A life-saving project, with you at its heart

Shota, head down, and Soffel, right, with members of the Gila herd, finally safe in California. Photo by Steve Paige.

Dear Friends of Return to Freedom,

Life is always busy here at Return to Freedom’s headquarters on California’s Central Coast.

In 2016, we became aware of a sanctuary in the Midwest in desperate need of funds for hay. We worked with other sanctuaries to have hay delivered.

Not even two months later, we received a call from Elaine Nash, director of Fleet of Angels, telling us that the state was impounding about 900 horses there and about the very real threat that the horses faced. State officials asked Nash to help, and, in turn, she asked if we could do more. We couldn’t say no — and we knew you wouldn’t want us to.

As Nash recalled recently, One of my first calls was to Neda DeMayo. As [president] of Return to Freedom, an organization that advocates for wild horses and educates the public regarding the crisis facing wild horses in America, Neda had a strong relationships with the largest animal-welfare organizations in the country.”

Although stretched with our own challenges, we could not ignore horses in imminent danger. We immediately partnered with Fleet of Angels and other allies to make the impossible happen—one of the largest rescues of wild horses in U.S. history.

With the help of our supporters and heroic efforts by our allies, by December 2016 about 260 of the endangered horses had been adopted in the dead of winter to safe homes by Fleet of Angels and their team on the ground. More than 600 remaining horses were scheduled for an auction with “kill buyers” planning to attend. Thanks to the generosity and compassion of a friend of Return to Freedom and of two animal-welfare organizations, these horses were spared public auction at which most would have suffered the road to slaughter.

I can tell you that the phone at my office rang off the hook with concern about the looming danger to the horses.

This outpouring showed dramatically that there was concern and support for the horses to be fed and cared for. This was no easy task. Yet I cannot think of even one equine-welfare organiztion that was not involved in some way, along with many caring individuals. RTF was not alone as we worked long hours with our allies to spare the horses from terrible deaths.

By March 2017,  Return to Freedom was asked to take on an entire herd. In an effort to maintain an intact herd, 116 horses from the Gila herd, including pregnant mares, were transported from blizzard conditions to Nevada where we were able to properly assess the condition of the individuals, feed and provide medical care. With the support of a key donor and many of our loyal supporters, we stepped up to the task. (To read more about our conservation science consultants’ work with the herd, click here.)

But even when working with this large numbers of horses, it was the faces of the individual souls in need, like little foal Soffel and her devoted mom, Shota, that kept us strong. We named Soffel for the angel donor (more about her in a moment) who helped RTF launch the Gila Herd Project. Soffel is spunky and daring, but welcomes the strong protection of her mama, a respected mare in the herd.

I can’t bear to think what would have happened to this beautiful mother and her foal—and hundreds of other equally-precious beings—without the support of such loyal friends who respect the wild ones and their right to run free. We are truly in this together.

Now Soffel, Shota, Casey, Delilah and Robin, Easter, Jaden and Sage—and so many more facing the unspeakable—will have a safe and happy life.

After a rescue, it’s easy to forget that there is still so much more hard and costly work to be done. We were able to safely move the 120-member Gila herd together on 1,800 leased acres of Northern California pasture with lakes, trees and forage.

Every day brings new challenges, however. The current pasture in Northern California is leased, so we need your help to continue to secure this home for the herd. 

In the meantime, we never forget—not for a minute—those wild horses still running free on our public lands. Now more than ever they need our help, as the new federal budget puts them in even more danger than they have always been.

Frighteningly, some agencies and members of Congress are again pushing mass “euthanasia”: shooting tens of thousands of wild horses. RTF now works with our own lobbyist in Washington, D.C., to represent—on your behalf—the interests of our imperiled wild horses and burros on the range.

The time for us to unite is right now—today. Your kind donation of any amount will help us continue the Gila project and our other lifesaving work. Please help us to fight—harder than ever before—to ensure that wild horses are not a distant memory, but living treasures inspiring future generations.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Neda DeMayo

Founder and President, Return to Freedom

P.S.: Thanks to our kind and generous donor, Patricia Griffin-Soffel, RTF was able to play an even bigger part in this huge rescue. As she wisely says, “The work comes from the heart, but not run by the heart. If we fail, the horses fail. RTF’s donor dollars are used most efficiently with long-term goals in mind.” Will you help—right now— to match her life-saving donation to these lucky horses?

Click here to donate

Shota, left, and her foal, Soffel–saved with your help! Your donations have a direct and positive impact on nearly 500 wild horses and burros at our sanctuaries and thousands more on the range through our national advocacy and education.