Ode to Cinnamon

Cinnamon just turned two years old a little more than a week ago. She’s already taller than her Morab mother at the withers and hips, but she’s got a more delicate build, smaller hooves, the classic Arab teacup muzzle even though she’s only three quarters Arab. She’s willful and smart and curious and loves to be scratched, closing her eyes and pursing her lips in delight when we find just the right spot.

I remember the July evening when she was born. I had just gone out to check on Esperanza around 9 pm, plenty of light still glowing in the long twilight. This was Esperanza’s first foal, not planned, an accident as a result of temporarily boarding her back with Barbra, the old horse whisperer/rescuer who gifted her to me. Barbra’s pedigreed Arab, Sovereign, must have gotten to Esperanza, although Barbra swears that she did everything she could to prevent just that.

For a maiden mare, Esperanza seemed mellow, not worried, and I was doing my best to take my cues from her. Barbra was ready to drive out from the prairie to help if need be. Henry had not yet returned from a meeting in town. I knew Esperanza’s time was close because her udder was filling, her vulva seemed engorged, and there were little wax plugs on her teats. She was standing peacefully in the little corral, half in and half out of the loafing shed Henry and I had built for them. I caressed her neck, inhaling her musky, salty, earthy scent, and went back in the house to check email.

Half an hour later I went out to the corral again. I remember standing outside the gate for a moment, puzzling at the dark shadowy shape on the ground. It’s that moment when your mind can’t quite put together what it’s seeing, like a fluttering garbage bag in the borrow ditch that you’re sure is a coyote about to cross the road, or a burned root burl you’re positive is about to spread its wings and lift off into eagle flight. The shadowy shape moved, nickered in a high voice, and Esperanza immediately bent her neck and began to lick her foal.

One day old

One day old

I marveled at Esperanza, the instinctual knowledge to give birth without any help or company, to recognize her foal, to know what to do. She was relaxed, attentive, devoted, pulsing with motherhood. Within twenty minutes, the foal had unfolded her long, gangly legs and heaved herself up, tottering, wobbly, and groping under Esperanza’s sheltering belly. I could see she was a bay like her mother but more the color of burnt cinnamon. She had a star on her forehead and four dark hooves. My barefoot farrier would be pleased to hear about those hard hooves. By the time Henry had returned and joined me at the corral, Cinnamon had latched on to the teats and suckled. All was well.

Next morning, I found both Cinnamon and Esperanza on the wrong side of a straw bale barrier I had erected to keep them from getting stuck in a narrow triangular section of the corral between the loafing shed and the fence. How ironic. Cinnamon was stuck in the apex of the narrow triangle and Esperanza had stepped over the bale in back of her, and now neither of them was able to back up. Good grief. After removing the straw bales, I was so glad I had taught Esperanza to back up by simply pulling on her tail. Cinnamon’s little face was nicked up by being crowded into the fence, but I was able to turn her around and get her going the right way without too much difficulty. I touched her all over her body that day to accustom her to the feel of human hands, and because the feel of that baby fur was so soft, sweet, delicate. Truth be told, I couldn’t keep my hands off of her.

enjoying a scritch at 4 days old

enjoying a scritch at 4 days old

Later that summer, when I would lead Esperanza down to the field, Henry would walk with us to keep an eye on little Cinnamon as she followed and scampered and investigated and tried out her long legs at sudden gallops, turns, halts and spins. IMG_2674

She had us laughing all summer, our hearts softened and opened by sharing her joy at simply being alive in a strong, athletic body. Barbra helped us halter her and teach her how to follow a lead rope, although sometimes it was hard to tell who was leading who.

cinnamon at 6 months

In no time she outgrew the baby halter so I had to alter it so it wasn’t too tight. She eventually learned a few ground manners and stood still, more or less, when our barefoot farrier came to give her her first trim. When she was a yearling, she even loaded in a trailer when we moved her and Esperanza to Dolores to my cousin’s horse ranch where she happily joined the herd, leading them all in fearless gallops across the fields.

Now as I sit writing this, Cinnamon is grazing with Esperanza in our back yard on a little farm Henry and I bought down the hill a ways from the ranch. We’ve lived here for a year, and it’s a sweet place, but we’re selling it so we can move back to the San Luis Valley, our former home and community of nineteen years. Ever since we decided to move, I’ve known Esperanza was moving with us. She is my soul horse, my companion, and I intend to live with her for the rest of our days. But I don’t have that feeling about Cinnamon. It’s not that I don’t love her; of course I do. I saw her minutes after her birth. I raised her and taught her basically everything she knows so far about how to live with humans. But my intuition consistently tells me that Cinnamon is not my horse the way Esperanza is. My intuition says she’s not coming back to the valley with us; she is staying here within sight of Mesa Verde.

So for the past few months I’ve been praying that exactly the right person would arrive on the scene, someone who knows much more about horses than I do, someone who can take this young horse and help her develop into a good riding horse, well-mannered, calm, attentive, friendly, unafraid, confident. I told both horses that if I can’t find just exactly that right person, Cinnamon will come with us. But turns out, I’ve found her, and she wants Cinnamon.

She is the wife of our barefoot farrier here in Dolores; she’s the mother of three, a horse trainer from way back in the dressage tradition who now uses the Parelli method of natural horsemanship, an intuitive woman with a soft feel who has discovered she really loves Arab crosses. Lucky Cinnamon. The brand inspector comes tomorrow to sign off on the papers, and this week, Cinnamon will go to her new home. Esperanza will no doubt miss her spicy daughter, and we will miss seeing Cinnamon prance in the field, head high and tail streaming behind like a flag.

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