When I last left you hanging, I was busy contemplating what to do with my new little German horse, Dubai, until my barn had an opening for him.
Just as I was preparing to get REALLY creative (as in: just send him to Susanne’s house, as I refuse to double up ponies in stalls) an opportunity arose.
As it turned out, little Dubai already had a couple shows under his belt and had qualified for the Bundeschampionate, which really is fabulous and impressive if you ask me. Typically the 3-year-old horses that I ride are busy bucking and spooking at their own farts, not qualifying for national championships. Super cool Agent Viola got in touch with me, and asked if it would be OK if his previous owners took him to the show? I was like “UM, YES!” I had a moment of feeling like a very posh owner, sending her fancy horse off to the championship! Of course, I literally had no idea what this show was like. I assumed it would be similar to a materiale class (scary) or a young horse test (better, I always feel that fewer babies in the arena is a plus!) But basically, I had no clue.
Clearly, I got up at 2 a.m. to live-stream the whole event. The time difference between Maine and Germany is so inconvenient.
It was really, really early. Too early for coffee. Which was terrible.
As it turned out, the format of the 3-year-old class was not what I had been expecting!
Keeping in mind that the coverage was all in German (and I only speak four German words) I had to watch for a while before I could really grasp what the deal was. So basically, the class had 40 some odd horses in it, and they all went in three at a time to execute a test of sorts, all together. Then they ran out of the arena, where a pit crew stripped the horses down, buffed them up, and sent them back in for naked pony inspection time.
(So even after watching 40 ponies, my grasp is still weak..?) All the ponies were perfect. It was absolutely insane, watching class after class of incredibly talented 3-year-olds all behaving like proper little show horses. My mind was blown.
And, of course, my boy was JUST PERFECT! He was such a little adult, and I could not stop squeaking in joy watching him. Such a great experience for him to have as a youngster. Also, the weather looked quite awful, which should have prepped him well for a life of competition here in the Northeast where things are often dreary.
Luckily for me, his foray into championship horse show life ate up some time.
After the Bundeschampionate was over, he stayed in training in Germany for a few more weeks while I finished up the training contract with the horse in his future stall, wrapped up the super busy summer season, and took almost a week with my own horse and a client at Regional Championships.
Right before I headed off to Regionals, Super Agent Viola knocked together all the details of his travel plans, and I finally decided to let the cat out of the bag. I’m somewhat superstitious. I had only let a few people know that I had a new pony coming, because I was afraid of jinxing myself. Also, I have what feels like 200 4th grade students, and I knew that they would be beside themselves with joy and distraction, thinking about a new pony that is an exact replica of the 2017 Christmas Breyer. I didn’t think ANY of them could handle more than a few days of suspense… (I was right about that, bless them!)
So what does one do, to let the world know they have a new baby coming?
(And honestly, I thought of a little “baby” announcement, with tiny horseshoes and blue sparkles or some such nonsense. But you know… you’ll have that one person who thinks you’re finally having a human baby, and then things take a turn for the worse! So I scrapped that idea.)
I was pondering how to best let people (like, the internet) know the big news one day while at home, and my clever husband offered to make me a “movie trailer.”
I left this in his capable hands, and it turned out so ridiculously good that we basically broke the internet.
Imagine, a movie trailer for an action film. Exciting music, slow mo, all the drama. It was basically the most absurd and fabulous thing I had ever seen, and it got the job done.
Since my Dad and I always enjoy having properly good adventures, we had decided to pick Dubai up at quarantine ourselves. Not only would it save me some coin, but it seemed like a pretty fabulous experience.
I had great and informative conversation with my longtime friend and local farm owner Jim Jaeger, about the details of picking up a horse at USDA. I have found over the past 20 or so years, that if Google can not tell me something about the horse industry, Jim often can. Everyone needs a Jim.
He was quite detailed in his instructions, making sure that I knew not to be late, and warning me about the parade of critters that I might see “you’ll see ALL KINDS of horses, Jerusalem Donkeys, much excitement!” (I googled Jerusalem Donkeys, obvs they are fantastic.) And even telling me the best places to get gas, park, eat and where the worst traffic might be. I felt SO prepared.
I was getting pretty excited for the big day, and my Dad and I had it nailed down, like to the exact minute that we would need to be doing things. Complete with extra time factored in for the 100 pee stops that I require, and inconveniences like spontaneously exploding tires. We are really good at planning. And then, plans changed. Because no matter how well you plan, that is what happens in the horse world! A couple scheduling hiccups and boom, just like that there was no way I could be out of the barn on the day he needed to be shipped.
Luckily. Plan B was easy. I got on the phone with Dutta, and after about 30 seconds on the phone I had Dubai scheduled on a Fairway truck to Maine. And honestly, this was the best decision. As it turned out, his delivery date was scheduled for Columbus Day weekend Friday, a notoriously horrendous day to have to travel anywhere. I decided that having him on a lovely giant air ride truck would, most likely, be to his benefit.
So, with all my ducks lined up in a nice row, I waited.
