Meet the Humans
Jim Gath – Founder and President
Alexis Roeckner Ferri – Executive Director
Alexis walked into Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary in June 2009 when she was 17 years old, armed with the task of completing 100 hours of community service for a school project. The original plan was to get those hours done, learn some more about horses – her first love in life – then be done. By the end of her first day at Tierra Madre, however, she knew she was never going to leave.
Five and a half years of volunteer and videography work for the ranch later, Alexis was appointed a ranch manager in October 2014 and the ranch director a few months later. In January 2017, she was appointed Tierra Madre’s executive director. In addition to ensuring the completion of day-to-day tasks that come with the smooth running of a ranch, she oversees volunteer training, fundraising and marketing efforts, social media, event planning, donor development, community outreach, program creation and development, and morning donut gatherings. Her favorite part of her job, however, is being responsible for the health and happiness of the horses.
Alexis holds a bachelor’s degree in sustainability and a master’s in nonprofit leadership and management, 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.
She is a bit of a latte snob and loves the beautiful Sonoran Desert, road tripping, and Kenny Loggins.
She 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 her wife, 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.
Leah Eauslin – Donor Development Assistant & Ranch Manager
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 visited as much as school would allow and she ultimately moved back in May of 2018 to pursue her degree at NAU. Upon her return, she was promoted to a ranch manager. You can find her taking care of the waters on the “field side” at 5 am in the summer months and the second it’s light in the winter months.
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, and now she works with any and all of our donors, making sure that they’re a part of the family.
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.
Nancy Loftis – Volunteer Coordinator
Nancy was born and raised in Metro – Detroit and relocated to north Phoenix in July, 2016. She initially visited Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary to take photos of the horses, but knew immediately that it was a special place where she wanted to go on a regular basis, so she became a volunteer in May of 2017. She loves all of the horses, but her favorite is Rain. One of the many reasons she spends two or three mornings at the ranch every week is the peace and tranquility she feels the moment she walks through the gates, as well as the new friendships she’s formed with some of the other TMHS family. Nancy is also learning a lot about horsemanship skills, which is fun and exciting to her. Some of the things she is moost passionate about are photography, animals, spending time in nature, and traveling. Nancy takes many of our horse pictures and is additionally part of the benefit committee.
Angie has been with us since July 2016. She walked into Tierra Madre not knowing how it would change her life. She didn’t know for a solid month that Hudson would be the one to melt her heart. His galootness stuck with her. She felt there was always a piece of her life missing after marriage and kids and found it again at Tierra Madre. Hudson is the one horse that she looks forward to seeing as he “brightens her day and fills her soul.” Angie loves dogs, horses, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.
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.
Brandy is originally from Fullerton, Nebraska and came to us in May 2016. She is a self-proclaimed “Domestic Goddess” who was looking for more in life than laundry, vacuuming, and cleaning the toilets. Once she came to Tierra Madre, she fell in love with the whole herd. Her unconditional love for the horses and the fact that they don’t judge keeps her coming back: “They just want treats and a someone to pay attention to them.” Brandy enjoys supernatural novels, Hawaii (even though she’s wary of sharks), and has a “slight” addiction to diet coke.
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.
Debbie Shewman – Ambassador Program Director
Debbie grew up in Villa Park, California. In 1985, she came to Arizona on spring break from SDSU, met the love of her life, and moved to Scottsdale immediately after taking finals. She has been married 31 years now. In July 2017, she saw a story on the news about a horse rescue that needed volunteers. Being a lifelong horse lover, she called them. They were in Gilbert and that’s too far to drive from where she lives, which broke her heart. Debbie then googled Cave Creek horse rescues and found Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary and she’s been volunteering ever since. Her reason to keep coming back? “For the first time in my life, I really feel like I’m making a difference.” Debbie is additionally the Director of our Ambassador program.
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!”
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.
Holly Scapelliti – Outreach Coordinator
Holly is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and has been with us since October of 2009. She was unemployed at the time and found an article on TM in the Airpark News monthly magazine and decided to check it out. As far as having a favorite horse, she isn’t particular. “Whatever horse I am spending time with is my favorite horse. They each have unique qualities that I love dearly…so I have 31 favorite horses!” Holly keeps coming back because she sees TM as family, and family is forever! Holly is a very down to earth individual, typically very easy going, and a lover nature, animals, and has a gypsy wanderlust type of soul. Holly is additionally our Outreach Coordinator. Almost every weekend, she has a Tierra Madre table set up outside a store in Northern Scottsdale or a rustic shop in Cave Creek.
“Iron John” Hidalgo
John was born and raised in Arizona, no leaving or anything. He’s a desert man through and through, which is evident by his “go-go-go” mentality. When John retired a few years ago, he was living comfortably at home with his wife. When she herd about a boy scout troop visiting Tierra Madre for labor jobs, she had an idea. Later on, she saw the special on the news about us and told John outright, “There’s a horse sanctuary in Cave Creek that needs volunteers. You need to be there on Saturday for orientation.” Thus, John has been with us ever since. He works harder than the rest of us combined, hence the nickname “Iron John.” John has both sides of the ranch’s lunch schedule memorized and works on things that the rest of us dread doing in this heat. We wouldn’t be anything without him.
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.
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.
Kathi has always been an animal lover and had been looking for a way to help horses in need. In December of 2016 she walked through the gate at Tierra Madre after a series of “small world” occurrences and she just knew Tierra Madre was meant to be. We learned right away that she plans events for a living. Which we decided was a wonderful stroke of luck for us. It’s been working out just fine! Kathi grew up around horses and has always loved them. But, after landing on her butt a few times as a little girl she became unsure around them. Enter Iron Man, he’s a tall dark & handsome guy at the ranch who melts hearts. Kathi fell in love with him immediately. Since then she’s grown attached to several of the horses at the ranch (it’s ok, Iron Man isn’t the jealous type.) She even takes Nibzi (pictured) and Iron Man and a few others from their stalls to the arena and back when it’s their turn to go play. It’s clear that Kathi has a deep love for the horses and will be here with them for a long time to come. Kathi is additionally our Benefit Coordinator and was instrumental in the 2017 Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction as well as our 2018 Arts and Crafts Festival.
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. Kathy currently comes out when she’s in town and has her granddaughter, Kaitlyn, in tow.
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.
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. Unfortunately, Sonya moved to Delaware, but she will always be an honorary volunteer and is welcome through our gates any time.
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!