Jim Gath – Founder and President

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Jim’s full biography can be found here.



“Iron John” Hidalgo – Ranch Manager and Captain


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 – renovating stalls, fixing fences, climbing the hay pile and knocking bales, digging trenches, and tweaking the misting systems to name a few. We wouldn’t be anything without him.
Leah Eauslin – Donor Services Manager & 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 also does the website upkeep and now she works with any and all of our donors, making sure that they’re a part of the family. She is currently attending NAU online, majoring in Justice Studies with an emphasis in Criminal Justice Administration. She plans on attending graduate school in the future.

Jeremiah Szafranski – Ranch Manager  


Bio coming soon! Jeremiah is the tall guy pictured with John, Denae, and Alissa.  

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.

Alexis Roeckner Ferri – Executive Director Emeritus


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.
Alissa Felker
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.
Angie Doyle

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.
Bre Ballard
bre employee

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.
Denae Matthews

Denae moved to Arizona from Illinois in 2008 for college. She always loved horses and their therapeutic natures so she decided to search for a horse rescue that she could spend her spare time at. She came across Tierra Madre and began volunteering in October 2017 and cannot imagine her life without us. She has fallen in love with each and every horse, including sweet Abuela and our wonderful ranch dog, Lee. Volunteering with us has helped Denae find her passion in life: giving back. Additionally, Denae wakes up around 4:30 on ranch days to beat the heat and enjoys body building/personal fitness and photography.
Georgeta Mihailovici

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.
Julie Croak

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 Feibus – Event Manager

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! Ever since she got here, she’s been dedicated to making sure that our major fund-raising events are successful.  
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 many of the horses at the ranch (it’s ok, Iron Man isn’t the jealous type.) It’s clear that Kathi has a deep love for all of the horses and will be here with them for a long time to come.
Kathy Eauslin – Tierra Madre’s Accountant
kathy and kaitlyn

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.
Laurie Smith  
Photo coming soon!  
Laurie and her husband initially came from Wisconsin to visit their family who moved to Arizona in 2010. After hearing about the “Save the Havasupai Horses” initiative, Laurie stumbled across Tierra Madre Horse & Human Sanctuary in early 2019. Although their family has since moved, Laurie and her husband still winter in Arizona 4-5 months out of the year. She keeps coming back because she feels a calmness within our gates. After volunteering, Laurie says she feels like she did something to help another soul (and she loves smelling like horse). Her favorite horses are Bella, Cadence, Danny, Guess, Hollywood, and Tommy even though she believes all the horses deserve love. Laurie additionally enjoys hiking and her bucket list includes making it through every National Park in the U.S. with her sister.
Leika McNally – Captain

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.
Nancy Loftis – Volunteer Coordinator

nancy and rain
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 was 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.
Shelly Brown

Originally born in Ft. Worth, TX, Shelly is a southern gal through and through. She moved to Arizona in 2006 from Iowa with her husband and three kids due to a new job opportunity for her husband. She first heard about Tierra Madre while browsing through Facebook. She saw a photo of our late, great Solo standing in a doorway and thought, “I need to meet that horse.” Unfortunately, Solo was sent to the Great Herd one week after Shelly began volunteering. In her final goodbye, she promised him she’d help take care of his brothers and sisters and thanked him for bringing her here. Shelly says she loves all the horses, but feels she understands a few of them better than others, that they are her friends. And even though he was not a horse, her other favorite was Lee, who will forever be the handsome ranch dog in the West. Shelly continues to volunteer because all the horses deserve unconditional love as many have had rough pasts. “If I can show them love, care, and attention for the rest of their days on Mother Earth, then that is my purpose. Shelly additionally rides mountain bikes and runs an organization called Phantom Cyclists – which provides new and gently used bikes to local refugees, allowing them to be more mobile and independent in their communities.
Susan Dodge – Captain

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!