Cintsa Horses Rescue and Rehab Centre

4th Mar, 2024

Craig Dickerson, Georgie Dickerson (on the horse) and Penny Dickerson (left to right), and the horse is Punch, who’s 100% blind

Rescue horses didn’t change my life; they are my life.”

Written by Alycia Goedvolk

Photography by Brenton Geach Photography

Beaten, emaciated, deformed from load-bearing, riddled with ticks and worms, covered in sores, being ridden in the sweltering heat and desperate for water, suffering myriad diseases, horses are some of the most abused animals in the Eastern Cape, and yet the most unnoticed.

Besides the local horses, there are horse auctions where unscrupulous breeders sell horses for anything they can get with no interest in the fate of the horse, much like dog-breeding rings. Some are still colts and fillies and others are a little older, whose only “flaw” might be they weren’t fast enough or who’ve already “achieved” their purpose and are now superfluous. What happens to these unwanted horses doesn’t bear thinking about – except do think gunshots and slaughterhouses.

A life-long love of horses

We must surely all be aware in some corner of our minds that it’s not just dogs and cats that need rescuing and rehabilitation, but has anyone ever given much thought to the people who do this?

Georgie Dickerson (74) and her daughter Penny Dickerson (42) are two such salt-of-the-earth people, who’ll do and have done anything and everything to rescue horses in the most desperate of circumstances. Georgie is proof that age is nothing but a number – at 74, she can and did hop onto a very large, unsaddled horse for a photo op with the greatest of ease.

Her tale is anything but ordinary: UK-born Georgie came to this country more than half a century ago, via Zimbabwe and Zambia, after working with horses from the age of eight, the daughter of a postman and a cleaning lady.

Says Georgie: “We lived on a council estate, and I had to work odd jobs in exchange for horse-riding lessons – I’ve loved horses since I was knee-high to a grasshopper – and came to South Africa in 1970 to visit my sister, with no money and no plan, but I soon realised what I wanted to do here in Cintsa on the Wild Coast.

I worked for various companies from 1984 to 1998, but when my dad sent me £200 for my birthday in 1998, which was a lot of money then, I started a small beach-trail operation in Cintsa with it – plus a postdated cheque and five horses.

And soon I began to take in other horses (and assorted other animals like donkeys and buck) in dire need of attention, medical and psychological.”

But the horses’ real lifeline came in in 2000, when Georgie’s parents retired and sold their UK property, giving the proceeds to Georgie and her sister, allowing Georgie to buy the idyllic farm near Cintsa – Hew Hampshire – which they’d been renting for the past year. Says Georgie: “My parents loved Africa and we built a cottage onto the main farmhouse for them to live in. When we were renting it in 2000, I didn’t have the faintest idea of how I was going to buy it, but then Mum and Dad gave us money from their property sale, so that was that sorted. Every morning I look out at these spectacular fields and trees and this amazing farm and thank them both.”

Healing horses

As mentioned, Georgie has lived an unorthodox life, having seven children along the way. All the children and some of Georgie’s now 37 grand- and great-grandchildren have at some time or another helped out at the farm, but largely it’s Georgie and her daughter Penny who keep New Hampshire going and horses healing.

When we started, we had so little money that we could only afford the ‘lower quality’ horses, and they required a lot of love and attention to get them healthy. Slowly we developed a reputation, and even the Mthatha SPCA started asking us for help.”

Now the operation is well known in the province and all sorts of people bring horses in dire straits to Georgie and Penny, or phone for their help, and every cent the pair makes goes to the rescue and rehabilitation of yet more horses.

Those that recover and aren’t too traumatised or damaged and can be rehabilitated to allow people to ride them safely, are then integrated into the beach- and bush-trail horses, most of which came from the same inauspicious origins. They give outrides to locals and foreigners alike, which brings in the money for the horses that are being rescued and rehabilitated at New Hampshire on a continual basis.

We give every horse a chance if possible – it isn’t always, given the condition the horse is in, but we try.”

Punch and Georgie

A good example is Punch, whom we bought at a less-than-savoury auction in the interior of the Eastern Cape back in 2003.

Make no mistake,” says Georgie, “horse dealers can be the worst kind of person, really nasty pieces of work, and their sole reason for selling this beautiful horse was that she was a draft horse, but not a Fresian as they’d planned, but a Percheron.” Punch was just three years old at the time. Georgie offered the best bid she could muster and, in a New York minute, this horse’s life was forever changed. One shudders to imagine what her fate might have been had Georgie not stepped up.

Over two decades, Punch has repaid Georgie many times. When she developed cancer in her left eye in 2017 and had to have it removed, Georgie and Penny were there every step of the way. When, the following year, she lost the sight of her right eye due to an infection and “let’s just say a bad misdiagnosis by a vet”, adds Georgie, she was then and is now 100% blind. And still, Georgie and Penny don’t think it’s her time. “Gosh, no,” says Georgie. “She battled at first, but she’s still enjoying life and, although we obviously can’t use her for outrides anymore, she deserves to live out her life in peace.

I’ve spent my life among horses, and I know when it’s their time – a kind of light, or energy, just goes out – but Punch still has plenty of that in her.”

At 16.2 hands and 700kg plus, Punch is a large horse by any standards, and when she first lost her sight completely she walked into things and couldn’t find her way around without help – which has had some consequences for certain objects, like cars parked where they shouldn’t be. But by now she has developed her other senses. She knows where the fence is, can easily navigate the farm’s dirt road, knows where the water is and, most of all, where the food is.

The other horses bullied her at first, but she made a friend, Chief (who was rescued from people who were far too heavy to be riding a horse his size), who helps her navigate the farm. Chief is also retired now, at the very ripe old age of 40-plus, and he’s taught innumerable children to ride over the years. The pair roam around together, living out the golden years they so very nearly never had.

What is truly spectacular is that Punch still enjoys being taken out for a ride. Although she can’t see, she follows voice instructions and still enjoys a little outing. “Your voice is her eyes,” says Georgie, “and if she trusts you and knows your voice, she’ll follow your guidance.”

Local heroes need heroes to help

But anyone who thinks this kind of work is easy or fun is dead wrong,” says Penny, “and it’s beyond heartbreaking when a horse just can’t be saved. It’s both very physical and emotional work, and there’s no time for anything else in your life. Maintaining a farm is hard work – imagine also rehabilitating horses and taking outrides daily to be able to pay the exorbitant costs of keeping horses, vet bills, feed, medicine, transportation costs… the list is endless.”

So admirable is their dedication and so respected are Cintsa Horses Rescue and Rehab Centre today that in 2021 the provincial newspaper, The Daily Dispatch, awarded them their “Local Heroes” accolade.

As the (anonymous) saying goes, I have seen things so beautiful they have brought tears to my eyes. Yet none of them can match the gracefulness and beauty of a horse running free.”

Should you wish to make a donation:

Cintsa Horses Rescue and Rehab Centre
First National Bank
Gold Business Account
Account number: 62883250153

For more information, or to arrange a visit to Cintsa, call 083 459 6646, email, or visit

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