For many families, going to the Children’s Zoo is the first stop when they come to the San Diego Zoo, and so many children know their favorite animals and their favorite things to do. The Petting Paddock is a favorite for children who just want to have the opportunity to pet something and get up close to an animal. There are a few members of our collection that have lived at the Children’s Zoo for years, and one of them was Sugarplum. The white miniature horse in the back of the paddock, often wearing a blanket, was probably the mellowest animal we had. Sugarplum was 33 years old and had been here for just about all of her life (see post Small Horses, Big Attitudes) when she passed away last week.
As a child, I grew up coming to the Children’s Zoo and hearing stories from my own personal guide who worked there—my mom! She worked in the Children’s Zoo for 10 years as an exhibit attendant and as a keeper caring for animals that ranged from goats and sheep to primates and elephants. Mom has of photo of her with a little horse; a dark gray horse with a fluffy mane named Sugarplum, the exact same horse that I got to work with here in the Children’s Zoo. Of course, Sugarplum was quite a bit older, completely white, and a little stiff from old age by then, but she was still a favorite among guests who came into the paddock.
Yes, I, too, had been fortunate enough to have been able to work with Sugarplum, taking her for walks, grooming her, and letting kids have a chance to pet a horse up close. Granted, she was a much smaller horse, but still, an animal that so many children had never gotten close to before. She was a sweet horse, with an amazing disposition, and she was great around children!
Sugarplum will be greatly missed by our staff here at the San Diego Zoo and by so many of the guests that she had touched over the last few decades. But for me personally, it was a great treat, and joy, to have worked with an animal that I had heard so many stories about from my mom.
Anastasia Horning is an educator at the San Diego Zoo.