The Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary found its legs to stand and run with the vision and passion of Gerhard K. Sander. We dedicate the sanctuary to him and will carry on in his name and in his honor. He is greatly missed everyday, but his spirit is guaranteed to live on through the horses we save and the hard work we all do. Today, carrying on his dream and vision is his proud daughter Michelle Sander, along with the expertise and helping hands of the Great Escape team. Our team is comprised of many dedicated individuals volunteering their time, energy and lives to the horses that need us so badly. If what we’re doing calls to you, please jump in and join us…it takes a village. There is much negativity out there surrounding the care and management of the mustangs, thank you for being a positive part of the change.
Stephanie is the owner of Infinity Horsemanship, the Head Trainer & Equine Manager at GEMS and an accomplished horse developer in the Denver area. Though she has loved and appreciated every interaction with equines, she has a particularly strong love and admiration for the Mustang. Stephanie got her first Mustang at age 12 – a mare from the Little Bookcliffs HMA who she performed at events, parades, rodeos, etc., while reshaping people’s perception of the breed. Stephanie dedicated her years growing up in Grand Junction as an active member of the Friends of the Mustangs. With this club, Stephanie had the opportunity to immerse herself in education and participation with on-range herd management, fertility control, horse tracking, and gathers.
Since then, through partnerships with sanctuaries, rescues, and the Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF), Stephanie has worked with hundreds of wild Mustangs and has dedicated her life to placing these horses in appropriate homes and providing support for new Mustang owners and the partnerships with their Mustangs.
Stephanie manages all of our equines and our MHF TIP Storefront Program, trains new horses and educates people interested in learning the skills of wild horse development.
As her greatest friend and greatest teacher, Michelle’s father taught her a respect for animals, respect usually only reserved for other humans. Growing up alongside horses, the passion for Michelle started at an early age. For her father, it had been his lifelong dream. Providing a sanctuary for those in need…for the Mustangs. Tragically, he passed away before he could see even one horse on his land, but before he left this earth, Michelle made a promise to him to carry on his dream and the Great Escape Sanctuary was born.
Sharing in this passion to preserve and to protect the wild ones, Michelle and her team are working to create a successful model of support that others can follow. They strive to educate people from all ages and backgrounds, as well as provide them the opportunity to rediscover their connection to the earth and all creatures through the horse.
Michelle, along with her husband and 2 children have their own personal herd of Mustangs at home with their burros, goats, chickens, dogs and cat. For this family, GEMS is a part of their life and many back breaking hours have been spent working together to get it where it is today.
In 2013, Michelle received a certification for “Remote Delivery of PZP Immunocontraception in Wildlife” from the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, MT and utilizes that information and knowledge to collaborate with the Bureau of Land Management and the GEMS on-the-range support program, the Sand Wash Advocate Team.
Developing a model of on and off range support has been the main goal for Michelle since the inception of GEMS and she is very proud that it has come to fruition.
Carson has been a part of GEMS since the beginning and is taking his growing knowledge of natural horsemanship and lending a hand to our training endeavors. In 2017, Carson begun his own training and farrier business, CSF Horsemanship, out if his home in Longmont, CO. Jessica Dabkowski of Pony Peak Stangmanship from La Porte, CO, has mentored Carson for the past 5 years and continues to do so each week, where he gains invaluable knowledge that he passes along to every horse and adopter/owner he comes across.
Stella has been photographing and visiting Sand Wash Basin for many years and knows the land, the herds and the individual horses comprehensively. Exploring the back roads and 2-tracks with her sister Angie Seipp, this duo bring an incredible wealth of knowledge to the team. Both Stella and Angie have received a “Remote Delivery of PZP Immunocontraception in Wildlife” Certification from Dr. Jay F. Kirkpatrick after completing the on-site training course at the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, MT in 2014. Stella is the SWAT Field Manager and as the lead darter, works directly with the BLM in darting efforts, as well as trains all new volunteers, teaching them how to apply their darting certification knowledge specifically to strategies of darting in the SWB HMA.
