So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary held a beach day breakfast and afternoon barbecue while spotlighting their function as the world’s largest mini horse rescue/sanctuary. Founders Jeanne and Carlos Candelario showcased the equine play day surrounded by minis splashing, jumping and munching on an abundance of hay and treats. The annual event, now in its fourth year, recruited everyone “to see who we are.”
“We celebrated the opportunity to gather like-minded owners to meet while introducing ourselves to those who don’t know who we are or what we do,” said Jeanne Candelario.
The So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary is instrumental in the care, welfare and lifesaving of miniature horses. The nonprofit organization uses 100 percent of its donations for the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of neglected, abused and abandoned miniature horses. Candelario works “tirelessly” to inform the public on the plight of mini horses because “people do bad things to mini horses.
“Caring for a mini is a full-time responsibility not to be taken lightly,” she said. “Minis are not cute dogs. They’re equines. Overbred by backyard breeders, they’re often abused and abandoned.”
The So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary was born serendipitously. Severely injured by a riding accident, “so much so that I thought I’d never ride again,” Candelario purchased a mini, “because I couldn’t give up my love for horses.”
Rescuing minis “became a necessity” after realizing the extent of neglect and abuse these animals endured due to a lack of understanding how to properly care for them. Candelario said that minis are often given as presents – grandparents to their grandchildren – but their novelty quickly wanes.
“Similar to Easter bunnies, minis are cute at first, then neglected, abused or taken to auction and dumped for money,” she said. “We happily rescue the malnourished and abandoned from questionable fates. Minis enter our sanctuary emaciated, abused and neglected, no doubt on their way to a merciless end. We even cross state lines, literally saving some from death’s door.”
The sanctuary began as a private family venture a decade ago because “what better way to teach my boys compassion” while noting that nothing of its kind existed. Minis were rescued from public auctions and selected from “sad” Craigslist ads. Local auctions are noted as the first stop for minis destined for a “darker and crueler” outcome.
“Loving minis in need has made us who we are,” she continued. “We rescue minis in terrible conditions at auctions and work as a family to nourish, rehabilitate, love and adopt them out.”
Upon their arrival, minis are confused, cognizant of little more than neglect and abuse. Horses purchased from auctions are usually emaciated. Healing with meds and nourishment is only a part of the process. Providing emotional stability is key.
“Changing a mini’s state of mind from fear to safety is 90 percent of our care,” continued Candelario. “Within a short period of time our animals understand that they’re in a safe space. They see other horses playing, having fun, and talking to each other.”
Noted for excellence in animal husbandry, the Candelario clan – including their three adopted boys – devote every day to caring for minis. Socializing the once terrified horses is imperative. Terrified minis are not adoptable.
“Horses, thrown away by those who were supposed to care for them, appear at our gates afraid and untrustworthy,” she said. “We devote time, patience and tender-loving-care in teaching the horses to trust. Through love and nourishment, we heal their mental, physical and emotional health.
“My autistic son sits for hours, singing, reading or talking to these animals. Depending upon the animal’s level of abuse, transition can take weeks. Horses make tremendous progress in our care and we work to find them wonderful, forever homes.”
Adoptive families are vetted. Because horses are herd animals, horseless homes are required to be adopt in pairs. Bonded horses are also adopted together. Home checks are conducted.
“The majority of our minis were left alone for years, never touched, played or properly cared for,” Candelario added. “We refuse to repeat the situation they were rescued from. People don’t spend enormous amounts of time with their horses. Of course, we do, but most feed their minis and move on with their day. We make sure our horses are forever with a buddy. Those who don’t understand, don’t get a horse.”
Candelario stressed that although highly intelligent and trainable, minis function as pets or cart animals only. Minis are not ponies, therefore not rideable. Many of So Cal’s mini rescues have knees and legs “blown out” because they’ve been ridden. Horses are “fixed” upon arrival. Pregnant mares are cared for through their pregnancies and healthy babies are given up for adoption.
Noting the aid of charitable communities and volunteer “Rescue Angels,” the organization strives to provide safety and care to those rescued and reward them with long, loving lives.
“Our network of rescue angels raises funds and pool resources to save as many minis as possible,” she said. “We work with these horses too begin life anew, replacing fear and neglect with love and trust.”
Located in Hemet, the five-acre, “extremely clean” facility was verified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) in 2016 for meeting the criteria as a top-level, accredited equine sanctuary/rescue. The GFAS is also a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting worldwide animal sanctuaries, rescues, and rehabilitation centers for animals including horses, lions, tigers, bears and elephants.
Daryl Tropea, GFAS’s director of accreditation, issued this statement: “The So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary has shown impressive accomplishments. The GFAS site inspector noted the organization’s excellent husbandry practices and innovative solutions for caring for these smaller equines, often forgotten in this large-equine oriented world.
“So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary has adopted great enrichment and socializing practices, certainly enhancing their suitability for adoption. Verification provides a clear and trusted means for the public, donors and grantors to recognize So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary as an exceptional organization.”
"We’re proud to be part of a world-wide organization dedicated to the care of animals,” continued Candelario. “We hit platinum with this prestigious certification that inspires us to strive even further to provide the best quality of life for the mini horses in our care."
“Every year, the So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary invites the equine community to meet at Fiesta Island to enjoy swimming with the horses,” said Michelle Motyl of MM Training/San Diego Hunter Jumpers. “We’re grateful for the rescue efforts of these precious minis. We’re thrilled to be a part of the day with Jeanne and team of Rescue Angels!”
According to Candelario, miniature horses were bred by the Spaniards 600 years ago. “Royal families bred horses down to size to gift as pets to their children,” she said. “Minis were bred to become smaller, similar to today’s breeding of teacup dogs.”
In 1650, King Louis XIV's Palace of Versailles kept the minis as part of his menagerie of unusual animals. Accounts also note that during 17th century, the minis were bred as pets for European Habsburg nobility.
To date, the So Cal Mini Sanctuary has rescued more than 100 minis. Invited to attend the 2017 Tournament of Roses Parade, they continue to extend themselves to become a bigger part of community adventures.
“Our minis are well prepared for an exciting world,” she said. “We regularly attend holiday parades, community functions, pet adoptions and local equestrian events.”
Citing passion and local activism, the So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary will continue to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home. Stating that “I won’t be here forever,” Candelario is determined to educate others, publicizing, “the more who know, the more who can help.”
“We hope to infuse everyone with a strong equine addiction to consider adopting or sponsoring one of our loving horses, or donating to our efforts for caring for them,” concluded Candelario.
For more information: So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary www. socalminihorse.org