Return to Freedom provides a safe haven to almost 400 wild horses, including 29 burros. With ongoing federal roundups, the sanctuary fills a vital niche to meet the immediate needs of rescue and sanctuary for wild horses and burros. We also provide a venue to educate the public about America’s wild horses and burros along with solutions to protect them in viable free ranging herds for future generations.
We are dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity, and habitat of America’s wild horses through advocacy, sanctuary, education, and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world.
Return to Freedom pioneers innovative alternatives to standard wild horse management that can be applied on the range and advocates for viable solutions to prevent the removal of wild horses from their natural rangelands.
On 1500 acres on the Central Coast of California, we do our best to provide an environment for the herds to maintain the natural behaviors and social structures they knew in the wild.
Return to Freedom’s Wild Horse Sanctuary was built on the basic foundation that wild horses are herd animals. Within the herd structure, bonds are formed and education is taking place all the time. In the wild, the herd ensures survival. Therefore, our first priority is to keep wild horses in their original family bands or naturally selected social groups, to provide for their emotional well being as well as their physical care.
Our Model of Solution-Based, Non-Intrusive Wild Horse Management
Because we allow our equine residents to maintain their natural lifestyle and social behaviors, we must manage population growth. For us, managing population growth by separating mares and stallions is not a solution as that separates family bands, disrupts natural behaviors and undermines the natural lifestyle of wild horse herds. Castrating stallions into geldings is not an option as that further depletes an already threatened genetic pool.
To manage population growth in an ethical and sustainable manner, we administer a non-hormonal and reversible contraception to our mares under the guidance of Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, Director of the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, MT. By utilizing this approach, we are able to maintain our horses in their natural bands without uncontrolled reproduction or habitat degradation.
Committed to conserving the diverse bloodlines that define the American wild horse of today, Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary manages herds with a variety of origins, most of which arrived together in bonded social bands with a few additions over the years. The bands are maintained in their bonded family and social groups.
Whatever their historical, genetic or biological significance, the wild horses of today represent their current adaptation in their respective habitats. The bone density, the longer cannon bone and other physiological and sociological changes that have occurred make them what they are today.
Geneticist Gus Cothran, Ph.D., and director of Animal Genetics Laboratory for the Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, observes that the past 20 years we have witnessed the disintegration of domestic horse breeds, yet wild horses continue to adapt and survive against all odds. This unique adaptability and hardiness simply cannot be replicated in domestic breeding situations.
It is with this conscience that we recognize the American wild horse of today as a re-introduced native wildlife species. Their resilience throughout the years in the face of mounting threats, has earned the American wild horse their rightful place on the most uninhabitable areas of America’s public lands as expressed in the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, the will of the people.