So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary walk for all the world to see
■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
Every new year, viewers around the world tune in to the annual Rose Parade presented by Honda in Pasadena. This year, Hemet’s own So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary made their dreams come true by participating in the New Year’s celebration.
“There are so many ‘big horse’ rescues, and nobody is helping the minis,” said sanctuary founder Jeanne Candelario. “How on Earth do we get more help? I asked myself, ‘What’s the biggest platform in the world?’ Of course, it’s the Rose Parade.”
So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary is a nonprofit mini-horse rescue and is known as one of the largest in the country. After Candelario got injured in a bad riding accident over a decade ago, she and her husband Carlos started the organization with the intent of rescuing as many mini horses as they could, because so many often are left neglected, abandoned, and abused. But their youngest son, who has special needs, is what inspired them to share their kind horses with people that could benefit from them.
“Because they’re mini horses, a kid is not scared that they’re going to get plowed over or stepped on,” explained Candelario. “Therapy is a really nice way to bring love to children or adults in need.”
Today, they have rescued over 100 mini horses, and currently house over 40 of them on their 10-acre property.
“We get them from all over the country, if we have the funds to save and help, we will by using our resources, volunteers, or donations,” she added. “We breathe the life back into them. We give them another look on life.”
While this year’s Rose Parade is the first time So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary has been recognized as contestants, it is not the first time their horses have walked the highly celebrated holiday march.
Last year, another therapy horse organization from Ohio had been scheduled to walk in the 2017 Rose Parade before its horses fell ill and the parade needed a replacement. They happened upon So Cal Mini Horse Sanctuary, and Candelario and her horses happily obliged. They were just happy to participate.
This year, however, Candelario was determined to put her sanctuary on the map. She applied to enter the parade early in 2017, and got the good news near the beginning of August.
“We started at the beginning of the year getting our designs ready, but some people weren’t up to the task,” Candelario explained. Their costume design? Steampunk chic. “How can we make steampunk fun? I wanted the girls and the guys to be comfortable, but also unique, because we are unique.” With the help of her designer Tammy Smith from P & G Designs, Candelario helped prepare 23 steampunk costumes for her and her “Rescue Angels.”
“I’m so proud. I cannot tell you how proud I am right now,” Candelario gushed.
Some 16 goggle-clad mini horses walked the 2018 Rose Parade, as Candelario and her volunteers joined five Tahquitz High School cheerleaders and coach Sarah Peterson to walk as one.
“Often, I had people out there practicing,” Candelario said, describing her preparation routine. “If you signed up to be part of this, you have to commit. And the ones that did knocked it out of the park! The theme this year was ‘making a difference,’ and that’s perfect because we are making a difference, in my heart.”
Participation in Equest Fest is mandatory when taking part in the Rose Parade, which is just a couple days before. Candelario had thought of everything.
She got Durga McBroom, backing vocalist for Pink Floyd, to fly in from Italy so that she could sing “Angels” by Robbie Williams during the Mini Horse Sanctuary’s five minute performance.
“When you’re going to the Rose Parade, you bring your A-game. I am so proud of our angels.”
Candelario could not express how “incredibly proud and honored” she was to participate, and cannot wait until next year’s parade, which she promises is going to be 10 times better than this year’s.
“Everybody is going to be absolutely blown away,” she said confidently. “It’s very good.”