Volunteers are the heart and soul of Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary. From 7:30 to 11 every single morning, they can be found all over the ranch scrubbing water tubs, digging out stalls, raking up hay, moving bales into carts, walking or grooming horses, turning crews out into the arena, feeding, and loving on each individual horse. In short? They essentially run our entire ranch. Without them, Tierra Madre could not possibly give its horses the home they deserve.
Being a Tierra Madre volunteer is very physically demanding, but the rewards are overwhelming. Volunteers might work hard each and every day, but they also get to spend time with the horses: learning secrets, sharing stories, and savoring the strength and beauty that each horse embodies. Regardless of age, experience, or personality, together our volunteers become something stronger than friends. They become a family.
Interested in joining our family and making a difference in the lives of our herd? Your first step is to fill out our online application HERE.
Next, while our official volunteer manual is in need of an update, it offers a few more details regarding tasks, responsibilities, and other adventures you can expect while volunteering at Tierra Madre. You can download the manual here and skim through it: TMHS VOLUNTEER MANUAL
Then, upon the submission of your application, you will be contacted by our volunteer coordinator to schedule a phone interview at a time that works best for you. This is a fun way to get to know you – and you us – before you even step onto the ranch (although we’ll gladly give you a tour too if you want!). We will then schedule you for a new volunteer orientation, where we go over horsemanship 101, policies and procedures, and safety protocol. The orientation will begin with a tour during which you’ll get to meet all the horses on the ranch. New volunteer orientation days are typically on the last Saturday of every month from 8am to 11am. (PLEASE be sure to schedule your orientation as some days can change due to major fundraisers or holidays.)
Finally, at the end of your orientation day, you will sign up for a buddy day, during which you will shadow a staff member or senior volunteer for a morning to get a feel for a typical day as a volunteer. We hope your buddy day will make you feel more comfortable and at home.
We’ve listed some common questions about volunteering from our Q&A page below:
What should I wear/bring when visiting/volunteering?
Close-toed shoes are the most important things (NO steel-toed shoes!). We strongly recommend quality footwear that will protect your feet as well as long pants, a hat, a bandana, and work gloves. Sun screen and water will always be supplied for the volunteers, plus we usually make it a priority to have yummy snacks on hand. No matter what the weather, even though there are water bottles for the taking here at the ranch, ALWAYS bring water. And you can never go wrong with bringing a carrot or two for your favorite horse.
How old do I have to be to volunteer?
You can volunteer at any age! We do ask for volunteers aged 12 and under to be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times, and while it is not required, we strongly recommend that volunteers between the ages of 13 and 17 are accompanied by a parent or guardian as well. Due to our busy mornings, our volunteers are not supervised by Tierra Madre management 100% of the time. All volunteers under the age of 18 will need a parent or guardian to sign a waiver on their behalf. The Tierra Madre family is made of people of all different age groups!
Can I bring my dog out with me when I volunteer?
As long as your dog is well behaved off leash, avoids going into stalls/pens/arenas, and gets along with our (very friendly) ranch dog, Lee, then your dog is welcome to accompany you to the ranch!
Can I ride at Tierra Madre?
While our employees occasionally work with horses that can (and like to) be ridden, volunteers and interns do not ride at the ranch. Tierra Madre is first and foremost a facility for previously abused, neglected, injured or unwanted horses, many of whom cannot or do not care to be ridden, and our priority is to give them what they need.
Are there any horses I should avoid while working?
Yes. Because Tierra Madre is a horse sanctuary, there are bound to be some horses here and there that have some psychological challenges – in other words, horses that are aggressive or would feel threatened if you got too close to them. A ranch manager will tell you which horses are “ranch manager only” horses on your first visit/day.
I know a lot about horses already. Can I just come visit and work with them without going through an orientation?
No. Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary has a unique philosophy about interacting and working with horses that must be taught and practiced. Consistency is the key to working with our herd, and all humans must be on the exact same page with regards to approaching, haltering, leading, grooming, bathing, etc. Additionally, sanctuary horses are a different species of horse. Equines that have been abused, neglected, injured, or traumatized in some way require different ways of thinking that Tierra Madre personnel must emphasize to all volunteers. Individuals are not permitted to go into the stalls of our horses or work with them until they have been through an official volunteer orientation.
Am I allowed to complete community service hours at Tierra Madre?
Yes! In fact, several current volunteers and staff members discovered Tierra Madre because of their need to complete volunteer work. Our ranch managers are happy to sign off on log work, write letters of recommendation, or do anything else that might be needed for assignments and assessments.
Thank you for your interest in volunteering, and we look froward to welcoming you into the Tierra Madre family!