Meet the Humans
Jim Gath – Founder and President
Alexis Roeckner – Executive Director
Alexis walked into Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary in June 2009 when she was 17, expecting to put in 100 hours of community service for a school project and be done. By the end of her first day, however, she knew she was never going to leave. Five and half years of volunteer and videography work for the ranch later, she was appointed a ranch manager in October 2014, the ranch director in December 2014, and Tierra Madre’s executive director in January 2017. Alexis holds a bachelor’s degree in sustainability and a master’s in nonprofit management and leadership, both from Arizona State University. Far from being the lost, miserable teen she was on her first day, she credits the horses of Tierra Madre for making her step into the shoes of someone she never thought she could be. Alexis loves coffee, the beautiful Sonoran Desert, road tripping, and Kenny Loggins.
Alexis is also the author of A Year With Angels, a book which documents her first year as a volunteer at Tierra Madre and the happenings of the ranch during that time.
Shana McCawley – Ranch Handager
Shana offered to volunteer at the ranch with Denise. She was amazed at the personalities of all the horses and the healing environment. Buddy in particular is now considered part of her family.
Shana enjoys being a hospice RN, hard work, music and woodworking. When she accepted the position of ranch manager, she insisted that her formal title be “ranch hand”. We compromised and she is now one heck of a ranch handager. Not only does she help run the ranch flawlessly, if we ever need stalls renovated, she’ll have a shovel in hand before we can even ask around for volunteers. She loves doing all the dirty work the rest of us are often loathe to do, but better yet, she loves the herd with all her heart.
Denise McCawley – Volunteer Coordinator
Denise got a message from a friend on Facebook about a ranch needing some help feeding the horses. She had never even been around a horse before, but showed up anyway. She fell in love, but most particularly with Buddy and Jani.
Denise also loves being a hospice RN and considers the ranch as her soul therapy to refill her cup. She is a holistic nutrition and wellness coach as well as a garden guru, and is responsible for the creation of Tierra Madre’s beautiful community garden. When she isn’t gently working with our new recruits and making them feel welcome at the ranch, she can be found in the garden, nurturing the plants and happily selling the vegetables to her many, many friends and donating the proceeds to the horses. Denise is a friend to everyone she meets, and in fact a great number of our volunteers – when asked how they discovered Tierra Madre – will joyfully say, “Oh, Denise told me about this place!”
Morgan had always been fascinated by horses, but growing up she and her family did not have the money to sustain her interest so she pursued other passions, like swimming, soccer, and music. In 2012, she moved to Arizona to go to college. Finding herself bored after classes and needing experience with animals, she did an internet search for horse rescues near her. After volunteering her time at multiple locations, she found that Tierra Madre was the best fit for her. The sanctuary allowed her to immerse herself in horses as well as learn so much about these amazing animals. She immediately fell in love with the horses of Tierra Madre and is now working towards a degree in Non-Profit Management at ASU, showing in local English Horse Shows, and is planning on furthering her education in some kind of animal science.
Leika has been a member of the Tierra Madre family since February of 2014. A native of New Jersey, Leika became interested in horses during a childhood trip to the Kentucky Horse Park but never had the opportunity to gain horse experience. She chose TMHS specifically because it gives volunteers the opportunity to interact with the horses and make a difference in their lives. Leika credits King John with helping her overcome initial fears and now spends most of her time pampering a once-neglected Kiss, who has quickly become one of the most spoiled kids on the ranch.
A native of Colorado, Angela has been with Tierra Madre since the summer of 2015. Initially not a “horse person,” she came out to the ranch at the suggestion of a friend who felt it could assist her in easing nagging anxiety and depression. It worked and despite her best efforts to the contrary, she has fallen head over heels with our herd (Iron Man can do that to a girl). Angela has made tremendous strides in horsemanship and is one of the few members of our team able to walk Chance. She also serves Tierra Madre by doing outreach coordination for the sanctuary.
Julie moved to Phoenix from Illinois in January of 2015. (She’s originally from the San Francisco Bay Area – Fremont.) She’s always had a love for horses and all animals. She wanted to find a place to volunteer and care for horses as well as meet people in AZ, since she didn’t know anyone when she moved here. After Googling horse rescues in Phoenix, she found Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary’s FaceBook page. She’s been here since June 2015 and loves it. She says: “It’s not only a horse sanctuary, it’s my sanctuary!” Julie is additionally a member of Tierra Madre’s benefit committee.
Christine Badoux – Equine Experience Program Director
Christine discovered Tierra Made in August 2013, when she was looking for a place to volunteer with her two children, Isabelle and Alex. A life long animal lover, she was drawn to horses and intrigued by their many healing and teaching abilities. As a new volunteer, she was appreciative of the many “hands-on” opportunities that Tierra Madre offered to learn about horses “directly from the source,” and she remains a firm believer in the sanctuary’s approach of “listening to the horse.” While she credits Iron Man with being her first horse crush and Rain for “taking her breath away” the first time she laid eyes on her, she whole-heartedly believes she has learned something from each and every horse at the sanctuary. Christine also created “Equine Experiential Coaching” in collaboration with Tierra Madre to promote the synergy of learning and healing that exists between horses and humans, and to improve the quality of life for both, through individual and group coaching sessions, workshops, and retreats.
