Welcome to A Place of Peace, founded and run by us — Billie Dean, Andrew Einspruch, and our adult daughter Tamsin.
Nestled in a green valley of mists, A Place of Peace is a safe refuge to literally hundreds of mostly wild animals living their lives naturally with their families and social systems. It started over 25 years ago when we rescued horses and dogs in Sydney, which forced us to leave our Blue Mountain home to a much larger acreage outside the small town of Braidwood, NSW.
We also took on wild horses, rescued from culling, and along the way, there were goat kids and motherless lambs, sheep, geese, dogs, and cats who all needed help and a home. In 2012, we expanded to take on cows saved them from slaughter. All the animals here have had trauma at the hands of humans and have come here to recover, rehabilitate, and live naturally in a safe, calm place. This includes the local wildlife, who also shelter here, away from the local farmers who shoot them and the Black Summer fires which took so many of their kin. We are fortunate to share this land with a wide range of beautiful animals who our the world calls “stock” or “pests,” but who we call beautiful.
Eventually, we realised we had created a version of the world which didn’t exist in the ordinary world. It was a place that radiated peace, a peace that ripples out into the world. Our job: maintain that peace while managing a wide range of personalities, animal health challenges, and animal family needs. We think of our sanctuary as a community of souls and it’s about honouring and respecting the animals as sovereign individuals with their own personalities and troubles and joys. Our days are filled with caring and tending.
Having a sanctuary is a way for us to give back to the animals, after thousands of years of humans betraying their trust.
As the animals have had so much trauma, and as they live wild running in large herds and flocks, we don’t open to the public, as we found it too stressful for them. This is their home, and they come first. We do, however, welcome volunteers at our (irregular) working bees.
The sanctuary is substantially self-funded from Andrew’s day job, with some donations from wonderful people (like you) who support us.
These are some of the cheeky cows who live here at A Place of Peace. They’re funny, peaceful beings who love nothing more than a nibble of hay and a snooze in the sun.
They’ve also caused us many challenges. When they first came to us, they destroyed all the horse fencing, seeing the wire boundaries as nothing more than a small inconvenience. Once, they even went for a walk down the road. Our next door neighbour rang us to let us know he’d put them back. He knew they were ours because no one else has steers. Normally steers are sent to slaughter, so we have some very lucky boys.
We eventually won a grant from Lush to redo all the fencing, and now they live safely within large paddocks in the hills. They’re a huge herd of 83, and we learn lessons from them all the time, even if that lesson is as simple as “Take a few minutes to bask in nature.”
In the herd, many of the ladies are able to live with their last calves, showing us day after day the close family ties that cows form and maintain over years when given a chance. We have been fortunate to study their social interactions and how deeply they form lasting friendships. The steers are valued members of the cow community, providing added protection and companionship for the youth. Mums are fiercely protective and select a daily nanny cow to babysit the young for the day while the other mums go off to graze. Like other species, the youth all like hanging out together and playing.
Cows are revered in other cultures, and in ancient times, were considered sacred. We can understand why. They are incredibly grounded and grounding, and when they sleep outside the house, they make one feel protected and safe. There is certainly a lot more going on with them than them being a mere “commodity “ or even a cuddly companion. They are teachers and wise ones.
We started our rescue decades ago with horses and dogs. In Sydney, there were so many horses in need, and our early years saw us care for many, many discarded racehorses. They were emotionally scarred and physically challenged. But at A Place of Peace, they healed. Often you could see it instantly, such as Rupert, a former racehorse once called “ballistic” by the Sydney scene. He leapt out of the float fighting, and we put him in a large paddock with Dakota, our calmest gelding who always radiated royalty and who was a racing industry reject. Rupert calmed down immediately and we never had a moment’s trouble with that particular “ballistic” horse.
In 2005, we started rescuing wild horses, because apparently they aren’t allowed to live free, judging by the actions of humans in power. The amount of sacrilege we saw committed against these noble, free, wild beings hurt our hearts. We turned our land over to them, recreating, as much as possible, a wild and free environment for them (except, of course, we always fed and cared for them). Our reward is simple loving connection, and a unique ability to learn about horse society when they are allowed to live naturally. This study and subsequent understanding forms the foundation for our advocacy work.
None of the horses at A Place of Peace are ridden or used — we reject the too-common notion that a horse has to be “useful” to be allowed to live their lives (the very idea makes us incredibly cross). The horses contribute to the sanctuary by letting us take pictures of them, which sometimes we use as part of our advocacy work. But more than that, their very presence lights us up.
