2017 Campfire - A Year in Review

by: Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary & Training Center

2017 Campfire – A Year in Review

2017: A Year in Review

Every year, the life of The Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary & Training Center breathes new patterns for mustangs.  Cheers to all of us that have helped mustangs successfully: go through training, to the ones that have been once again set free onto sanctuary pasture to live out their days, or to the ones that get to stay in the wild, because they have successfully been darted with PZP.

As a non-profit organization, these patterns shift every year for us.  We spend a lot of energy finding ways to raise awareness and support, we dance with the BLM partnering with innovative ideas for the mustangs, and we celebrate new partnerships, visitors, friends and projects.  From finding a steadfast team, to taking in 43 mustangs from Sand Wash Basin and being the doorway to which they find loving homes, to moving 110+ wild horses through our facility (just this year!), to meeting Senator Guzman at the ranch and again out in Sand Wash Basin to discuss how to support the mustangs on a state level, 2017 was a memorable year.

Volunteers from SWAT, our on range support, attended the bait & trap gather and removal in the Sand Wash Basin.  The BLM gathered 43 horses off of the wild range, from there, after processing at Canon City BLM Holding Facility, we then took responsibility of adopting out, moving through our MHF TIP Storefront, training and gentling all of the horses.

SWAT also administered 140 mares with PZP fertility treatments, maintained an accurate database for documentation of all Sand Wash Basin mustangs including births, deaths and injuries.  What an amazing group of volunteers we have!

We assisted the BLM in identifying the SWB horses held at Canon City Holding Facility.

We held our first retreats of the year with in the wintery months of 2017.  Bringing lovely groups of women out to the sanctuary land to learn about themselves, reconnect with nature and learn from the wild ones.

Mustang Visits!  We provided educational outreach presentations to schools, teaching children about mustangs.  This is probably one of our favorite things we got to do, let us know if you would like the mustangs to visit your child’s school this year!  (We travel anywhere around the Denver or Boulder area.)

We also participated in Colorado Mustang Days with 3 trained Sand Wash Basin Mustangs!

In collaboration with the BLM, we hosted the Sand Wash Basin Adoption Day at GEMS and in Fruita, CO later in the month.

We also met an NBC reporter on the range in Sand Wash Basin to report about mustangs in Colorado.

We are SO proud to have begun and hosted a 4H Mustang Training Club in Boulder County!  With 24 children in the club, they took 7 mustang weanlings from untouched to gentled!  In July, we housed an Obstacle Course Open House that was open to the public at Little Hawk Ranch in Longmont, Colorado.
We were honored to have Mustang Trainer, Jessica Dabkowski, mentor the 4H-er’s on their path to gentling the weanlings.
Our “Escape on the Range” Retreat Center was in full swing with overnight events.  Photography groups like Mike’s Camera School and Front Range Wildlife Photographers Meet Up group visited the sanctuary herd and we were also able to do a round pen training demo and a hike led on horseback.  We love partnering with photography groups; they are such a fun group of folks to have out at the sanctuary.
SWAT held a public meeting presenting and soliciting for local support in Craig, Colorado.  We also met with BLM representatives on range to discuss and plan range projects.

Also in August, “Spirits of the West” 4H Club participated in the Mustang Showcase & Adoption Event at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.

Due to our amazing volunteers, we now have a beautiful outdoor arena to host events and clinics!

GEMS hosted the 2017 Colorado TIP Challenge with 20 participants from Colorado and all over the country!  After the event we held a successful adoption event.  The 2 horses that were not adopted we took in and furthered their training and found homes for them, who otherwise would have gone back to Canon City.

September was a BIG month for us!  We also were able to raise money through SWAT memberships to sponsor 5 SWAT volunteers to attend training and become certified for PZP Fertility Control Administration.  We are so thankful to have 10 more boots in action this Spring darting mares.

The annual SWAT Rendezvous was also on National Public Lands Day this past year!  We had a great turnout, although the weather could have been better…  we fixed fences and tagged the top wires with reflectors for Sage Grouse protection.

We attended the BLM National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board Meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Here, GEMS presented our innovative working model to the Board.  We then were able to write a persuasive rebuttal to the special interest group arguments that were presented at the Board Meeting.

We also built a yurt for our “Escape on the Range” Retreat Center!  This will allow us to have a space to have indoor workshops and classes, as well as, a space for yoga and meditation retreats.

