Meet the Gila herd that calls Return to Freedom home...

In 2017, Return to Freedom rescued 112 Spanish mustangs from impoundment due to neglect and starvation during sub-zero blizzard conditions. Known as “The Gila herd”, the horses were originally captured from the Painted Rock Herd Management Area in Arizona in 2003.

In February 2017, in an effort to maintain this herd intact and to reorganize the herd now made of 13 generations, RTF was asked to take 112 Gila horses (including pregnant mares). RTF leased 1000 acres of pasture in Northern California while we: established a database for the horses, provided immediate vet care, hoof care, parasite treatment, vaccines, analyzed phenotyping for each horse by Dr. Sponenberg (Pathology, Virginia Tech.), provided DNA to Dr. Gus Cothran (Equine Genetic, Texas A&M) for analysis, geld 50 stallions (maintaining some for possible conservation program), vaccinate 62 mares with non-hormonal fertility control (proven safe and 98% effective after use at our sanctuary for 19 years and on range projects for over 25 years) and move gelded males 1-5 years old to RTF’s Lompoc location for adoption.
When the herd did not prove to be candidates for the program, they became a long-term RTF herd here in Lompoc, and many have been moved to satellite locations in bonded groups over time to give them more space to roam.