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Phillips starts sanctuary for mustangs
Erin Phillips
Phillips starts sanctuary for mustangs - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — His highly anticipated arrival was quite ironic. He was calm, showing no traces of his wild nature.

Alamo, a mustang that used to run free in the Onaqui Mountains of Utah, looked completely at home as he stepped off a horse trailer and touched the soil of Joyful Acres Farm for the first time.

Erin Phillips, 18,  adopted the beautiful beast through a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auction on the internet. The BLM removes thousands of horses from federal lands in multiple states each year, claiming it is for their own good.

“That is just an excuse,” Erin said.

Erin has a photo of Alamo rearing up when he was on the range in Utah. He showed no signs of illness or malnourishment. He was muscular with a shiny brown coat.

“That’s before he was rounded up,” Erin said.

In many cases, public land that hosts mustangs is frequently turned over to sheep and cattle ranchers.

“It’s a money-making thing,” said Anne Phillips, Erin’s mother.

 The Phillipses, who learned about wild horses through a series of documentaries at a library, would have preferred that Alamo remain in the wild.

“Unfortunately, once (mustangs) are taken out, they need homes or they are going to be slaughtered — or go to bad homes,” Anne said. “... They are supposed to be protected by our (federal) government and they are not.”

Erin formed an organization, Mustang Mission, to make people aware of the horses’ plight and help  them find suitable homes. 

Alamo couldn’t be more welcome at Joyful Acres Farm. After exiting the trailer Feb. 25, he headed directly to the corner of a large pen.

“I think he smelled the hay (nearby),” Anne said.

A short while later, Alamo was greeted by Cloud, a miniature horse who was on the other side of the fence. The diminutive creature hadn’t seen another horse in about eight years.

“It was really cute,” Anne said. “Cloud had wanted a buddy for a long time. Alamo was too busy grazing to notice him at first, though.”

Alamo’s ears perked up as soon as he saw Cloud.

“I think he thought, ‘I’ve never seen a horse that size before. Is that a baby?’”

Alamo didn’t accept Cloud’s overtures at first, however. He fired a powerful kick in his direction that, fortunately, missed its mark.

“Cloud didn’t give up,” Anne said. “That’s a miniature horse’s personality. ... They really like each other now.”

The Phillipses’ German Shepherd has an affinity for Alamo, too. He likes to rest near him just outside the fence.

After being removed from Utah, Alamo was sent to a holding facility in Okeechobee, Florida. He was there several months.

“The Bureau of Land Management take the mustangs to staging areas so people can pick them up.”

A Georgia couple that shares Erin’s compassion for mustangs volunteered to deliver Alamo to his new home.

“We were going to go get him but we really didn’t have a suitable trailer,” Anne said. 

As a result of the couple’s kindness. the Phillipses gained new friends.

“They were so thankful to be able to help and be part of this whole thing,” Anne said. “They were really, really sweet people.”

The couple, experienced with horses but new to saving mustangs, wants to assist Erin as her sanctuary grows. She is aiming to get another mustang soon.

“Erin knows a lot about horses, but there’s knowledge and then there’s experience,” Anne said. “Now Erin is going to gain a lot more experience.”

Erin spent the first few days after Alamo’s arrival trying to befriend him. She touched him gently numerous times with a device made of wire and he didn’t like it initially. However, she was able to put a halter on him about a week later.

Erin’ hopes Alamo will accept riders eventually. She also expects him to be featured attraction during Joyful Acres Farm tours. The farm welcomes school groups and nursing home residents occasionally.

Successful bids for mustangs in BLM auctions can range from $25 to $25,000. 

“Being a beautiful color or being really, really tall affects the price,” Erin said.

She picked Alamo because she feared he would be euthanized.

“My goal is to rescue more, train them and offer them for adoption,” she said. “I’d really like to get more land in the future so I can have more of a sanctuary setting.”

For more information, contact Erin at or