GEMS successfully operated the Mustang Heritage Foundation Trainer’s Incentive Program Storefront, even while the MHF ran out of funding at the beginning of the year.  This provided a pick up location for 50+ TIP approved trainers in Colorado.
Our annual fundraiser!  If you have not made it to this event, then you are missing out!  This year our special guest was Mustang Maddy.  This inspiring young woman shared her personal story about mustangs, followed by her “5 Golden Rules” demonstrating it with her zebra friends and then liberty work with Y’Oda, at the time, an untouched mustang, who now is gentled and adopted!  We look forward to working with Maddy more this year!  Stay tuned…
What an honor it was to have Senator Lucia Guzman visit the Sanctuary and then the Sand Wash Basin, allowing her to study and understand the mustang’s story in order to present and bring awareness about Mustangs and Burros on a state level. She was able to showcase our collaborations with the Bureau of Land Management – Colorado to the Senate. She is a true champion for our icons of the West!
Everything was slowing down with the season, but we were still able to adopt a few more Christmas Ponies!  As well as, gather donations from our very successful Colorado Gives Day!  Thank you to all of you who were able to give.
2017’s cost of just horses moving through our facility was $40,000.  This is just feed & care cost without surprises, injuries or other unexpected cost (like that one time when 3 Sand Wash mustangs washed up in Ewing, Illinois and we had to send GEMS search and rescue team to Bring Em’ Home).  With the Mustang Heritage Foundation running out of funds at the beginning of the year, our training revenue floated only $16,875 worth of the $40,000.  So, with that being said, thank you for donating to GEMS!  With your support, we successfully moved 113 horses out of holding facilities and into training programs or loving homes!
Our total annual costs is close to $200,000+ each year.  We run on a skeleton crew.  Michelle, our Founder, volunteers 100% of her time to the organization, never taking any draws.  GEMS has only 2 full time employees (Stephanie, our Head Trainer and Dale, who tends to all ranch maintenance and building projects.  GEMS also has 2 part time employees (Brittany, our Programs Director, Marketing & Communications, Photographer/Videographer, do whatever needs to get done gal and one additional hired hand to help us keep up with mucking the corrals).  We also have a die hard, amazing volunteer team to run all of the SWAT endeavors (To name a few… Aleta, Stella, Connie, Angie, Kathy, Linda, Patti, Robin, Jen, Margo, Denette, Michelle and Kim)

Would it be easier to have more staff?  Absolutely yes!  But also, we have not yet had a year to prove that most of our funds raised have not needed to go directly back to the wild horses and our mission.

To be honest, it has been a tough year for us.  BUT we will keep moving forward, because we are on a heartfelt mission to leave our future generations with more sustainable ways to care for the wild ones.  We are SO very thankful for your steadfast financial support this past year!  We could not keep sailing this Love Boat forward without your wind in our sails.
Our goals for 2018 is to continue expanding our “Escape on the Range” Retreat Center so we can host more group events and retreats.  This is an avenue that will allow us to bring in more money, with the intention of hopefully balancing out the cost of care for horses coming through our facility.  With the end goal to keep helping more mustangs!

We also plan to hold more clinics and horse shows out at the sanctuary this year.  This will help spread the word about our great facilities, training center and sanctuary to the world, so that we, in turn, may tell the mustang’s story and keep collaborating for better more sustainable futures for the wild ones.  All with intention and love to keep growing in the best ways to honor the revered icon of the west, the mustangs.

The GEMS Team & The Wild Ones

How can you make a difference?!  
Help us network!  Be our tribe!  Be our community!
share our posts on facebook and instagram, volunteer your time, tell your friends to come visit us, post about your experience, if you know of any groups that would be interested in visiting OR have the mustangs visit them (children’s, wellness, adventure, photography, etc.) please let us know!
  • If you are blessed with money as a way to serve others, set up a reoccurring monthly donation.  With hay costs being high, it takes approximately $100/month to feed each horse in the corrals!
  • Do you have a business that would like to sponsor our Retreat Center expansion?  Each A-frame cabin expansion is $3,000.  We would joyfully name the cabin in honor of you or your business if you sponsor a build!  Please reach out to us!
  • Do you know a group that would be interested in using our retreat center?  We are now able to host weddings!  Bring your own horse or ride down the isle on one of our mustangs!  We also love hosting wellness retreats, children and adult outreach programs.
With any ideas, questions or contacts
please email Brittany at programs@greatescapesanctuary.org

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