Tucked into the Canelo Hills in the mountains of Southern Arizona is a place of healing for animals in need. Whisper’s Sanctuary is a 501c3 nonprofit lifetime home for animals who are unwanted, abused, or retired from public service. Begun in 2005, the Sanctuary is now home to over 50 animals, many of whom are long-time residents. The Sanctuary sponsors a children’s educational program to teach about good stewardship – that animals are part of the family and not “disposable.” The Sanctuary also offers therapeutic day programs for adults and families, with the capacity for weekend workshops with guests staying at our Bed & Breakfast. Our main fundraising venture is Sparky’s Cantina, a vegetarian, vegan and allergy-friendly food trailer that frequents special events and retails food and desserts through a local co-op market.
Whisper’s Sanctuary is the dream come true for the late Ross Romeo and his wife Toni Leo. Toni has carried on the dream of providing a beautiful, safe place for healing for humans and animals. Toni is the volunteer Sanctuary director and part-time animal caretaker, and also the volunteer chef for the Cantina! She operates the B & B and also has a “day job” to keep the Sanctuary afloat. Donations are greatly appreciated, with 100% of funds received going directly toward the cost of feed and healthcare for the animals.
Current residents include horses, donkeys, mules, goats, geese, chickens, dogs, and a barn cat. We would love for you to visit us and experience the magic of Whisper’s Sanctuary. We frequently need animal caretakers, too, so if you are interested in working for us please be in touch! www.rrheartranch.com
Val’s Story of Rescue at Whisper’s Sanctuary and her Connection with ROTH’s own Certified Trainer/Instructor, Elaine Ackerly:
It was one of those moments when I asked myself “oh goodness, what have you done this time?”
Whisper’s Sanctuary is a place of last resort for many animals out of options. We home the leftovers, the unwanteds. A friend was headed to South Dakota to pick up a load of mustangs from a failed sanctuary. I was intrigued. Over 800 needing homes. She inquired what I wanted. I responded, “you know me, I’ll take whomever is left.”
Valentine is a lovely, large bay mare from the White Sands, New Mexico lineage who was born at a sanctuary in South Dakota. An orphan foal, she was bottle raised. Currently estimated at age 6, she retains hind end lameness due to malnutrition. Val was bound for another rescue who was unable to take her. It was one of those moments that one wishes “no” was an option, but it just wasn’t.
I anxiously arrived home after a long day at work. It was hard to see in the dark, but there were only two horses in the corral, not three. I was informed that Val wouldn’t load, and the men who tried said she was out of control. One, a very experienced horseman, thought she might be “dangerous”. So Val stayed at his ranch, boarded, while we figured out what we were going to do with her. Euthanasia? I just knew there would be no way I could handle a wild, out of control horse thought to be possibly dangerous. What were we going to do?
A friend suggested I contact Anna Twinney. Anna’s website resonated with me. I watched a video on Facebook of the man boarding Val. Although highly skilled, he is a conventional horse trainer. He was puzzled by her behavior. He said she didn’t know how to be a horse, and he couldn’t understand why. He moved her about a round pen. My heart sunk. I learned Val’s history. I knew I needed Anna’s help.
Val needed emotional healing, not a round pen. A mare lame on both hind legs endured a 1400 mile trip from South Dakota to Southern Arizona. Maybe she wouldn’t load back on a trailer a day later because she was in pain. A scared orphan in a new place, no one to reassure her. Alone, in pain, with no one who understood.
After an email exchange, Anna Twinney called me. I was in shock. An equestrian celebrity called me. Anna offered to send us her DVD set about gentling wild horses. That was so kind. Then she offered to send an internet request to her network of students to inquire if anyone might be willing to volunteer to come to Arizona to help Val.
I communicated with Elaine Ackerly and Clea Hall. We found we had some things in common and they agreed to visit to work with Val. I am still in awe at how these two very accomplished and busy women put their lives (and incomes) on hold to help our mustangs. Elaine visited for eight days, Clea visited for five days. During that time Elaine worked with Val while Clea worked with Chante and Canela (our other two SD mustangs). Clea used energy work/healing with all three mustangs in addition to Anna’s ROTH techniques. They taught me techniques that were very helpful and easy to understand from the perspective of someone with no horse training experience.
Within a few days of their arrival, with hours of Elaine and Clea simply being present with the mustangs, transformations started to occur. Although I had been in Val’s corral frequently to muck and feed, this time she quietly stood with me by her side. It was one of those moments when I believed for the first time that there was hope for Val. You have come all this way, Val, and you are finally home.
Elaine and Clea are inspiring. Their knowledge, kindness, and willingness to help us has been amazing. I cannot thank them enough for all they have done for the mustangs, and myself as their caretaker. Elaine and Clea are both truly a blessing. Our paths have crossed for many reasons, for which I am grateful. Thank you so much for giving us hope.
All said and done, with rave reviews from Whisper’s Sanctuary…
thank you for emailing and for your interest in the Sanctuary. Elaine and Clea were such great horsewomen and made progress with the mustangs. I was appreciative for them teaching me some of the basics, and I will continue to use the videos that you sent as a guide. I have also told several others in similar situations with unhandled horses about your work to spread the word about what you do.
Thank you so much for your kindness in so many ways. Your work is already benefitting the horses here and I can only see that growing exponentially in the future with our therapy programs too.
Below watch Elaine and Clea as they Reach Out for first touches and more with the mustangs at Whisper’s Sanctuary.
For more info on how you can learn to Reach Out to the Untouched Horse, visit us at: