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considered a ‘wild’ animal due to their inherent nature. We do
have a “wild” herd that does not have direct physical contact with
people unless necessary. Our zebras at the ranch were all born
here in the US. They are not able to be released into the “wild”
because they would not know how to survive. All of the zebras
we have trained are able to do everything that a horse can do,
plus a lot more. We saddle them, pick up their feet, hitch them to
carts, show them in open horse shows, trailer them and ride them.
Most of all, we are their best friends, which means everything to
a zebra.
Do the other animals at Hearts and Hands get along with the
zebras, or are they isolated by species?
Our animals are not kept separate by species. We have open
pipe corral stalls where everyone can look at each other and
interact with each other. We move animals around on a regular
basis so that everyone at the rescue can meet everyone else.
When we fnd a close friendship forming, we allow those to stay
together to enjoy each other. Most of the animals we have at the
rescue are given lots of run room in the round pens and riding
arenas. The wild kinship groups are together. Since the ranch is
fully fenced, many of the trained animals are allowed out to go
where they please on ‘walk-abouts.’ They visit where they want
to and often choose a certain number of ‘acquaintances’ to visit
regularly, as Zintawa “Zinty” (our zebra ambassador – check out
his Facebook page!) does. Zinty broke his pelvis six years ago
and now has the run of the ranch for his daily physical therapy.
How many zebras do you have at Hearts & Hands?
At any given time at the rescue, we have between 20-35
zebras on the ranch. Total, we have over 100 animals varying
from horses, miniature horses, camelids, birds, reptiles, rabbits
and cats that are looking for forever homes. We even have the
worlds only trained Przewalski’s horse – Kaia (check her out on
Facebook at KaiaPHorse!)
We’ve been working with and understanding the intelligence
and psychology of zebras for so long, it was just natural for us to
include them [when the rescue was founded.]
Do zebras have unique personalities?
Each zebra has their own unique striping pattern, as well as
their own unique personality. Zinty loves to play practical jokes
and is a ham when it comes to being flmed... Some of our zebras
love to cuddle and get hugs. The people who work hands-on with
Zinty taking a ride with friend
Photo by Nancy Nunke
Bactrain camel Aria tasting the
Photo by Nancy Nunke
Kaia (Przewalski’s Horse) “killing” a
tarp with best friend Nancy Nunke
through Friendship Training™.
Photo by Meaghan Berg
the zebras and train them become the zebras’ best friend – and
our zebras love being around their human friends. Still, just like
people, some [zebras] take longer than others and some come
to the rescue with previous mal-training baggage, which can take
time to overcome if their experiences with would-be trainers have
been negative for them.
Can zebras be kept as pets?
Two of the three species of zebra are endangered, so a special
license and training is required for those. The Grant’s zebra is
more common, so if you have the expertise to house and train a
zebra, and your state and local laws allow it, then you could have
one. However we don’t recommend zebras as ‘pets’ as they are
not at all like horses in their behavior or thinking and can be very
dangerous. Each person who works directly with the zebras has
had proper Friendship Training ™ and has learned from Nancy
Nunke which behaviors to look for when dealing with them. Zebras
are NOT horses with stripes. They are very dangerous and should
be treated as such.
What is the mission of Hearts & Hands?
Our mission at the Hearts & Hands Animal Rescue is to
give our skills in the animal communications and care felds
and give our love and labor to [create] an environment for the
healing of animals in dire need... In addition, we share these
animals with children and adults through our Education and
Therapy Center... Our educational programs teach people how
to properly care for animals, how to train them with friendship
and how we can learn from them. [However,] Hearts & Hands
is always in need of additional funding to upgrade the Center.
If you are interested in donating, adopting one of our animals,
or sponsoring one of the important endangered equines, please
visit or If you would like to
have a Friendship Training ™ Clinic in your area where Nancy will
bring a zebra or Przewalski’s horse if it is close enough or simply
come share the amazing things the zebras have taught her so that
you can apply them to your horses, please contact Nancy Nunke
at (760) 898-3927 or
About the writer: Cecilia lives in Los Gatos, California and has been riding since
she was six years old. She currently rides with Avalon Hunter/ Jumpers and is
having the time of her life with Holly, an affectionate, sarcastic and athletic Olden-
burg mare. The two ride Hunters and Equitation and love hanging out with their
awesome barn “family.”