Mt. Peale Animal Sanctuary founder Teague Ekelsen with Stormy. Many horses at the sanctuary are given the purpose of helping people heal through equine therapy. [photo courtesy of Mt Peale Animal Sanctuary and Healing Center]

Karaoke and kindness mingle at the Mt. Peale Animal Sanctuary and Healing Center fundraiser on Saturday, March 15 at Susie’s Branding Iron.

The nonprofit animal sanctuary, located at the southern base of the La Sal Mountains, is dedicated to helping injured and unwanted animals.

“We began the sanctuary four years ago based on acquiring a baby horse that had been left in a field,” co-founder Teague Eskelsen said.

Lucky, the colt, inspired a mission for Eskelsen and co-founder Lisa Ballantyne to help heal diseased or deformed animals and bring them to a state of health and wellness, where they could fulfill a purpose.

“That may not be a Western riding purpose, but that could be an equine therapy purpose,” Eskelsen said.

Equine therapy involves pairing people with horses to create a guided experience that promotes emotional healing.

“A lot of people we’re working with right now have some sort of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or bereavement or emotional fears that they just can seem to alter themselves out of,” Eskelsen said.

Working with the horses helps people move through emotional blocks, Eskelsen said.

“The reason it works is because the horses mirror whatever that person is providing at that moment in time,” Eskelsen said. “It allows the person to see, feel, and know what it is going on inside of them through that mirror.”

The animals love their job, according to the sanctuary’s Web site.

“In caring for these animals, Mt. Peale not only gives them a life, but a quality of life that is filled with love,” the Web site states. “It is amazing and gratifying to watch the spirits and bodies of these animals blossom as the right environment is provided for them.”

For people who aren’t comfortable with horses, the sanctuary currently houses 15 dogs and has available a staff member with over 20 years of canine experience. They are able to apply the same methods of equine therapy to canine therapy.

“Animals teach people a deeper level of compassion,” Eskelsen said. “And when they work with them in something like equine therapy, the person has an opportunity to deepen in themselves emotionally. It’s a win-win situation.”

Besides the dogs and horses, the sanctuary shelters cats and is set up for farm and ranch animals. It can also act as an intermediary shelter for wild animals that need to be given into the care of wildlife officials.

The sanctuary has an active adoption program and adopted out close to 20 animals last year.

“To us, what an adoptions means is that that animal’s purpose here has been fulfilled and it’s time for them to go on to a different purpose,” Eskelsen said.

Money raised from the fundraiser will go toward building barns and shelters, and for basic needs like food and medical attention.

The fundraiser dinner and silent auction takes place at Susie’s Branding Iron from 6 to 8 p.m., coinciding with the restaurant’s locally renowned Karaoke night, starting at 8 p.m.

“Anybody can come into the Branding Iron and they don’t have to buy a dinner ticket from us; they can just come and shop at the silent auction,” said Melissa Wiggins, the sanctuary’s volunteer fundraiser coordinator.

Silent auction items include donations from local businesses, Wiggins said.

“We’ve got a river trip, a signed and printed photograph from John Fuller, gift baskets with locally made soaps – a bunch of stuff,” she said.

Dinner starts at 7 p.m. For $20, guests can enjoy any of the burgers, salads, or the Navajo Taco from the regular Branding Iron menu while knowing that their money is going to support the animals at the sanctuary. The sanctuary asks that people RSVP by March 13, but people may still be able to get in by showing up that night.

Mt. Peale Animal Sanctuary fundraiser helps injured and neglected animals

For more info and tickets, people can call 435-686-2284 or email

“Animals teach people a deeper level of compassion. And when they work with them in something like equine therapy, the person has an opportunity to deepen in themselves emotionally. It’s a win-win situation.”