My SKYDOG SANCTUARY adventure! 2 States and one speeding ticket, I made it to see them happy, happy, happy.

Yup.  I hadn’t had a speeding ticket in years.  I’m not saying that I don’t drive fast – I do.   I’m saying that I rarely get caught driving fast – probably because none of my cars are very sexy.  So, the truth is that I probably deserved this ticket a few times and much more often than this one time.  For sure I will be mending my ways because this ticket hurt.  Ouch.

SKYDOG RANCH SANCTUARY:  Sam, Remi and Rojo’s new (amazing) home!

From the website:

Sky Dog Ranch is a forever home for wild mustangs who have ended up in horrible and dangerous situations – at kill pens, at auctions, in unloving homes where they have often been starved and neglected.  The horses here represent so many different aspects of the mustang issue, once rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management only to slip through the cracks and end up without the most basic care and affection.

All the wild horses here are treated with the utmost kindness and respect and we leave in peace the ones who want to be left alone and give others the love and compassion that they have not experienced from people before. 

Skydog Ranch employs people in recovery who are actively working 12 step programs as well as military veterans as we believe that they and the horses form a unique bond, both having come from situations that tested them emotionally and physically. 

I needed to go to Skydog Ranch, home of SkyDog Sanctuary with Sam, Remi and Rojo so that I could heal with them.  I wanted to be able to put the worry to rest and know that they were safe, able to care for themselves and run free.  Happy and free.  I didn’t want to have any questions lingering.

So, I packed my bags to followed them.

Sam, Remi and Rojo at the Grass Valley ranch.

Sam, Remi and Rojo – happy at the Grass Valley ranch, where they lived for 8 years before we moved to Paso Robles.


Slydog Sanctuary, the glorious mustang sanctuary where they were headed.


I have terrible night vision.  I cannot see at all.  If it is raining or foggy, fageddaboutdit.  I just park and call it a night.

When the horses were picked up on Sunday afternoon, I knew it made no sense for me to start driving because I’d have to stop in an hour or so.

I got up bright on Monday morning and hopped into my car for the 500 mile journey.   I was behind the horses by half a day.

Now, you’d think I could do that in one day.  And, if the distance was flat and nice, probably.  But this driving was from flat Central CA up through very mountainous Northern CA, over the Cascades and onto Oregon one-lane forest lands – where they have a reduced speed limit (hence the ticket).  Not an easy trip up the road…

The first leg of the drive was relatively uneventful as I piloted my tiny bullet through the torrential rains (Yay! Rain!) throughout the Lake Shasta and Mount Shasta foothills.  Once I got to Weed, CA (uppermost point), the sun came out and it was glorious for the last 54 miles into Klamath Falls, Or.

Don’t ever stay at the Maverick Hotel in Klamath Falls.  The hotel worker was so rude, I almost grabbed her by her shirt collar.  Instead, I thanked Hubby for his Expedia find and went next door for dinner – which was nice.  The locals were very friendly.  They told me that I didn’t have to fear staying at the Maverick Hotel because crime was low… but, next time, I should stay anywhere.  Hmmmm.

I slept wearing all of my clothes (in case of any type of emergency including an ATF bust….) and awoke a little less than fresh for the remaining 5 hour drive.


Beautiful SkyDog Ranch in Prineville, Oregon.  They save wild mustangs from slaughter.


There is no question that the HWY leading into Skydog was absolutely glorious.  Oregon Hwy 97, if you ever get a chance, take it…

Anyway, the time passed easily, even if I was on a one-lane highway, attempting to pass log trucks that were 500 times my size (hence the ticket).

As I piloted even closer to the pinpoint on my navigation device, I came upon the end of the road – literally.  The paved road ended.  From there on out, the road was gravel.  A good gravel road but gravel nonetheless.  My little rocket was reduced to a moving soupcan.  But, the landscapes were gorgeous so I kept moving along, mouth agape.

Skydog is located in a beautiful canyon valley.  Although there are other residents along the road, it felt uninhabited.  45 mins on this sound, sturdy road made me ponder the Donners and other such explorers… how bittersweet and difficult, their road must have been.  For me, I had navigation, a good road and a candy bar… .  For them, not so much.


Wild mustangs, saved from slaughter, roam free.

EUREKA!  I’VE FOUND IT!  (I know, that is a CA state motto, but it applied here.)

I was very comfortably lulled by the time I arrived at the Skydog Ranch Sanctuary gate.  That was easy!  I had the gate code so it swung wide open.  Nice.   I kept going… and I saw the glorious land, perfect for wild herds of mustangs.

I let out an audible sigh.  Wow.  These hills and plains were perfect for wild horses.


Further up the road, I saw the outcroppings of major buildings.  Barns, Indoor arenas, holding facilities, covered paddocks, huge outdoor paddocks, sick bays, quarantines, shop buildings, equipment barns, fuel towers, water towers, water systems, satellite dishes… everything was there.

Who knew?!

This place was ready.

I wanted them to adopt ME.


Out of nowhere, to snap me out of my trance, one of the Ranch Managers found me and zoomed me up to the barns to meet with Clare, Skydog founder.  Everyone I met at Skydog was like a long lost friends, bonded in the love of all things furry and sentient.

High desert and plains. Grass and more grass... water and trees.

High desert and plains. Grass and more grass… water and trees.




I was taken to see my three immediately.  That was nice…  You can read about that reunion here.

After the initial slow motion run to each other and hug… I got to hang with Remi, Rojo and Sam on three different occasions.  Ecstatic is all I can say.  They seemed Ecstatic (I was…).  I know they were grinning.  I know they were gleeful.   You could see it in everything they did… ears up, happy, prancing, bright eyed and ALIVE.

