All You Need Is Love
The picture on the left is of a famous Arabian stallion named Marwan Al Shaqab. He is worth millions. He has his own grooms and managers and jet sets around the world looking beautiful, breeding purebred Arabian mares, and winning good-looks awards among Arabian fanciers almost every where he goes.
The picture on the right is a picture of me on my new, assumed-to-be-Arabian, gelding, whom I named Magneto. I did not pay a lot of money for Magneto. In fact he was a starved feral colt that the Georgia Equine Rescue League (GERL) rescued in November of 2019. I adopted him in September of this year (2021). He is now estimated to be about 4 years old. He has been gelded and under saddle a little less than one year. He is a sweet horse and tries hard to do the right thing.
It might just be my own opinion, but I think Magneto is even a touch better looking than Marwan. Please nobody tell that to the Al Shaqab Arabian Stables as I do not wish to offend them. I wish only to point out how stunning this little horse has become, because he was once a poor and miserable colt with a good chance of starving to death.
Magneto owes his revival and good fortune entirely to Cece Meyn-Calli and her co-workers at the Georgia Equine Rescue League. The following is the story of Magneto’s misfortunate colthood and how he came to be rescued, rehabilitated and turned in to the magnificent horse he is today.
This story is based on an hour long phone call I had with Cece about her rescue work, the GERL, and the history of Magneto, who was then named Braveheart. Cece named him Braveheart when she rescued him along with five other young horses. She called the little band of horses, all under 3 years old, The Six Amigos.
Cece’s past was in thoroughbreds. She and her husband used to have thoroughbred training centers, first in California and then in Ocala, Florida. When they moved to Georgia they got out of the thoroughbred business. Looking for a place to put her passion for horses Cece researched various horse rescues in Georgia and decided that she liked the work of the Georgia Equine Rescue League (GERL) the best. She volunteered with them. Now nine years into it, she is an area coordinator, the rescue coordinator, the event coordinator, the adoption coordinator, the foster coordinator and the treasurer and she also fosters a few rescues herself, every year. It’s fair to say that Cece’s life is consumed with rescuing horses in need in the state of Georgia. Last year during the heart of the Covid pandemic GERL still saved the lives of 33 horses. The Georgia Equine Rescue League has around 50 area coordinators working across the whole state.
In mid November of 2019 GERL was called in by the state of Georgia to help in a confiscation and rescue of a herd of 80 feral horses. The owner an octogenarian had turned himself into the state, letting them know that he had been unable to care for his horses. Cece said the horses and 50 head of cattle were all running wild on 150 acres of fenced land. They had nobody taking care of them. They were drinking from puddles and a small pond. The horses were all fairly starved with many too wasted to save. There were horses with broken legs. She said the scene was a real heartbreaking disaster. None of the horses had been handled so they had to be rounded up and put in pens before they could even be evaluated.
There was a bunch of mature mares and 3 adult stallions and of course the rest were young unhandled colts and fillies. Cece and GERL agreed to take six of the youngest ones. Thus the six amigos. They were five colts and one filly. The Amigos all 2 years and younger, and not yet haltered were rounded up and loaded into GERL volunteer, Patty Livingston’s trailer and taken to her farm.
“Two weeks after pick up we had them vaccinated and pulled coggins. That was a wild day. Tinker Moffit and I drove to Patty’s with his stock trailer. He backed it into the paddock and we just kinda ran them one by one into the trailer where the vet and her tech gave vaccinations and pulled blood. Sox and Braveheart were the last 2 and they just stayed in the trailer and Tinker and I hauled them off to their new lives.” Said Cece. Sox, like Braveheart, was another approximately two year colt and Braveheart’s buddy. Sox was the alpha colt in the group and Braveheart was his right hand man. Cece decided she would foster the two of them herself.
The youngest colt, who they named Radar, was only a weanling when the amigos were rescued. He was the friendliest, having not yet even learned what to fear. He was adopted out immediately as was a particularly difficult colt, who they named Rocky. Rocky ran through several fences and refused to be caught. Luckily, a barefoot trainer that GERL uses and who was also a horse trainer, took a shine to Rocky and agreed to adopt him and keep him forever. The other colt, who they named Forest and the only filly in the group, Jenny went to be fostered with Angie Hammond, a GERL volunteer at her farm. They were yearlings so needed time just to be handled, fed, cared for and allowed to grow.
Cece got her trainer and friend, Tinker Moffit to take Sox and Braveheart to his farm to be haltered and handled a bit. Tinker got kicked in the stomach the first time he entered the stall to try to halter them. He eventually got the job done but did not have the time then to do more with them. So Cece got them back with halters on but not much more on their training tick list.
She brought down one of her geldings to her stable area which was enclosed, dumped some nice hay in the stalls and turned Braveheart and Sox loose in there. When it was feeding time she shut the stall door to keep her gelding out. Cece said Sox broke down several stall doors and fences while he was living with her. Eventually she sent them back to Tinker’s one at a time while she continued to work on trust and handling with the remaining one.
Cece said she spent a lot of hours with them. First just trying to gain their trust to be touched. They were very reactive and nervous babies. They snorted and blew like leaf blowers. Eventually she was able to touch them all over, then to groom them. She started brushing and scrapping them to remove their long matted and scraggly coats. She said the more she shed them out the worse they looked because their bodies were so malnourished.