Preston, a natural self-starter, is eager and willing to help out wherever he can. He is enthusiastic to share his knowledge and love of the mustangs and burros with all. He is a huge supporter of GEMS and is constantly bringing new ideas and ways for children to interact with the organization. Preston is also a proud member of the Spirits of the West 4H Mustang Training Club in Boulder County, where we are changing minds about natural horsemanship training techniques and Mustangs.
Marsha moved to Colorado seven years ago from Los Angeles in order to be near her boys and her grandchildren. Before retiring Marsha had several different careers. Starting out as a dental hygienist after graduating from USC, Marsha then received a masters in Family Counseling where she specialized in working with family caregivers. Then moved to working with her husband in a successful cellular business venture, becoming one of the first companies of its kind in Los Angeles. Moving to Colorado reactivated her love of horses and she has spent many hours riding with her grandchildren. Being friends with Michelle, she quickly learned about the plight of the mustang and what GEMS was all about. This gave her the perfect opportunity to support and help the animals for which she has such a passion.
As Michelle’s husband, I guess he had no choice but to become our creative brain. Jay owns his own successful Design Consultancy/Agency called Angry Bovine and has been creating beautiful ways for people to express who they are and what they do for many years….his skills in visual communication are incredible and we are so grateful to have him be a part of the team in this way and for making us look really good!
Caroline and Joe Roy joined the Board of Directors of the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary in July 2016.
Caroline created Rocky Mountain Equi-Rhythm: Horses Balancing Hearts, a non-profit organization, in 1999 at Joder Arabian Ranch in Boulder, CO. Creation of this program came from her desire to work with people in a non-traditional way and to combine her love of horses with helping children and adolescents with a focus on the creation of “right relationship” between humans and animals. She continues in the role as director and equine therapist with RMER which is now located at La Reinda Ranch in Longmont, CO. www.equirhythm.org
Joe is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. He worked for 36 years at the CU-Boulder Department of Public Safety. During his last 8 years at CU, he served as the department’s Chief of Police and Executive Director and retired in 2013. Joe brings management experience to the GEMS board in support of the mustang. While he does not consider himself an equestrian, he has actively supported the development of Rocky Mountain Equi-Rhythm and its service to the community.
Mona has been involved with The Great Escape Sanctuary from the beginning, as Michelle’s mother and Gerhard’s wife. Being a part of the inspiration and being by Gerhard’s side for 40 years, Mona brings passion, expertise and knowledge to the team.
Mona emigrated from Germany in 1960 and began to carve her path in the custom home building world. Starting her own Interior Design business, working with Gerhard in his custom home building business, then eventually settling into a very prominent role in the San Francisco Bay Area residential Real Estate community.
Connie is a native Routt County ranch woman with vast animal and horse experience. When not in Sand Wash Basin volunteering her time, you can find Connie crafting, quilting, beading, yet always with her camera by her side. Growing up, she would accompany her dad on hunting trips and became quickly acquainted with implements. Now, she is putting those skills to use, however in a different way, to dart. Connie enjoys the camaraderie of the SWAT team and spending as much time as she can in SWB amongst the wild ones. Connie received her “Remote Delivery of PZP Immunocontraception in Wildlife” Certification from Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick in 2015 and has been assisting with the darting efforts in SWB since.
Christine, along with her husband Mike, have been photographing and documenting the Sand Wash Basin herd since 2012. As a team they have a great knowledge of the herds and the individual horses. Mike & Chris have also created a software database called “HorseBase” that is utilized to track all of the horses and their bands. Both Chris and Mike have received a “Remote Delivery of PZP Immunocontraception in Wildlife” Certification from Kimberly Frank after completing the on-site training course at the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, MT, in the Spring of 2016, and are now assisting with the darting efforts in SWB.