I am a bit of a worrier, so between the time that he was scheduled to fly, and the time he was to arrive at my stable, I made sure to be extra strength busy. There is nothing like a full schedule of barn repair, lesson teaching, debugging the school horses, extremely long runs, and household chores (blech) to keep one from ruminating over the *things that could go wrong* (said in ominous tones).
I can’t help but to sing the praises of Dutta, because from the moment he landed in the states, they were nothing but amazing at keeping me informed.
- I knew when he landed, healthy and happy (thank heavens)
- I found out quickly when he spiked a temp—”Your horse has a fever of 103, but he really doesn’t seem to mind, and he is eating everything in sight.” (A glimpse of things to come.)
- I was promptly informed when he stepped onto the Fairway truck for the final leg of the trip.
In a massive oversight, I had completely cleared my schedule for the day of his arrival (planning to collect him myself) and never really filled it back up. Super. A whole day of waiting. Good Lord!
Luckily, a woman who runs a horse barn has no excuse to be idle. I managed to keep myself plenty busy, and when I discovered that traffic had him running hours past schedule, my husband and I hustled out for an absurdly long bike ride followed by some crazy trail running race. (We are high-energy people.)
(And props to Fairway Transport, they kept me so well in the loop! “We are stuck in bad traffic, but your horse doesn’t seem to mind and is eating a lot!” Good little Dubai!)
Finally, around 8 p.m., I got the call that they were about 6 miles away. Fearing that they would miss our driveway, as we live in a rural area (code for “in the sticks”), we adorned our street sign with an absurd number of blinking, flashing, bright red bike safety lights. And a couple camping lanterns. Perhaps a few fireworks. A small bottle of champagne. NBD, overkill is the middle name of all of us who live here!
And they did not miss the drive, so we clearly nailed it.
So, in the darkest of darkness, in the HUGEST of trucks, my little pony arrived in Waterford to much fanfare! All I could see from the outside of the truck were the tiny yellow tips of his little ears. It was delightful, COMPLETE overkill yet again, this little pony all alone in a giant truck. I really loved it.
Mark from Fairway opened the door and when I saw Dubai, I must admit that I got just a touch misty eyed. He was so perfect! He was not the least bit upset that he had been in a truck for 10 hours, and he strutted down the ramp and up to my barn like he had lived there forever.
I had braced myself, knowing that he might be very upset, or feeling unwell and in distress.
Yeah. He totally wasn’t.
He walked happily into his stall. Peed. (As one does.) Rolled. (As one should.) And proceeded to eat everything in sight because he is a damned self-respecting pony! I was basically beside myself with joy. Straight up 12-year-old girl, with a Barbie’s dream pony kind of happy. Being a grown ass woman, I know I should be cool “oh yes… another horse to add to my string…” or whatever. But screw that, he was perfect, and I was thrilled.
I called Susanne straight away. She was in Texas, judging, but she had been waiting with almost as much excitement as I had been. I was like, “HE IS PERFECT,” and we squeaked and maybe cried a little and exclaimed over his glowing golden perfection.
He settled in like a champ, more, “he doesn’t seem to mind… and he is eating EVERTHING.” (Which is honestly a story in and of itself, watch me make this a four-part story!) and after some rest days it was time to test drive the little beast. Susanne happened to be running a clinic at my farm that day, so the timing seemed right for a little 20-minute ride.
I hopped on, and we immediately jumped out of the arena and then right back in. Whoops. Apparently, I needed a moment to remember that steering a baby is always a work in progress! After that amusing hiccup things were better than I could have hoped for. He was so incredible to ride that I could not stop laughing in delight, which is neither mature nor professional of me, but I couldn’t have cared less. He was great and zippy, with huge gaits for a tiny horse, tons of swagger, and just so stinking cute!
So, that was the beginning. And a great beginning it was…
And what did we end up calling little Dubai’s Dream? Well, not Dunkelfuchs (unfortunately).
I call him Dubs, or Double, or The Baby Horse. (He is about 10 years younger than anyone here, so a true baby.) My Dad seems to be stuck calling him Doobie, which I was FIRMLY AGAINST because Doobie makes me think of aging hippies sitting about sparking up doobies (which is fine and all, but I am not an aging hippie and neither is my horse). But you know who is? My Dad. So, he can get away with that nonsense. (And Susanne will be pleased, because Doobie was her vote. (In a “good doobie” sort of tone.)
I have been super lucky to have some amazing horses in my life. Every one has been a blessing and has taught me to be the capable trainer that I am today. Little Dubs seems to have the most remarkable personality of almost any horse I have met. I really can’t wait to see what kind of grown-up he turns into very the next few years!
(And before you all think this saga is over… I think a recap of our first few months together is in order in the New Year.)
I am Sara Bradley, USDF silver medalist, and the owner and operator of Waterford Equestrian Center, a small dressage barn in Maine. I spend my time teaching lots of lessons (mostly to fourth graders, but some great adults too!), training a delightful array of horses, NOT purchasing ponies for myself, and running the occasional marathon. You’ll often find me riding, competing, and ring stewarding around Region 8 with students, my Mah, and her popular dog Daisy in tow. Read all of Sara’s blogs for COTH.