHALL BE PROTECTED from CAPTURE, BRANDING, HARASSMENT, OR DEATH; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area WHERE PRESENTLY FOUND…”


  12. Much of what is done, has been “interpretation” of the law and ancilliary laws that affect the 71 law..administrative decisions are policies and not law as the BLM would like us to believe..for instance the closing of airspace and public lands…much of what they do has gone unchallenged in a court of law..and should is what WWP does and is so sucessful at..the current challenge involving 28 RMPs and the way those decisions are made-will have a trememdous impact on lands that have been taken away from the those decisions were made…is illegal, and a conflict of interest..not on scientific input..but on input from the special interests involved who stood to gain by the land being removed from the horses HMAs..happened just recently in the RMP on the Tuscarora HMA…then they base the AMLs -also arbitrary-on the reduced acreage


  13. A true forever home for the wild horses & burros. Thank you. Bless you for this Sanctuary. Angels. It appears you are taunted, threatened, at times. But you all will remain safe. For the Sanctuary is on the map of great importance to our Wild Ones…a refuge of peace and security. A Forever Home. Thank you Lisa for wonderful, so beautiful, reporting. xo


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