RTF Steps Up as Part of Largest-Ever Horse Rescue. Now, We Need Your Help.

  • The Largest Rescue in U.S. History. These are the FIRST images taken of the Gila herd, 112 wild horses that are part of a 900-horse rescue in which Return to Freedom has played a pivotal role. We have not been allowed to photo or video on the property where the neglect took place. This is the first opportunity to publicly show photos of the condition of the horses which have recently come from South Dakota to a temporary staging facility in Nevada for health assessment and care.

  • RTF is taking on responsibility for the Gild herd project. These 112 horses are believed to be descendants of the Gila herd, brought in the 1600s from Spain to Arizona by the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino.

  • The distinctive leg markings on a Gila stallion. Indicative of their Iberian ancestry, the Gila horses display the dun factor with leg striping, dorsal stripes and thick multi-colored manes and tales.

  • 1 of 4 semitruck trailers which carried the Gila herd, traveled more than 1,200 miles from South Dakota to a temporary staging area for vetting and care.

  • Yearlings arriving to the temporary staging facility in Nevada.

  • A stallion's attachment to a foal and mare (not pictured). RTF documents these relationships during processing, and upon arrival in a few weeks to their final destination will be reunited.

  • A stallion connects with his band who will be together once they reach pastures in Northern California.

  • Two horses pause and wait for their blind companion before continuing during unloading.

  • RTF has taken on this project with the help of a matching gift opportunity of $150,000 from the Griffen-Soffel Equine Rescue Fund. Be part of the largest rescue in U.S. history and have your donation doubled today for this unique herd.


Wild Horse Nation,

They have survived blizzards and freezing temperatures that covered their winter coats with ice for weeks, even months on end.

They have been loaded into trailers and trucked more than 1,200 miles from South Dakota to a temporary staging area in Nevada where they could be wormed and vetted before continuing on to pastures in California.

Some arrived wild-eyed, with the shadows of their ribs showing through their fur and hooves grown long and curled.

These 112 horses are believed to be descendants of the Gila herd, brought in the 1600s from Spain to Arizona by the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino.

This much we know for certain: These horses need our help now.

Providing for the lifelong care of wild horses is an arduous undertaking. The Gila herd is part of about 900 horses that the State of South Dakota found neglected and impounded on a property in Lantry, S.D.

We now believe this to be the largest horse rescue in U.S. history.

Since last October, Return to Freedom has galvanized fundraising support that made it possible for hay to be delivered to the horses and, in December, played a pivotal role in mobilizing a consortium of animal- and equine-welfare organizations to avert the public auction. Had that auction been held as scheduled, hundreds of horses would have fallen into the hands of kill buyers.

RTF stepped up and continued to play a vital role by driving the newly formed Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary Alliance, providing fundraising communications to support feed for the horses still in limbo in subzero temperatures awaiting adoption and needed supplies for ground crews led by Palomino Armstrong and partner organization Fleet of Angels.

RTF is taking on responsibility for the Gila herd. It numbers 112 horses — including pregnant mares ready to give birth in the coming weeks.

This is no small burden. We need to raise $300,000 for the herd’s care over the next two years. If we can match $150,000, we will be able to continue this important project.

The Griffin-Soffel Equine Rescue Foundation has generously pledged $150,000 in matching funds to help us reach that goal. The foundation will match your donation, dollar for dollar, up to $150,000.

With your help, there will be a happy ending for these horses.

For now, though, there’s worming and foot trimming and veterinary care and the administering of fertility control vaccine and DNA testing. So much needs to be done — and each day brings greater costs.
As soon as the horses are ready, they will be moved again: 219 more miles, over the Sierra Mountains and into Northern California, where 1,800 acres of green grass and a lake await them. It is a beautiful place, and we’re excited for the horses to see it after all they’ve experienced.

Your donation today, 100% matched, will help give these horses the future that they deserve.

Thank you for giving the gift of life to these special animals,
—Neda DeMayo
President and Founder, Return to Freedom

P.S. In addition to the extremely generous philanthropic support of the Griffin-Soffel Equine Rescue Fund, Return to Freedom wants to thank the ASPCA for their generous contribution to fund the testing for Equine Infectious Anemia so that the horses could be transported over state lines and to The Unwanted Horse Coalition for their generous grant to cover the cost of gelding adoptable stallions and colts.