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Breakfast With Mama - part 38
By Kathy Johnson, Executive Director, MHP
Who's Mama Now?
After Cinder died, I had no intention of having another baby horse. I was feeling lucky the other mustang yearlings, Fearless and Ember were still alive and thriving. But, the Bureau of Land Management called. They had a filly who needed Medicine Horse Program. A black filly with a white blaze was born to an old grey mare in the prison at Canon City.
The BLM folks at Canon City were excellent horse people. If you had 3000 horses in the back yard, you would be too. There's was almost nothing they hadn't seen before. When the mare died, they sent her filly to a foster family. This generous family had fostered three other foals in the past. They took this baby in. They hand fed her night and day. They nursed her through a cold. They gave her the vital nutrients and the connection with people she needed. And they named her "Snickers."
Then they unselfishly agreed to send the little orphan to Medicine Horse Program, which was tricky. I had a theory that once you named a horse, you owned them. The foster parents didn't really want to give Snickers up. But they knew the filly would be well loved, and they would have room to foster another. Snickers made a quick trip back to Canon City for branding and vaccinations. She was loaded on a trailer with a Palomino yearling bought at Wild Horse Inmate Program's 25th anniversary, bought for a song. The Palomino was one of the most beautiful horses I had ever seen, with movie star good looks and charisma.
The arrival of the HopeFoals was always caused a stir. A teenaged groom waited by the mailbox to flag the trailer down. An intern from the University of Colorado waited by the phone. Another volunteer waited at the front gate to open it for them. And a group of 8 or 10 little girls in Calyn's Girl's Empowerment Camp also waited, as patiently as possible, outside the Foal Barn. Volunteers and staff gathered with the children for the first sight of the new foals.
Finally, the truck arrived, was backed to the gates of the foal pen. Since we were transporting wild mustangs, horses who had never been tied or haltered, they arrived untethered in box stalls. Sometimes unloading them was like trying to shake cats out of a box. The trailer doors swung open. Out of the dark corners of the trailer, The Palomino's head came forth. The sunlight touched her face first, giving her a golden glow. She stepped from the trailer like Marilyn Monroe in the spotlight, a beautiful face, a walk like a runway model, and a butt like a washerwoman. She was every horse person's dream horse.
A collective, "oooooooh" slipped forth from the entire group.
The next filly was so dark, we could not see her in the trailer until her white blaze hit the trailer door. She jumped from the trailer like a kid. She was all fuzzy cute, long legs and baby face.
A collective "awwwwww" followed.
Every year a group names a foal. Since the Girl Power Group was there, they wasted no time dubbing the Palomino "Dreamer."
We decided to keep the little black filly's name Snickers, since it was considered bad luck to change a horse's name in the same way it was bad luck to change a boat's name.
At first, it hurt my heart every time I saw Snickers in the barn where Cinder used to be. To mix up a bucket of Foal-lac, to hold the bucket for her, to have her move away every time I reached for her brought back painful memories. She was shy and frightened, like Cinder. But, her bright eye, her little nickering whinny and something about her spirit were starting to get to me.
Her freeze brand was fresh and it was swollen and sore. I had never seen one so fresh and I didn't know what to expect. Within a day, she was letting me scratch her face and touch that brand. I could feel the welts , the heat, and the scaly crust where the hair fell out before it grew back white.
It was a visible scar of an inner wound. I thought of the pain of losing her mother, the snow grey mare. Even now, trapped in a land so far from her family, alone among strangers, Snickers displayed the same courage and strength she inherited from her mother. Her mother, dying of cancer and old age, lived long enough to drop this little puddle of black on the ground, and to lick her clean. The brave mare struggled to stand after foaling. Then, she leaned on the fence in order to stay upright. The mare encouraged her little black shadow to stand, and to drink the first warm, sweet milk that would give her the colostrum and the immunity to fight off diseases. The baby nursed and thrived. The mare died. Life in death and death in life.
Snickers showed the same intelligence and the same strength of will as her mother, a will to live and love. I saw the mare as a great grey ghost horse who galloped the high desert , bringing forth foal after foal, then rounded up, pregnant, with her herd and shipped to Canon City. There, she left a dark legacy, born in the prison, and orphaned.
Within a day, the filly was happily following me around, looking for her food, wanting to play, and letting me scratch her and pet her and sing silly baby songs to her. Every day, she stuck her head through the fence, looking for me, and sighing a soft nicker that surely got her the name Snickers.
So fast, like Fearless, Snickers went from hating to be touched to loving to be touched. When she imprinted, she imprinted fast. She thought perhaps either "I am a person. Or you are a horse." She chose me as her surrogate mother, and I accepted her as my youngest child. Although Snickers could never replace Cinder, the filly we lost, in some way she helped heal the hole in my heart. On that threshold of our new relationship we became symbiant, liminal beings.
Chapter Index - Don't Miss The Other Episodes
Breakfast With Mama copyright 2011, 2012, Kathy Johnson
Photos copyright 2011, 2012, Tony Johnson
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