Be­fore I res­cued her Canela had a dif­fi­cult life, but love and pa­tience helped her learn to trust me.

EQUUS - - Equus - By Sharyl Thompson

My golden mare: Be­fore I res­cued her, Canela had a dif­fi­cult life, but love and pa­tience helped her to learn to trust me.

My big­gest con­cern, re­turn­ing to the sanc­tu­ary, was not the win­ter weather in Canada the day I left. It was not the 10-hour flight or the lo­gis­tics of in­ter­na­tional travel. No, my big­gest con­cern was whether Canela, my golden mare, would re­mem­ber me.

Ev­ery Christ­mas as a child, I wished for a horse, and ev­ery Christ­mas morn­ing I was dis­ap­pointed. But my op­ti­mism lasted for years. When I be­came old enough to un­der­stand that one has to ful­fill one’s own wishes, I started mak­ing plans for my horse. Of course I would need a farm. But my dream would have to wait un­til I re­tired. I needed a place I could sup­port on my small pen­sion, prefer­ably in a warm cli­mate. And so, I fi­nally found a farm in Chile, where I es­tab­lished an an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary.

I met Canela, a 12-years-old mare in 2012 at an an­i­mal auc­tion. She was alone in a metal en­clo­sure look­ing scared, skinny and lost. All around were the cries of an­i­mals in dis­tress, cow­er­ing in fear. Men with no souls placed money on the meat value of these an­i­mals. Ter­ror and sad­ness per­me­ated the air. When Canela went on the auc­tion block, I was bid­ding against a butcher, and be­cause she was so mal­nour­ished, my bid was higher than the price per pound for horse meat.

I took her home that night in a di­lap­i­dated truck with a large en­closed box, which held eight cows, three calves and Canela. When we got to the farm it was al­ready twi­light. The truck box was backed up to a high part of the land where Canela could jump off with­out dan­ger. As soon as her hooves landed on the soft grass she be­gan to eat. The driver then took the cows and calves on to their des­ti­na­tions.

Over the next 12 months I grad­u­ally got to know Canela. She had sur­vived a hard life as a de­liv­ery horse, pulling a heavy wagon ev­ery day along cob­ble­stone streets, breath­ing gaso­line and diesel fumes. On each of her sides was a cir­cu­lar mark that looked like a smi­ley face. These were the burn marks from the hot metal buck­les of the har­ness, which slowly branded her skin as she stood in the re­lent­less sun. She had no rea­son to trust hu­mans.

I learned that she loved car­rots and was ter­ri­fied of water. She weighed over a thou­sand pounds but could be fright­ened by a grasshop­per. Her skin was very sen­si­tive, quiv­er­ing with the slight­est touch. Dur­ing her first 12 months at the sanc­tu­ary she made friends with her neigh­bors. A hawk would sit on her back and wile away the hours with her in the scented shade of a eu­ca­lyp­tus. tree. A small, yappy white dog named Xena would try to herd her, and Canela would pre­tend to be herded. The neigh­bor’s horses met her at the fence line ev­ery dusk. For an hour ev­ery af­ter­noon she would stand at the edge of the for­est and gaze into the pine glade where the rab­bits and foxes lived. And then there was me, her hu­man.

At first she seemed to re­gard me as an an­noy­ing crea­ture, like a mos­quito who bore gifts of car­rots and ap­ples. She would en­dure my long con­ver­sa­tions just for the sake of what­ever treat I brought, and when the treat was fin­ished she would walk away with­out a back­ward glance.

One day af­ter many, many months, she did not walk away. She stood by me qui­etly, think­ing her horse thoughts, softly swish­ing her tail and gaz­ing off into the dis­tance. I was trans­fixed: She liked me ... she re­ally liked me.

From then on, as much as she pre­tended oth­er­wise, I knew bet­ter. She would re­turn to the aloof look, barely glanc­ing at me, and then she would eat and leave like a very rude guest---but I knew in my heart that she liked me. And then some­times she would bend her long grace­ful head down to me and blow in my ear; a soft whoosh­ing sound would come out of her nose and she would nib­ble at my clothes with her lips. She was talk­ing to me as if I were an­other horse.

She be­gan to re­spond when I called her. Slowly walk­ing to­ward me, in her own time, but she would come. Then one day she be­gan to run to me when I called her. Hav­ing a 1,500-pound horse gal­lop­ing to­ward you at a high speed can be very un­nerv­ing. How could she stop at that speed? But she would screech to a halt right in front of me. Then I saw she was just play­ing chicken with the hu­man.

When I last saw her in the Chilean au­tumn, we spent some time in the meadow just hang­ing out. She was munch­ing the grasses; I was lov­ing the mo­ment and yet feel­ing the sad­ness of know­ing that I had to leave the next day for six long months. How could I tell her that I was not aban­don­ing her? I knew her life would con­tinue to be good, and her rou­tine would not change. A con- sci­en­tious, on-site care­taker would watch over her and make sure she got her food and ap­ples. The only dif­fer­ence would be the loss of one hu­man. Would she no­tice? More im­por­tant, would she care?

I told her with words that I was leav­ing for a while. I imag­ined the plane go­ing to the other con­ti­nent, the fall and win­ter months go­ing by. And then I en­vi­sioned the plane re­turn­ing to this con­ti­nent and the hu­man fi­nally ar­riv­ing at this very spot be­side her. She kept on eat­ing the grasses but I like to imag­ine that she un­der­stood me. I said good­bye to Canela as tears filled my eyes.

So, af­ter six long months, I ap­proached the back meadow qui­etly. The golden mare was out by the far­thest fence, eat­ing grasses. I whis­tled. She stopped eat­ing and lifted her head, won­der­ing where the sound came from. I whis­tled again and called her name. She looked straight at me and bolted to­ward me. She was like a lo­co­mo­tive, churn­ing pow­er­fully across the two mead­ows and up the hill. She thun­dered straight to me and stopped on a dime, inches in front of me, her sides heav­ing, her nos­trils flared. She put her head down to my face and smiled. She re­mem­bered.

Canela stood by me qui­etly, softly swish­ing her tail and gaz­ing off into the dis­tance. I was trans­fixed: She liked me....

ABOUT THE AU­THOR: Sharyl Thompson grew up in North­ern On­tario in a small town sur­rounded by thou­sands of acres of wilder­ness. An­i­mals and na­ture nur­tured her soul, and af­ter a ca­reer in real es­tate, she used her sav­ings to buy a farm in Chile to open a sanc­tu­ary for res­cued horses and un­wanted dogs and cats. It is not large and not fa­mous, but the an­i­mals there have a home that they love.

RES­CUED: Af­ter years of hard work. Canela now lives at a sanc­tu­ary in Chile es­tab­lished by Sharyl Thompson.

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