Our work as animal caregivers began back in 1999. Though we recently became a state accredited animal sanctuary, the years of animal care and knowledge have been long and rewarding.
Please take a moment and share in our journey. We hope that you see a little of yourself in our story and come to feel like part of our family, too.
Jeff has been creating this animal sanctuary since 1999. It’s not something new, and it’s not something that we’re ever going to give up on. Whatever it takes, we’re dedicated to doing it. When he brought in these cattle and horses, there were hard days, but that didn’t stop him even for a day. He knew what he wanted to do and how to do it.
Jeff always wanted to be a rancher. As a young boy, he dreamed of the day he could have his own slice of heaven in the back-country mountain area, though it would be more than 20 years before Jeff could make that dream come true. It was incredibly hard to build from scratch.
Sassy Changes Everything
Jeff’s perseverance paid off when he heard about a horse in need of a home. This horse’s owner was ready to find the horse a good home, and was therefore picky about where her horse went. Jeff was one of many interested parties, though his story made the owner realize that he was the perfect candidate for such a special horse.
“It was like a bolt of lightning,” Jeff recalls. “I just knew this was meant to be. When the lady asked me what I wanted to do with her, I just said, ‘love on her and take care of her.’ And it was the truth. I guess everyone else had aims of working her. That’s fine, but I wanted a companion to live our her days with me. I had never owned a horse before, so I just wanted to give her a happy home.”
That was the right answer and Jeff found himself the proud caretaker of Sassy. To this day, if you ask Jeff about Sassy he still gets a little emotional. “That horse taught me absolutely everything I know about learning to listen to what they need and how to care for them.”
Sassy’s gift to Jeff just keeps on giving. The ranch has grown from a single horse residence to the extraordinary place it is today – a true paradise for the animals. It all began with one patient horse with a lot of love to share and a young man who refused to give up on a dream.
A Dream Come True
I always wanted a horse ever since I was little girl. My mom and dad, Sharon and Roy Youngblood, owned some property in Creede, Colorado. There were five lakes and a large horse pasture in the front that came right up to the house. Every year we would go up there to get out of town and go fishing. But my favorite thing was always to feed the horses carrots and apples.
As soon as we would arrive in Creede, I would rush to the pasture looking and calling for the horses. One year, I got a little too close to the horses – I wanted to be on the other side of the fence and play. As I tried to crawl under the fence, I got nicked in the head by one of the horses. The neighbor, who was a nurse, luckily saw the whole thing and was able to rush to me and sent her husband to fetch my parents. The wound required stitches and the closest emergency room was a 45-minute drive away. But this experience didn’t deter my love of horses. As soon as we got back, I went and fed the horses their carrots.
Music and Travel
As I grew up, I never stopped loving horses and was determined to have a horse of my own one day. Sadly, because of where I lived in Belen, New Mexico, I was unable to get my horse right away. But I had another dream, too. Ever since I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a Western singer like my favorite artists LeAnn Rimes and Gretchen Wilson.
I pursued this dream and performed in numerous places, including California and Tennessee. In 2012, I recorded an album called “No Trespassing” www.soundcloud.com/toriasleycounty.
I started traveling more and more, but as the years passed, my childhood dream finally came true and I was offered my very own horse.
This was an 11-month-old palomino and, because the horse had to be separated from his mother, they asked me if I would take him. Even though I didn’t have a place for a horse and didn’t own a horse trailer, I couldn’t help but say “yes”.
Someone who was teaching me to ride helped me get him let me board him until I put up a fence. Within a week I was able to bring him home.
Although the place I kept him was 13 miles from where I lived, both mornings and nights I drove down to play with my new horse.
We trained and learned together day and night. Sometimes I brought my dogs along and slept there just to be close to him.
This big boy is named Diesel.
“He is my best friend,“ Tori says.
“And he is still with me today. He made my dream come true. He has a heart of gold and is always there when I need him most. There is no separating us.”