Minnie, Cornell Vet's beloved in-residence miniature horse. Pictured outside the Cornell Veterinary (Equine) Hospital.

Minnie to the Max! CVM’s Beloved Mini Horse Is a Big Red Star

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By Beth Saulnier

Among the many dignitaries at the 2017 inauguration of President Martha Pollack was an unofficial ambassador from one of Cornell’s colleges. Though petite in stature and unassuming by nature, this quiet charmer couldn’t help drawing the eye, sparking wonder and inspiring smiles from everyone she met.

Her official name: Cinnamon Sprinkle. But in honor of her effervescent personality, she’s known as Cinnamon Sparkle. Most people just call her Minnie.

And she is, indeed, mini: a miniature horse, standing about 28 inches at the withers (shoulders) and weighing some 220 pounds.

Students with Minnie the miniature horse
Snapping selfies on the Arts Quad.

Beloved by all, 21-year-old Minnie is a resident animal at the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Equine Hospital, where she has spent the past decade comforting patients in need of calming and companionship.

But she has also become the college’s tiniest and most adorable ambassador—gracing its holiday cards, appearing at events like Homecoming and the annual Vet open house, and effortlessly improving the mood of anyone fortunate enough to pet her silky mane.

“She exemplifies how much joy animals bring to our lives,” says Sarah Bassman, a marketing and communications assistant at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals whose affinity for horses in general, and Minnie in particular, has made her the wee celebrity’s chief handler and press rep.

“You can’t look at her and not feel love and happiness. And that’s why we’re here—for animal wellbeing and human wellbeing.”

Sarah Bassman and Minnie the miniature horse
Strolling with Bassman outside the Equine Hospital.

On a balmy day in late October, Bassman takes Minnie for a jaunt around campus for a photo shoot, leading her with a rope and halter.

Asked who’s in charge when they commute by foot and hoof, Bassman replies: “It’s a negotiation.”

And yes, it’s slow going—both because Minnie is always eager to dine on grass, and because people constantly want to pet her, take a selfie, or ask questions. (Usually, all three.)

She exemplifies how much joy animals bring to our lives.

Sarah Bassman, Minnie’s wrangler and beautician

As befits a star, Minnie is blinged out for the occasion in Big Red style: her hooves have been painted with glitter polish, and her mane and tail sport ribbons that Bassman has expertly plaited.

The many students, faculty, and staff who admire her as she ambles from CVM to the Arts Quad and back are even rewarded with a collector’s item: an oval sticker emblazoned with her photo and “I met Minnie.”

Among the tiny horse’s biggest fans is CALS alum Ariana Harris ’02, BS ’05.

A longtime licensed veterinary technician (LVT) on the Hill, she serves as Minnie’s daily caretaker—making sure she gets regular vaccinations, hoof trims, and the like.

“She’s very outgoing and friendly,” Harris observes. “She likes to be the center of attention. Some horses are a bit more shy and not as personable. But whenever you walk into the barn, she’s vocal—and will whinny to you if her lunch is late.”

Minnie with the Big Red Band
Always the center of attention—even in the midst of the Big Red Band. (Provided)

Minnie’s sunny disposition and idyllic life at CVM stand in stark contrast to her tragic backstory.

She came to the Equine Hospital in 2012 during a life-threatening emergency: her baby had died during foaling and was stuck partially inside her.

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Vets were able to remove the foal’s remains, but Minnie developed complications and needed extensive care.

“We were worried she would not make it, because of how sick she became,” recalls LVT Kalli Anderson-Dyer. “She was in very rough shape.”

Minnie with Mike, a draft horse
With Mike, her pal and doppelgänger. (Provided)

Her owners ultimately donated her to CVM to be a buddy for the hospital’s blood donor, Mike, a Belgian draft horse who was thought to be in need of company. (He has since passed away.)

Not only did they become fast friends who spent their days in the same enclosure, but they were outsized twins: the tiny horse was Mike’s “mini me”—hence the nickname.

These days, in middle age, Minnie’s main health challenge is keeping the pounds off; as her caretakers joke, she can “gain weight on air.”

Her hay is pre-soaked to reduce the sugars, and she gets turned out in a dry (grass free) paddock to keep munching to a minimum.

Her favorite treat, which Bassman has been known to use as a bribe: peppermints.

Students with Minnie the miniature horse
Captivating hearts in the Vet College atrium.

Minnie’s many appearances on campus and beyond include field days on the Ag Quad, a Giving Day video with a CUPD canine, and CVM’s annual Concert for the Animals.

She even once facilitated a “prom-posal,” when she carried a sign for a student querying (as Bassman paraphrases): “Will you go to the dance with me? Yea or neigh?”

But as crowd pleasing as Minnie’s public appearances are, her primary job remains more vital: serving as a source of comfort for fellow horses in the hospital.

Minnie the miniature horse with a guiding eyes puppy in training
Kisses from a four-legged friend, a Guiding Eyes puppy in training.

Anderson-Dyer can cite myriad examples of Minnie’s remarkable barn-side manner, including times when she has helped lead blind or visually impaired animals into their stalls or onto trailers.

Then there was another patient who was suffering from colic. He had never been off his farm before, and—being a herd animal—was upset that there were no other horses in the ICU at the time.

“We brought Minnie in and placed her in the stall across from him—but it didn’t help, because he couldn’t see her, since she’s short,” Anderson-Dyer recalls.

“So we set up one of our alpaca corrals in front of his stall, and he would nap right in front of her. He calmed down a lot, just because of Minnie being visible.”

All photos and video (unless otherwise noted) by Noël Heaney / Cornell University.

Published November 30, 2022


Comments

  1. Steve Chamides

    As an old…very old Cornellian give her a huge hug and peppermint treat for me.
    Great work CVM.
    Your training and research excellence has been so special to our pets and Welsh Terrier
    show dogs.
    Thank you and Happy Holidays.

  2. Gloria Lalumia, Class of 1972

    Good health to Minnie! Small horses do big jobs! Old Friends in Kentucky has a small horse that also charms guests and provides friendship with other horses.

    Great story! Wish Minnie had been around when I was on campus about 50 years ago!

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