Susan came to Tierra Madre in June 2015 on a volunteer outing with her high school students with autism. It was the beginning of an amazing opportunity for the students and truly “love at first sight” for Susan. Susan has loved horses all of her life but realizing the chance to ever own one had long passed, she just let that desire fade. The day she walked through the gates at Tierra Madre that love sprang to life and she just knew there would be no need for turning back. Susan is a faithful Saturday volunteer who looks forward to every opportunity to serve those amazing animals and help realize the vision that brought about such an amazing place as TMHS. Her only wish is for more school holidays to allow extra time with her ranch family!
Georgeta came to us in December 2015. She has fallen in love with each horse and can be found walking all over the ranch to give them love. According to her, “It’s wonderful to feel the trust from a horse, to breathe together, to groom, to enjoy the warmth of each other’s company.” Georgeta is additionally a member of Tierra Madre’s benefit committee.
John was born in Minnesota, but eventually made his way down to Arizona. As a good friend of Denise and Shana’s, he began volunteering at Tierra Madre in November of 2016. He has always loved caring for animals, especially those in need. In fact, he has some chickens at home! His core belief is that ALL life deserves respect, regardless of species. He has since fallen in love with Bourbon’s mischievous charm and the enigma that surrounds Chance. His work ethic knows no bounds; he does a majority of our heavy lifting and will grab a hose or a shovel before the rest of us can react.
Sonya started at Tierra Madre in October 2015 and is living her dream of being around horses……all kinds of horses. Although she has an extra soft spot in her heart for Bentley, she is often overheard telling whichever horse is directly in front of her how much she loves them. Sonya feels Tierra Madre is a wonderfully magical place where people help heal the horses, and the horses help heal the people. And by doing chores around the ranch, she doesn’t have to go to the gym anymore. Sonya has served on the grants committee in the past and helped organize and run Tierra Madre’s first and hugely successful Help A Horse Day in April 2016.
When Bre was in the 7th grade, one of her classmates invited her to a fundraising event at a ranch where his mom worked. She emailed the owner to ask if it was okay if she came out to visit to which the answer was yes. When she got there, she absolutely fell in love with the entire ranch, but one horse in particular: Charlie. After spending hours there, she asked if she could return for more visits, and once she was told she could come back any time, she started visiting every Saturday. That quickly turned into visiting every day she didn’t have school. That was almost 8 years ago, and she served as a ranch manager for several of those years before leaving to continue her education at NAU. She still comes back to visit and continues to be an irreplaceable member of the Tierra Madre team that knows the horses inside and out. Tierra Madre is her second home, and the horses are her family.
Bre is additionally an incredible artist. Many of the paintings and sketches done of our horses were her handiwork, and we think no one can quite capture their likeliness like she can.
Leah Eauslin – Public Relations Corespondent and Social Media Consultant
Leah had always loved horses but was never really around them too often except for the occasional trail ride. After she returned from a horse camp in northern Arizona July 2012, she got online and searched for a rescue to volunteer at. Once she called Jim and made it out to Tierra Madre for a tour, she was hooked. She developed a soft spot for Heighten almost immediately. Over the years, she came out nearly every weekend at 6 in the morning until her family moved to Florida in 2014. Leah still visits as much as possible. Every morning the day after she flies in, she is out scrubbing waters, sometimes before the sun is up and any of the volunteers are even at the ranch. She hopes to maybe spend a year or two of college in Arizona to be closer to her “kids.” Leah often does outreach work for the ranch as well. She was professionally requesting silent auction donations from businesses at as young as 15 and was instrumental in helping us put together our first benefit and silent auction in August 2015. She runs our Instagram account, as well as doing the website upkeep. Whether she is across the country or working her heart out at the ranch, she goes above and beyond for our horses. Leah loves cacti, Yankee candles, and any form of caffeine. She plans on getting her Ph.D in Criminology and Criminal Justice and working for the FBI.
Kathy Eauslin – Tierra Madre’s Accountant
Kathy was indifferent to horses for most of her life. When her daughter, Leah, began as a volunteer in July 2012, she didn’t connect with the horses at first, and was really only there because of Leah. After a few months, she began to come out and volunteer as well and her whole perspective changed. Kathy has since fallen in love with the animals and braves the early mornings with Leah. When our long-time accountant and dear friend passed away, we didn’t really know where to go from there. Were we going to start paying large amounts to a firm or a private person? We net just enough to keep us going 365 days a year. Well, that’s where Kathy stepped in. She does everything to do with our accounting – all as a donation. She is an essential part of our Tierra Madre family and goes out of her way for us.