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Gentle Spirit Horses is a rescue and sanctuary for horses based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Forest City, Iowa. Our mission is to provide assistance to neglected, abused and unwanted horses, and through outreach and education, promote responsible horse ownership. Founded in 2010, Gentle Spirit Horses has pushed the definition of the word sanctuary and redefined it in many ways. In the last 7 years, our organization has assisted with adopting out or providing sanctuary to over 250 horses within the upper Midwest. 


In November 2016, Gentle Spirit Horses made the decision to step up and take seventeen wild mustangs in from a seizure case clear across the state. When faced with 800+ horses that needed help, we made the very difficult choice to focus solely on younger horses, under 4, and mare/foal pairs. It broke our heart to not be able to help any of the older horses and blind/special needs horses, but we had to make a choice and younger horses would have the best chance at gentling and adjusting to a new life.

This lovely sorrel mare gave me a moment today that reminded us WHY we do this and a reminder of why we have a policy of treating each horse individually. You see, that’s Vanessa. She’s a 6 to 8 (best estimate) year old mustang mare who came from the neglect situation. Miss Vanessa did not meet our criteria, but her two very bonded youngsters did. She was in a sorting pen with Stella and Eliana, who are probably 1 to 2 years old. And when it came time to load up the two girls and separate them from Vanessa, our person on the ground simply couldn’t do it. Vanessa turned those big, worried eyes on her and our person was done for. A picture and a text and a “I know she’s older and she’s pregnant, but how do I separate them” and the answer of “you don’t, bring her along” and Vanessa became one of the lucky 17 that we’ve taken in.

She has quickly become one of our favorites. She is smart, and beautiful. We talk to her like a human and she helps us out. Earlier today, we wanted to get Gemini, another youngster that Vanessa adopted, into the baby pen so she could start gentling and get her feet trimmed – she has a long back hoof that is concerning. Gem wanted nothing to do with me so we simply explained what I wanted to Vanessa and gently herded them towards the gate. Vanessa left the bale, walked over to the gate pushing Gemini and bringing Eliana along, and when Gemini went through the gate she just walked off and went back to eating. I know horses don’t speak English but this girl is the closest that they come.

So, I was filled with absolute joy when I looked out a little while later to see her curled up sleeping in the hay. She looked so calm, so relaxed, so content, that I just had to snap a picture.
Vanessa has good feet and is the absolute last on our list for gentling of the mustangs. She’s pregnant and will be gentled enough to get her shots and care, but right now she’s doing great just eating and relaxing. She reminds me that every horse deserves a chance and that good things happen when we give up control and let the universe give us what we need instead of what we want.


Vanessa is going to make someone a fabulous horse someday, and I guarantee she is one that will make me cry tears of sorrow and happiness when she leaves. Whoever you are, her future person, you are a very lucky human.

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About Hope Legacy Equine Rescue

Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue was founded in 2008 when we took in our first donkey. Since then they have taken in over 450 horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys.

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