She spent several months putting weight on them, fixing their weeping eyes, teaching them to trust, to lead and to go through obstacles. She hand walked them through the woods getting them used to negotiating terrain and allowing bushes and thorns to touch their sides with out panic. She said there was times when she was working with them and they were so nervous she thought they were “all going to die”. Eventually a day came in the beginning of January when she evaluated them both. She determined that Sox and Braveheart were ready to move on to the larger world and find their forever homes. She sent them both out for some saddle training.
Actually GERL sponsors and runs a challenge competition. Cece invites trainers to apply. They get 120 days to train one of GERL’s untrained rescue horses. Cece selects the best trainers, those who are good and also use gentle methods, with quiet hands. She then pairs them with a GERL rescue. The trainers pick up the horses or they are dropped off with the trainers. At the end of four months they all gather for a competition in front of judges. The rescue horses are shown in hand, then they must be ridden through an obstacle course. The last phase is a freestyle competition where the trainer can show off what they have done with the horse, something that highlights the best of their training. GERL sponsors the competition and the winning trainer gets a substantial check.
Cece put Sox and Braveheart in the competition. Sox’s trainer had to quit only 2 weeks in, but Braveheart’s trainer Cassy Hoban won the competition with Braveheart. In the free style they went through trot polls, pushed an obstacle that blew bubbles and walk, trot, and cantered around the arena together. “They were in total sync with each other and it was easy to see that Braveheart trusted his rider.” Cece said. “That’s why they won.”
Cece sent Sox on to Thompson Farm in Iva, South Carolina after his trainer had to quit the competition, where the Thompson’s 16 year old daughter, Savannah continued his training until he was ready to be placed in a forever home. He wasn’t an easy horse but with Savannah’s help he finally turned a corner. In late summer of 2021, Sox found a nice home with a GERL volunteer who has a children’s riding program.
Braveheart followed after Sox to the Thompson’s Farm where Savannah kept up his training. The Thompson’s advertised him when they thought he was ready. Lucky for me, I was up early that Saturday morning in August when his ad first appeared on Craig’s List. I called right away. Said we’d be down that afternoon to try him.
Bernie and I hooked up the trailer drove to Iva and came home with Braveheart in the back of it. At one point while trying him, though we both loved him right away, we noticed he seemed a little uneven at the trot and decided we’d take a pass. But something pulled us back. He was too nice to leave if this was just a sore shoulder as we both expected it might be. Plus the GERL would take him back if we didn’t want him. We decided he was worth the gambol of his small adoption fee. He’s proven that it was. Braveheart has become Magneto The Magnificent. He still has a virus in one ear, an eye that gets cruddy and a funny tooth but he’s come such a long long way thanks to Cece, GERL and the trainers that have put a lot of love and time into him.
Bernie calls Magneto the “trash-Arabian” as the original stock of the old man that had owned the herd was Arabians. In fact Cece said people had told her around 60 years ago the man was know for raising nice Arabian stock. He owned purebred Arabian mares and an Arabian stallion but over the years as the man grew old and senile and stopped caring for his herd someone had abandoned a quarter horse stallion and a mustang stallion in the herd’s pasture. The old man had left the Arabians for someone else to clean up after, thus the title “trash-Arabians”.
I asked Cece what she thought, from all her experience in horse rescue, could help make the situation better for horses. What might help to make GERL’s work less busy? She said the number one thing was educating people to the fact that having a horse was a thirty plus year commitment. She said everyone who gets a horse or has horses ought to have a plan B for them. What are you going to do with your horses when you get old? What are you going to do with your horse when your kid’s are no longer interested in riding? She thinks people need to understand that horses are not cheap. That they cost a lot of money to take proper care of and that they can’t just live off your pasture alone.
She says they deal with a lot of horses belong to people that are getting too old to care for them and have made no plan for their horses. Other family members don’t usually want to deal with them and sometimes have no knowledge or resources to take over. She says they are dealing with an 88 year old woman right now in Jones county who doesn’t want anyone touching her 38 horses but she can no longer take care of them herself. The law got involved and now they are taking them away from her and 16 of the horses are over 30 years old. Cece said, “We need to be better friends to our horses and make sure we make a plan B for them always.” Know where your horse or horses, or other pets for that matter, will go if something were to happen to you because it eventually will.
GERL, Cece and Magneto have bolstered further my belief that it not in the breeding but in the care, love and time that makes the biggest difference in the end. If a half starved feral colt with some Arabian lineage can look not too different than a multi-million dollar famous Arabian breeding stallion in less than 2 years of his rescue then most of the credit goes the care and love he received.
Jenny and Forest, the last of the amigos, are now 3 and ready to be saddled and ridden. They have each just been sent out for training by GERL. Shortly, they will be looking for forever homes of their own. Both have sweet natures and have come to trust people through the careful handling of GERL staff, trainers and fosterers. Both Jenny and Forest are likely to be around 14.3 hands to 15 hands when they mature. Both show the Arabian in them and have turned in to beautiful young horses like Magneto. If you are interested in adopting one of them and providing a true forever home with a solid plan B, you are welcome to contact me for more information or contact The Georgia Equine Rescue League at the link below. Also GERL could always use a donation to help them with the money it costs them to feed, rescue, doctor, train and care for all the horses they take in. The love they give to the horses is free.