Founder & President
Jim Gath enjoyed a very successful corporate career as one of the founders of USA Today, moving on to Turner Broadcasting, becoming a publisher for a few college magazines and later producing and promoting college football bowl games and large city-wide events. His drive to return to reconnecting with horses started with volunteering at kids’ camps and giving riding lessons, progressed to a boarding facility, then morphed into a safe haven for horses who needed him. Offering his complete heart and soul to these animals became his mission as he created Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary in 2006.
Susan is affectionately known as “Colonel Saturday” for her role as the ranch lead on Saturdays. 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!
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.
Leah began volunteering in July 2012 after attending horse camp up in northern Arizona. She came out every weekend between school and homework demands as early as she could to get a jump on the heat. Leah, as young as 15, was instrumental in crafting our first few silent auctions and professionally requested donations of auction items from big name companies, such as the Phoenix Suns. Leah has since graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor's in Justice Studies, emphasizing in Criminal Justice Administration, and a UCERT in Intelligence Studies. She has her sights set on law school to become the best animal rights lawyer you'll ever see and is working full-time for a non-profit in South Florida in the meantime. No matter where in the country she may live, the mountains will always call her home.
Alissa is an Arizona native, growing up with horses and just about every other animal imaginable. She spent most of her time trail riding and a little barrel racing as a child. Due to work and family commitments, she hasn’t owned horses since her teenage years. However, her love of horses never diminished over the years. She now has the opportunity to give back, and found Tierra Madre. After her first day volunteering, in December 2018, she was hooked. She happily looks forward to tackling any work that needs done, and interacting with the horses as much as she can, including running around the arena with them! Alissa loves all the horses at Tierra Madre, but Chianti is a special favorite. She also has a soft spot for Jazz and Cadence. Alissa continues to volunteer because, “Being a positive part of these horses’ lives just makes my soul happy!” Alissa has 3 wonderful daughters and additionally loves the outdoors and hiking with her two dogs.
Alexis Roeckner Ferri
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. During her time as director, in addition to ensuring the completion of day-to-day tasks that come with the smooth running of a ranch, she oversaw 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, was 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. Alexis is now a volunteer and sits on Tierra Madre’s board of directors where she oversees donor services and fundraising initiates. She is additionally the author of 'A Year With Angels' and 'Toward Sunrise,' both of which detail her life and experiences with the horses of Tierra Madre.
John is an Arizona man through and through. He's lived here his entire life. A few years ago, John's wonderful wife, Francie, saw a news special about a group of Boy Scouts who visited Tierra Madre to help with some of the more difficult labor that needed to be done. After retiring, John was enjoying quiet days in his home, but Francie informed him that on a certain Saturday, John needed to be out at Tierra Madre bright and early for volunteer orientation. John has been with us ever since and is one of the hardest-working people we've ever had the pleasure of knowing. He always has a smile on his face and a rake or shovel in his hand.
Denae joined the Tierra Madre team in October 2017. She learned pretty quickly how Tierra Madre operates and dedicated her time to help out. Denae works for her family's company but still manages to make it out at least twice a week for some chores and horse time. She took quickly to Sedona and makes sure he gets a weekly bath in the summer that allows him to shine like the show-horse he once was. Denae brings in her own washing materials for him, because "only the best for Sedonie."
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. Every Tuesday, she brings Kiss out for a full bath and special treats.
Jeremiah wasn't around horses much but he was always captivated by them. After a long visit to a family friend's ranch in Texas, he began to understand just what horses can do and how they can help humans. After searching for a place to be with them in Arizona, he found Tierra Madre and immediately committed to 6 days a week. He came nearly every day since he began volunteering in December 2018 and quickly became a leader and lover of the herd. He is especially attached to Jack and dedicates time into training him nearly every day. Some of his hobbies include competitive dancing (he can waltz and salsa) and he is taking up sword artistry.