Horses are social animals who hate being alone, but only in the wild are they free to choose who to love and live with. A stallion will mate for life, and here at A Place of Peace, we’ve seen this over and over — Finn and Cinnamon, Lancelot and Bree, Galahad and Shea, and Merlin and Bridget. Some of the boys will stay close to their mums even when they are years old, and never want to leave, like Midnight and Equinox, Moondancer with Wynddancer, Galen with Elowyn, and Beltane with his mum River. Other boys form bachelor herds and their bonds run just as deep — Dougal and his two boys Pagan and Arrow, or Michael, Magick, and Peace.
Some of the wild horses are amazing protectors, like Navaho. We have so many stories of Navaho and Goldie and Taleisin, three extraordinary gelded stallions who have shown compassion and intelligence beyond expectations.
This is why wild horses need to run free. Most wild horses who are trapped and taken from their wild homeland are “trained” by humans to become “useful” (there’s that word again). The wild is gone, their autonomy, their sovereignty, their ability to make their own choices and live their own lives. Some formerly wild horses have wonderful lives in the human world. But some will always pine their lost loved ones, and a part of them will always be missing.
Billie has been around horses since she was six years old. In the early 1990s, she and Andrew were involved in the natural horse scene and stopped using bits. in 2005 they stopped riding at all, not wanting to impose their desires on free, wild, noble spirits.
In 2011 we made a short film, Brumbies Running Free at A Place of Peace, and Billie has written articles on wild horses for books and magazines. Today, we all remain staunch advocates for the rights of horses to live free and wild.
We currently have a flock of about 230-plus sheep who get shorn annually and either live around the house so we can keep an eye on them, or in a large paddock. Most of them are, to use the appalling farming vernacular, “meat” sheep. We find that offensive. To us, they are simply beautiful beings, each with a personality of their own.
Our first rescued sheep was a lamb named Sarah who’d been rejected by the farmer after her mum died in birth. She lived in our house with goat kids and dogs and never saw herself as a sheep at all. It came as a shock to her when all the other sheep came along and she had to get shorn with them — the whole concept was met with disdain. Sarah was a goat through and through. She passed in 2020 at a grand age and is deeply missed.
Goats are amazing beings — agile, sure-footed, devoted to their herd, loving mothers, and oh so smart. Our almost two dozen goats know they get to wander the property during the day, but always come home at night where they sleep outside our bedroom window.
Totem was our first goat kid. We found him in a back paddock, alone. There used to be a large group of wild goats who would wander through here. We figure his mother might have been a maiden mum and Totem was asleep when the herd moved on. Or he was meant to be here. Twin brothers Ollie and Bran were definitely left for us to find as their wild mum was dying. We eventually found her down the creek and brought her in as well, where she passed in safety and peace. Ollie and Bran are part of a 19-strong goat herd, each with their own story to tell.
Our geese, now numbering 12, were already here when we came to live on this land. Apparently they were “viscous” animals destined for use in “the pot.” They have never been anything but cheeky and loving with us. But then, we’re not threatening them with their lives.
Over the years our flock has taken in strangers in need, and who were quickly accepted.
Our oldest goose, Gwen, is at least 25, and is one-legged after an accident with a horse. She lives in the house, but goes outside to swim in her little pool and have social interaction with her flock.
We have cared for many, many dogs over the years. We’ve done everything from taking on puppies to giving a home to dogs who needed hospice and elder care.
These days we currently have our hands full with five seniors — Heyoka, who can no longer walk, Maeve, Sage, Tusuque and Fenn. They are all deeply loved and living in the house. It’s not usual to find more than one of them on our bed at any given time of day (or for that matter, when we wake up in the morning). They’re a blessing to have around.
In the past, we’ve done a lot of domestic cat rescue and rehoming. But today, we have our hands and hearts full with wild cats.
Most of these wildlings were being trapped by council and killed until we stepped in. Fortunately, Council was happy for us to take the trapped cats to rehabilitate and de-sex, and we remain grateful for their cooperation and support.
We’ve also trapped wild cats found on our place, like Lady Bast and her babies, who were born in our shed and are now our senior cats. Or Missy, who arrived just before the fires with kittens in tow. We managed to trap the whole family, and they live safe and inside the house. These bright new lives are a joy to observe, and we’re grateful that we’re able to give them a place for recovery and rehabilitation after being on their own for so long. They join the other two dozen or so cats we care for, and have settled in splendidly.