PARADISE WAITS WITH open arms to help abused, abandoned and aggrieved Bureau of Land Management wild mustangs live out the rest of their lives in a peaceful home and in a herd with other mustangs.
Vanessa Lowe fulfilled a life-long dream when she opened Paradise Waits Mustang Sanctuary. Formerly located in Port Angeles, it recently moved to a property in Joyce she calls, “a godsend.” Owned by three sisters, there’s 10 acres of pasture for the horses, along with access to another 10 acres of forest.
She said, “considering what these mustangs have been through in the past, rounded up and torn away from their family herd — some ending up at auctions and kill pens — to come to live here in a pasture and with a herd must feel a bit like paradise to them.”
Almost all the horses there arrive at PWMS traumatized and broken in spirit. Kix is a big drafty type palomino from a BLM herd in Oregon. Vanessa said, “He’s super sweet. He wants to smell you because he doesn’t see very well, especially at night.”
Kix arrived at the rescue after he was abandoned at a board facility. She was told Kix was purchased at an auction by a guy who became frustrated over what he called Kix’s “mean and crazy behavior.”
Upon his arrival Vanessa had a veterinarian exam Kix and discovered he was a blind, senior-aged horse in his mid to late 20s. The previous owner never had a vet out to look at Kix so didn’t realize the problem stemmed from his blindness! And who knows what Kix’s life was before he ended up at auction if no one before had bothered to checked his eyesight.
“Being blind, he gets scared when someone walks up to him, unless they announce themselves as they’re walking up to him. He spooks pretty easy, but he’s the sweetest horse. He’s great with the kids that come out here to visit,” said Vanessa.
Luna is a BLM mustang from Warm Springs they rescued a few years ago from a kill pen auction. They were actually there to get a different horse but Vanessa said the guy there begged them to take her, too, since she was basically dying. “She was starving, sick and had multiple abscesses. Seven months after bringing her here and rebuilding her health, we found out she was pregnant.”
Luna was a senior horse, so her pregnancy was already considered a geriatric high-risk pregnancy. Add in that she’d been starving and sick through most of it, and they were worried the baby would not be born healthy.
Vanessa was there for the birth and said, “Luna did an amazing job giving birth. Maple came out huge, healthy and kicking. She’s been a fireball ever since.”
“Freya is another mishandled and traumatized mustang who wouldn’t let allow anyone touch her. Bringing her home was the biggest leap of faith I’ve taken in horse rescue,” said Vanessa. “We’re not really able to take in horses who can’t be handled, but we did take in Freya. She’s been through a lot. She was rounded up with members of her herd a couple of times. She’s been through multiple adoption events, got trailered all over the western states to different places and homes, so by the time we picked her up she was super traumatized and just a hot mess.”
She’s been at the sanctuary two and a half years, during which time Vanessa has done a lot of Liberty (non-contact) training with Freya. Now, while she still dislikes being touched, she trusts Vanessa enough to allow her to pet her nose and enjoys taking walks through the pasture with her; standing close and breathing next to her. Yet, she’s still one of two horses there that still won’t allow their hooves to be trimmed yet.
The other is Cedar. From the Warm Springs herd, they believe he was injured while being used as a bucking horse in a backyard rodeo.
The rest of the mustangs there share similar stories of abuse and neglect, except for Jasper.
Jasper went to a family who kept him at a boarding facility and was part of the Teens and Mustangs youth program. Being a mustang that used to be wild, he wasn’t at all happy being confined in a stall. He kept breaking boards and fencing until the boarding facility kicked him out.
The family didn’t have their own land and gave him to the Steffens (see my Dec. 24, 2023 column about the Steffen girls or their Facebook page, Steffen Stampede). At the time they were looking for Mustangs for their youth riding summer camp. They worked with him a few months and felt he was a really good riding horse.
Then, they noticed he was having some issues with his back legs and called a veterinarian out. Sadly, it was discovered Jasper has Degenerative Soft Tissue Disease, was causes a gradual breakdown of all of the ligaments and cartilage in his body.
Vanessa agreed to give Jasper a forever home with her herd in exchange for training Maple when she’s old enough to be ridden.
Vanessa said before making a decision on bringing a mustang home she discusses it with the PWMS board.
“At the end of the day, I kind of have the last say on what happens in what we do, but I don’t take my decision-making process lightly because there are a lot of expenses and time that goes into taking care of these horses,” she said.
In addition to regular hoof care, vet care is given as needed, and hay and supplements. At least half of the 10 horses currently there are seniors with worn-down teeth that can no longer chew hay. They’re fed a twice-daily soaked mash of beet and grass pellets.
Vanessa said people are constantly reaching out to her through e-mails and her Facebook page, sharing a horse’s horror story and asking her to take it in.
“I have to say no a lot, which is hard. But we’re pretty much at the maximum we can care for and the property can sustain.”
Volunteers are always needed to help with chores and grooming. Currently, Vanessa said she does have one “amazing volunteer who helps with everything,” and a good group of folks come out once a month to help.
Donations and volunteers are what nonprofits, such as PWMS, depend on to keep going.
“I have a small group of steady donators,” she said, “but it’s not enough to keep us going. So, at this point a lot of it is self-funded.”
Unfortunately, she can’t afford to keep self-funding, so is “really trying hard this next year to get more regular donations.”
PWMS is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit. All donations to go directly to the rescue and long-term care of the horses, and all donations are tax deductible.
For more information, visit the Facebook page, Paradise Waits Mustang Sanctuary. E-mail paradise firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Vanessa at 530-307-0417. To donate, visit the Paradise Waits Mustang Sanctuary Facebook page.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at email@example.com at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.