Thor and 112 Gila herd horses endured a devastating journey before arriving at Return to Freedom’s Northern California satellite sanctuary in 2017. The original horses of the Gila herd were captured by the Bureau of Land Management in 2003 from the Painted Rock Herd Management Area in Arizona.
Then in 2017, RTF and other partner organizations came together to help a total of 900 horses impounded by the state of South Dakota due to unfortunate circumstances.
In February 2017, RTF relocated 112 Spanish Gila mustangs who were impounded there in sub-zero blizzard conditions, to California to maintain the 13 generations of the Gila herd. Their DNA was analyzed by Dr. Gus Cothran. and phenotypes analyzed by Dr. Sponenberg which reveals that although there is some domestic quarter horse influence, there is also Spanish barb influence and strains from Asia including Akhal-Teke.
The deep generational bonds are truly mesmerizing to witness. These horses play long and hard. Like all horses, the young colts sparring starts as play and as they mature their play becomes more aggressive as they fight over mares and dominance. But the unique culture within this herd is their strong bonds and never-ending playfulness at all ages.
Thor is a well-respected member of the herd and in the midst of a large herd, he asserts himself to protect his mares and generations of the younger maturing foals. Like all Gila horses, he has a great sense of humor and stands calm among colts and fillies as they run after each other, often stopping for a rest or continue playing as Thor appears to watch, amused. He is kind and tolerant and truly embodies the spirit of the wise elder in the herd. You can see by the way the mares and younger horses are around him, that he is trustworthy and often helps us lead the herd when we have to move pastures. But Thor doesn’t back down from a fight either and he has the battle scars to prove it.