Here are some photos as we shared moments together.  Remi, Rojo and Sam weren’t anxious to move off, either.  They knew.  They knew they had tons of space and that they were free.


Sam kept her distance at first, but then forgot about that… doesn’t she look perfect in the wild again?!


Remi loved visiting… Rojo came right over when he saw that we had food!


Wow.  Aside from my 3 horses, there were 40 other wild horses in various stages of need and freedom.  Being allowed to walk through the beautiful barns and glorious outside fields was incredible, but to watch all the workers call each horse by name as they fed… well, that was the best.  Each horse, wild or stalled, was eyeballed and evaluated.  If anyone wanted a scratch, they got it.  All the waterers were cleaned/filled and any horse that needed special attention – was granted.

An important moment for me was when one wild, black and white horse kept approaching Clare.

Clare (to the horse):  ‘You want out of here?  Do you need another place to live?’

Horse (nodding):  Yes, phew, you heard me…

Clare (motioning to her crew):  ‘OK, we’ll move you this afternoon.’

And they did.  I helped.   And in that single interlude, I confirmed all that I already knew about SkyDog Sanctuary.

And it was good.  Very good.


The girls were munching and Rojo was chatting… with his mouth full.


This place is the real deal.  Besides the very important legal and financial aspects… (well funded, paperwork in order, tight board of Directors, well considered bylaws), SkyDog Sanctuary is ideal for horses.  Glorious for horses.  A-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y amazing for horses!  Set up perfectly.  Totally fenced (all 9000 acres) ample room, ample water, ample grass … and above all, ample respect from the humans towards the mustangs.

Skydog Sanctuary is doing what I had always hoped to do with The Horse and Man Foundation – Preserve the mustangs.  No breeding, but allowing the once wild ones to run free again.

For me, I honor Skydog’s  strength, knowhow and perseverance to get it done.  Bravo.

Here is the link to the Skydog Ranch Sanctuary where you can learn about them, like them on FB and also follow their Instagram to see updated photos of all the wild mustangs there, including Sam, Rojo and Remi!

An utterly beautiful location.

SKYDOG is in need of volunteers and other local help!

If you have the time and the inclination and live near Bend or Prineville, Oregon – please offer to volunteer at Skydog Sanctuary or help in whatever way works for you (fencing contractor, ranch hand…)!  Volunteers don’t have to sign up for anything binding or concrete, just help.  Help is all they need.  And, you would be working in this glorious place of HorseGod country…

If you wish to volunteer or offer help,  email:  

Thank you, they would love to have the help!




*For those of you who are not regular readers, the reasons I felt that I needed to give up my three mustangs were these:

Previously, I lived on 10 acres with rolling hills, hundreds of trees, shelters, creeks, rocks… the perfect environment for them to be free, to self trim, to move and to exist as they did in the wild.  If they needed to come in or if I needed to gather them, I had the facilities.

Then my husband took a career-making job, 5 hours away.  We lived apart for 2 years.  Finally, we found a home that we could afford on acreage in Paso Robles wine country.  I set up 8 acres of fencing and Hubby created shelters.   I knew I didn’t have a barn, arena or any of the amenities of our former ranch, but I thought we would be OK.  I moved and took all of the horses.

Shortly thereafter, the solid ground turned to sand underneath the weight of the horses.  All the grass was churned up and gone.  When the ground was wet (rain), the slopes became slippery and dangerous.  The shade trees were not sufficient during the relentless summer sun.  The afternoon wind blew sand into their eyes.  I needed to erect many more structures, much more cross fencing and I needed to plant hundreds of trees.  I also needed to bring in earth moving equipment to level the ground and I needed to build a barn.

I was overwhelmed.  I don’t have the funds just now.

Of all the horses here, the mustangs were the most effected.  Not only did their hooves no longer self trim, but the horses themselves had grown despondent.  Remi’s ears were horizontal most of the time.  Sam moped.  Rojo stood in one place.  It was awful.

I knew I had to find a better place for them.  After 8 years of a fairly good life in captivity, I had let them down.

This is why I made my plea to Skydog Sanctuary.

Clare took my horses as a recognition of our years of support for the wild mustang through HORSE AND MAN – and our continued support of the wild mustang – forever.


Happy, happy campers. Thank you, Clare and Skydog Sanctuary.


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5 comments have been posted...

  1. dawndi Post author

    I understand your sentiments but I’m guessing you don’t know him as I do. I had Rojo for 5 years.
    He did not want to be ridden. Trust me on that one.
    When I adopted him from the NNCC, he was broken inside. His eyes were dead. He wouldn’t engage. It took two months to get him to come around.
    I am absolutely certain that he is delighted with his herd of mares in the wild – all of their eyes were dancing when I visited them. They
    were all thrilled…. And why shouldn’t Rojo have this great opportunity that was offered to him? Just because he was selected against his will and
    saddle trained, doesn’t mean that is his only road in life. Or, at least that is how I felt about it. I would rather he be free on 9000 acres than have him
    stuck here on land unsuitable for him. Don’t forget, I just took in 1 BLM donkey and one BLM mare that needed homes – but were gentled enough to be happy with
    our set-up.

  2. Jamie

    Isn’t at least one of these from NNCC? Formerly saddle trained? Why not try to find him a home where he could have a job? So sad after all the work that was done to him that he couldn’t be useful.
    You are the one who inspired me to get to NNCC and adopt. I now have two from there and they are the most fun useful horses I have ever owned.
    This makes me sad. There are so many abused mustangs out there that could have used that home.
    I have been reading your blog for years and haven’t read in a month or so and missed all of this.
    I am sure you are sad, but I am disappointed. We are military too, by the way, so I always felt that connection to you.

  3. Michelle

    A beautiful story, Dawn. I know how hard this must have been, but this place looks like heaven.

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