About Wild Horse Sanctuary

Rather than allow 80 wild horses living on public land to be destroyed, the founders of the Wild Horse Sanctuary made a major life decision right then and there to rescue these unwanted horses and create a safe home for them. And just as quickly, they launched a media campaign to bring attention to the plight of these and thousands of other wild horses across the west that eventually led to a national moratorium on killing un-adoptable wild horses.

The Sanctuary is located near Shingletown, California on 5,000 acres of lush lava rock-strewn mountain meadow and forest land. Black Butte is to the west and towering Mt. Lassen is to the east.



To protect and preserve America's wild horses as a living national treasure by providing range sanctuary in an ecologically balanced environment open to the public.

Co-Founder and Directors

Dianne Nelson, Co-Founder
Elizabeth Palmer, President
Carolyn Coates, Treasurer
Brenda Stowe, Secretary & Special Projects Coordinator
Liz Juenke, Volunteer & Saddle Horse Coordinator
Montana Hodges, Director
"Our accomplishments at the Sanctuary are a direct result of caring people working to make a difference. Whether you donate financially or volunteer, please continue to be as much a part of our future as you have been a part of our past. Words cannot adequately express how grateful we are for your help. Your ongoing support is needed so we can continue to provide a safe, natural, and free-roaming life for the beautiful wild horses and burros that call the Sanctuary home."
In 1978 Dianne Nelson co-founded the Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary a not-for- profit 501(c)(3) organization. The Sanctuary began when 80 horses were rescued from the Devils Garden in Modoc County California - the horses were relocated to their present location in Shingletown, California in 1983. Dianne managed the Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary for 40 years. She currently resides on the Sanctuary and continues her involvement in the daily operation of caring for the wild horses and burros. Though most of her life has involved working with animals - from ranching to removing feral goats from San Clemente Island (under government contract) - the vast majority of her time, energy, and resources have been dedicated to protecting and preserving one of America’s last living links and symbols to its rich heritage, the wild horse. Dianne is intimately acquainted with wild horses and their needs as well as the importance of a healthy, ecologically sound environment to sustain them and other species. Her knowledge and experience, coupled with a deep love, desire, and dedication to promote a quality life for wild horses and to protect the ranges they inhabit are evident to all who meet her. Throughout her life, Dianne has worked with countless organizations focused on the issues surrounding wild horse management on public lands. In her search for solutions to the problem of population control of wild horses and burros, Dianne worked with researchers from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and University of California, Davis to investigate temporary sterility in mares. Dianne served as the Wild Horse Representative on the Modoc/Washoe Experimental Steward Program Steering Committee. She has collaborated with researchers/projects in order to document the intricate and unique social structure, biology, and native intelligence of wild horses and has demonstrated, through the Wild Horse Sanctuary, that wild horses can co-exist on the open range in ecological balance with many diverse species of wildlife. Dianne is thrilled to share the beauty and majesty of the animals who call the Sanctuary home as well as the working, replicable model for the proper and responsible management of wild horses in their natural habitat. The Sanctuary welcomes visitors, volunteers, and researchers from across the U.S. and around the world.
Elizabeth Palmer became involved with the Wild Horse Sanctuary shortly after her first trail ride weekend — a birthday present from friends — in 1997. She joined the WHS board in 2000 and currently serves as the Sanctuary’s President. Her Bay Area law career began in 1994, and she is now a senior business attorney and is involved with a broad range of business and taxation matters, such as mergers and acquisitions, private securities offerings, partnerships, joint ventures, financing, purchases, sales, and equine-related businesses. Although a long-time Dressage rider, Elizabeth’s no stranger to western saddles, from her first pony ride at the age of two to the Colorado guest ranch where she and her husband were married between trail rides and cattle round-ups. She feels privileged to have worked with Dianne, the board, and the volunteers over the years, contributing her expertise and experience to ensure the Sanctuary’s future. Elizabeth lives in Santa Rosa, California. She is a current board member and past board chair of the American Red Cross of Sonoma, Mendocino & Lake Counties, a member of the Sonoma County Horse Council, and former business and law columnist for North Bay Biz magazine.

Our Goals, Programs and History

  • Increase public awareness of herd dynamics and the genetic and historical value of America’s wild horses through trail rides on the sanctuary, publications, and public and media outreach.
  • Demonstrate that wild horses can co-exist on open range in ecological balance with many diverse species of wildlife including deer, black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, wild turkey, gray fox, and over 150 species of birds.
  • Provide a working, replicable model for the proper and responsible management of wild horses in their natural habitat.
  • Collaborate with research projects to document the intricate and unique social structure, biology, and native intelligence of wild horses as well as the effective use of infertility vaccines.
  • To be a voice for America’s wild horses and promote humane solutions to the problems that threaten their future existence on public lands.
  • To inspire others to also be a voice for America’s wild horses.

The Wild Horse Sanctuary is a non-profit, tax exempt, public foundation and 5,000 acre preserve dedicated to the protection and preservation of America's wild horses. It is currently supported by contributions from individuals and organizations with a wide range of backgrounds that share a common concern for wildlife, the environment, and our American heritage.

The Wild Horse Sanctuary offers trail rides; develops public education programs; sponsors "resistance free" horse training seminars; participates in research projects on ecologically sound wild horse management; consults on related programs in order to help build other wildlife preserves; and cooperates with responsible ecology, animal protection, and educational organizations to further the protection of all species of wildlife, including America's wild horses, and the preservation of our natural environment.

We are open to the public for wild horse viewing on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10 am - 4 pm - there is no cost. 
Over 300 Wild Horses & Burros Run Free!

Thousands of wild horses have been removed from the range and are kept in crowded holding facilities where they serve life sentences, waiting to die, unless someone adopts them.
Our horses have come from various government agencies gathered from desolate areas such as: Sheldon-Hart Mt. Wildlife Refuge in Oregon; White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and Modoc National Forest in California.

Nearly three hundred wild horses and burros live on the Wild Horse Sanctuary. These horses are descendants of Spanish horses brought to the New World in the 1500's by the Conquistadors. In the 1800's, the Spanish stock began to mix with European horses -- favored by the settlers, trappers and miners -- that had escaped or been turned out by their owners. The wild horses were in demand until tractors and other mechanical means replaced them. Then, they were pushed back into the most arid, hostile public lands that are left. Yet they still survive!

Each New Horse That Comes In Is Recorded And Photographed

As we unload them into holding pens, we check their physical condition before they are released onto the Sanctuary's grazing land. We record the age, sex and identifying marks. This horse, for example is a Palomino 9 year old, 14 hands tall, and 850 lbs. He came to us from Sheldon-Hart Wildlife Refuge where horses have been removed by the government from public land.

Make A Donation

Your donations feed the wild horses when grazing is scarce, maintain fencing to keep them safe, purchase adjoining lands to increase grazing, improve range land and wildlife habitat by reseeding and fertilizing, build nature trails and campsites, and more.

We offer a variety of ways to donate. Make a Donation today!