Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity, and habitat of America’s wild horses and burros through sanctuary, education, advocacy, and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world.
Return to Freedom is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. As such, we depend on the kind and generous donations of people who care deeply about our nation’s equine heritage so that we may keep our wild horses and burros safe and cared for, as well as continue our invaluable work in protective legislation, conservation, and educational outreach.
Why do wild horses need a sanctuary? Don’t they live in the wild?
Herds of wild horses still room free on public lands in the west. However, private livestock grazing and special interests compete for the forage, water, and other natural resources on this land, creating constant pressure on the government land management agencies like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove wild horses from the range.
Today, wild horses are being rounded up and removed at such an aggressive rate that more than 50,000 live in captivity compared to 86,000 on BLM-managed public lands. Click here to learn more about wild horses and here to learn more about roundups.
Return to Freedom provides a safe haven for wild horses who have been removed from their home in the wild. More than 350 wild horses and burros have found a home here.
What makes Return to Freedom unique?
Though we rescue wild horses in need and offer sanctuary to more than 350, Return to Freedom is not a rescue organization. At its core, Return to Freedom is dedicated to conservation. Everything we do — from offering sanctuary, to educating the public, to conserving rare breeds — is with one ultimate goal in mind: making sure that the diverse and awe-inspiring communities that exist in nature, from wild horse herds to the vast western landscape that serves as their habitat, survive the continued assault that humankind has waged against them.
With that goal in mind, Return to Freedom operates a model sanctuary, and we became the first sanctuary to rescue entire family bands of wild horses. We recognize the deep bond and intricate social structure that exists in wild horse herds and it is our priority to honor that. Our horses live in family bands and herd groups, expressing the natural behaviors they would in the wild. We want to send the message that wild horses are herd animals. Genetic diversity is threatened every time we remove horses from their natural habitat, and that the horses suffer when they are separated from their family and herd groups.
In addition to providing a safe haven for wild horses and burros, we are also preserving several rare genetic strains that are currently extinct or threatened in the wild. Though these rare genetic strains represent our living and cultural history, many of them are already extinct in the wild. Collaborating with esteemed equine geneticists, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the Science and Conservation Center, and other wild horse conservators, we are committed to protecting and preserving the last of these unique bloodlines.
We also open our doors to the public, allowing them to experience wild horses in a natural setting, so they understand what we are losing and why we must work to save them.
We hope that our efforts will create a better future for America’s wild horses, so that they will always grace the western landscape.
If you keep your horses in natural herds, aren’t you worried about overpopulation?
Return to Freedom had to take an ethical stand against separating family bands (which destroys their natural lifestyle), or gelding stallions (which would further threaten the genetic viability of our wild horses and change natural behaviors). Yet we could not allow uncontrolled reproduction.Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, Director of the Science and Conservation Center, who assisted multiple government agencies in the U.S., and who also oversaw the implementation of this non-intrusive and reversible contraceptive method still in use with our horses today. The vaccine has proven very successful here, resulting in minimal incidental births. It is easy to administer (via remote darting of the mares), cost effective, and because it is non-hormonal, it does not disrupt the natural behaviors or social structure of wild herds.
Does the real “Spirit” really live at the Return to Freedom sanctuary?
Yes! After completion of the animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, DreamWorks researched and visited several sanctuaries to find a home for the Kiger mustang stallion who served as muse for the film’s animators. They chose Return to Freedom and he has been living here ever since, serving as ambassador and helping us educate the public about the plight of wild horses. Click here to learn more about Spirit and our other Ambassador horses.
What can I do to help protect America’s wild horses?
By supporting Return to Freedom and becoming a member, you are helping to:
- provide more than 350 wild horses and burros with a safe haven for the rest of their lives;
- preserve rare bloodlines before they are lost forever;
- fight for policies that protect wild horses and ensure that they will always have a home on America’s public lands;
- and educate the public about what is happening to our wildlife and their habitat so that we can work together to change it before it is too late.
We have also created a Take Action packet to help you help us and wild horses in general. We can also help you host a small fundraiser in your home for Return to Freedom with friends and family. Please contact us for details.