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Dove Creek Ranch and Equine Sanctuary

Black iron letters told us we were at the right place.


Lacy Johnston Photography


The adventure began at the end of a long stretch of cliche road which was bordered on either side by the flattest piece of green you’ve ever seen. The grazing cattle barely raised their heads. An interesting clump of llamas noticed my red car, and stood up to walk a safe distance away from the road.

Photo by N. Bright

Photo by N. Bright


The tires made a thump-da-bump across the cattle guard and came to a fork in the road. The road to the right turned into two dirt tracks with tufts of grass down the middle. We followed the white gravel to the left, drove around a bend and popped up over a small rise emerging into a tranquil world of countless shades of green. As we drove down into the flood plain, mauve and grey rock walls surrounded the peaceful valley.


Lacy Johnston Photography


Nestled at the end of the cliche we discovered red barns and pipe fences, indicating that we had arrived at our destination. Dove Creek Ranch and Equine Sanctuary is located in the Texas Panhandle, just outside of Canyon, Texas. This is a working cow/calf operation with 840 acres designated as a sanctuary for horses. It’s a place where the modern world seems miles away. It’s also the place where a spotted horse lived before he was adopted by Christie Shippy, only to become the subject of Book 2 of my Rescue Animal Series. Story research brought me here.



Lacy Johnston Photography

Part of the book team joined me, Lacy Johnston and Katie Schulte, to learn more about the work accomplished at Dove Creek. Mr. Francisco Castillo, Head Horse Trainer, welcomed us and offered to answer our questions. We piled into a four-wheeler and off we went to explore this amazing sanctuary.



When an animal is accepted here, they are placed in a two week quarantine. During this time Mr. Castillo makes an assessment of their issues and training level. After the trial period, they are introduced into the herd.

Horses are social animals and prefer to live in herds. Herd dynamics and social behavior is a fascinating study. Just as those that roam wild, domesticated animals establish a hierarchy and social order. Personality and temperament play into the roles they assume. Walking among the herd can be a very calming and unforgettable experience, if you’ve never been around a horse before.

“The herd does the first part of transforming the horse back to a horse again,” Mr. Castillo said. “Our training here is solving problems, and usually horses have people problems. After the herd does its job, I start my training at the very basics, just like I would do if I had a filly who had never been ridden.”



Lacy Johnston Photography

There is an application process for those interested in adopting a horse. You must provide references, have a turnout pen and some type of shelter. Mr. Castillo will watch you ride while you’re at Dove Creek, to make sure the adoption will be a good fit for both rider and horse. He explained that Dove Creek is more than just a horse rescue. Their horses are used in the cow/calf operation. They are trained and put to work during their stay here so they are useful when they leave Dove Creek.

“This is very serous business to me,” said Mr. Castillo. “These intelligent animals are getting a second chance.”


Mr. Castillo and Flashy, before he was adopted and became the subject of my book, “FLASH The True Story of a Rescue Horse”

FLASH The True Story of a Rescue Horse

Now available on Amazon Kindle

A story about a spotted horse who was adopted from Dove Creek Ranch to be a part of an equine outreach program. With vivid photographs, this heartwarming tale is the first of many more to come featuring FLASH!

Click here to read it now!


Natalie Cline Bright is a blogger and author of the fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades, the RESCUE ANIMAL eBook series, and is currently working on an action-packed novel for young adults, WOLF’S WAR. Read about Natalie’s grandmother and her cherry salad recipe, recently selected for “THE WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom” (TwoDot Publishing, June 2017).