Head east on Highway 24 until Pikes Peak begins to shrink in the rearview mirror. Hang a right at Schriever Air Force Base and drive into the plains where Colorado begins to look more like Kansas, the houses get farther apart and the asphalt stops. A few dusty country roads guide you to the drive of Spirit Keeper Equine Sanctuary — a labor of love and dedication.
Here, beautiful, feisty, special-needs and elderly horses have come to live out their lives, the alternative being euthanasia or a more violent end. "We take in horses that otherwise would have been killed, slaughtered, whatever, and we maintain their quality of life the best that it can be," says sanctuary director Lori Torrini, who was also coordinator for the City of Colorado Springs Community Animal Response Team, serving during the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires.
The horses at Spirit Keeper occupy 35 acres in Ellicott/Yoder and have come from as far away as Montana. If you venture out to the sanctuary, you might meet Waylon, a gorgeous former roping horse that once was starving to death at the Air Force Academy stables. "He was a skeleton when we first saw him," says Torrini. Now living at the sanctuary and receiving a special diet and regular dental checkups, Waylon is a healthy weight and gets the care he needs for the bad knees caused by his former career.
Each horse at Spirit Keeper receives a significant level of love and meticulous care. Aerilon was diagnosed with a severe heart murmur. The vet told his previous owners that he could die at any moment. He came to the sanctuary at 2 and is now 9. He is healthy, playful and full of life. Jenny had an eye removed because of a tumor and needs daily checks and ongoing care. Rapture has minor lung damage, so he lives with a group of horses that won't push him too far.
The team at Spirit Keeper arranges special diets for many of their horses, who, like Waylon, can't survive on basic hay and alfalfa. They also nurture and train those that have psychological trauma or behavioral issues, working steadily to regain trust and improve confidence. They provide regular veterinary visits for those who need anything from ulcer medication to surgery, and the team carefully maintains medication regimens. It's a lot to take on, and most board members and sanctuary volunteers are also juggling full-time work.
With funds raised by the Give! Campaign, Spirit Keeper will focus on a big project for their horses: They need to build several more shelters to ensure everyone is covered this winter. You can help keep these special creatures out of the wind and snow by supporting this campaign. Find out more at spiritkeeperequine.org.