Thursday, May. 30, 2024

The Horse You Don’t Sell As A Professional

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As I am writing this, we are celebrating my German Riding Pony “Dubai” turning 10 years old. I imagine I feel the way a parent does when their child hits double digits, as though it was both just yesterday and also about a thousand years ago that you began to get acquainted. 

Honestly, as much as his young and wild days seem like an eternity ago, I still clearly remember Dubai’s first slightly drunken and rather disorganized first show attempt. 

Between then and now there have been many moments that have punched his ticket to a lifetime in my barn. (One of those being that his dressage test efforts have become drastically more dignified!) As a professional rider, I have had my share of horses who have found new jobs or new riders in their 10th (or so) year. I find that, by this age, you have a good notion about whether they want to do the job you want them to do. Also, because money does not grow on trees, selling a newly minted adult horse can be a profitable experience—and there are precious few of those in my line of work! 

Blogger Sara Bradley typically sells the horses she develops around age 10. That birthday has arrived for her German Riding Pony Dubai’s Dream, and she’s decided to keep him. Photo Courtesy Of Sara Bradley

All of this being said, I can’t imagine parting with my buddy. I’ve put some serious time into making him a reliable show mount (we are even moving past his deadly fear of noises), and he’s genuinely a good horse every day. That continues to delight me, particularly as all my past personal horses have been uniquely challenged in that area. Nobody is perfect, and Dubai is not either, but he’s perfect for me, and that’s a fact. He has also proven that he loves his job, and seems to enjoy doing it with me. I’m very lucky! 

As we move into his 10th year, I’m excited about the possibilities. He is healthy and sound, happy and eager, wishes to please, and is funny as anything. We know a horse’s health and soundness is never a guarantee, and I do everything I can to preserve his physical and mental health. (And I am thankful every day when all of the horses in my stable attempt to remain in one piece!) 

We are working steadily toward a future FEI debut, but that is still a couple developmental steps away from where we are today. He has successfully made his fourth level, test 3, debut—and as all of us dressage divas know, being able to pull off that test is a good sign for things to come! 

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The future is never promised, but I feel that he has the best attitude to be successful, even if, at 15 hands, he has a slightly different build than the traditional dressage horse. (We often get, “I thought you would be taller” from people we meet. We are not, but we are a well-matched, fun-sized pair.) The top thing I have learned from Dubai is that a good attitude is an attribute that is second to none in a horse. He may not be lighting the world on fire at Grand Prix (yet), but he’s tries very hard to please. So hard that I’m always balancing his desire to work with consideration for his strength/ability. I never want him to get overtaxed from being so willing to say yes. 

For the friends and supporters who have followed him from the beginning, thank you! What fun it has been getting to know so many of you, both over the internet and in person. Who knew that a little yellow horse would bring so many new people and opportunities to my life. So cheers to the next 10 years. These first few certainly have been a fun journey, and I’m eager to see what is in store. 


I’m Sara Bradley, a full-time dressage trainer and rider. Most of my time is spent educating a delightful variety of horses and riders at my facility, Waterford Equestrian Center in Waterford, Maine. 

When I’m not busy juggling the day-to-day activities at my farm, I enjoy activities like trail running over actual mountains and running marathons. (Life in the slow lane is not my style!) I enjoy many dressage adventures with my German Riding Pony, Dubai’s Dream, and you can follow this journey on Instagram @dubais_dream.

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