Wednesday, Sep. 27, 2023

The Unicorn Of My Unrealistic Dreams



5:45 a.m. on Thursday, July 27.

“JINGLE, JINGLE,” my phone shouted at me, prompting me to open my eyes far too early.

Feeling horrified that I was being denied my final 15 minutes of sleep, I rolled over and blearily stared at my phone. WHO DARE text me at such an ungodly hour (and WHY had I forgotten to put the damn thing on sleep mode)?

It was Susanne (this would be Susanne Hamilton, coach of 20-plus years, very important R dressage judge, and my good friend).

Immediately, this made such a vile intrusion more acceptable. I am always happy to hear from her, and she happened to be in Germany at the time, on a buying trip for her FEI young rider student’s next horse. 

I always get excited about her buying trips. I love to see the horses she brings back. Top critters, they are. 

Anyway. She had sent me a video and, while attempting to wake the hell up, I watched it about six times. Palomino horse. Huge gaits. Sass.

Feeling curious, I asked questions:

“He’s A 3-YEAR-OLD TO DIE FOR!” Susanne screamed, via text (a bit much with only 2 ounces of coffee in me, good thing we are friends!).


Before I could even ponder a reply, she shot back “…..never mind. I buy him myself!” Which is ridiculous. If a horse is a perfect size for me it would not work for Susanne. I am 5’2″ with my boots on, and she is absurdly tall, like 5’10”. When she decides to ride my horses she drops her stirrups 14 holes, which boggles the mind.


This conversation went on much longer than it should have, considering that I was ABSOLUTELY not buying a horse in 2017. NOPE. Not going to do it. I figured Susanne should just go for it, import him, and ride him about with her feet dragging in the dirt. She continued to send me pictures and videos, and it became clear that she was completely smitten with the yellow mystery pony.

We should backtrack a bit. Four days earlier, I had outlined some impossible criteria to Susanne, so that “in the next few years” she could keep one eye *half* open, and find me my next beast.

“A small yellow gelding,” I demanded. “Young, but he must have been started because I am too old to back babies. He must have a terrific hind end, a perfect shoulder, exquisite temperament and pass my 200-point vet exam. A huge plus if he poops out $100 bills and can clean his own stall and tack.”


This is me on my current FEI horse, Champion Of Hearts.

My assumption was that she would need at least three years to find the unicorn of my unrealistic dreams. Three years was what I was prepared for. Under no circumstances would I be purchasing any horse in 2017. Period.

In addition, my intention was to buy a horse here in the States. I like to look at them in person, try them on for size, and save my poor wallet about 8K in shipping expenses. I’m a painfully practical woman, and jetting off to Europe to horse shop is (tragically) not on the agenda.

So what happened? Susanne went off to Germany and four days later was sending me screamy text messages about some perfect pony. FOUR DAYS. SWEET BABY JESUS.

I asked Sue if she could go back in one year and find me the same horse. Or, even better, find one Stateside and save me some coin. “Well,” she said, “He is HERE, NOW!!”

I was literally sweating a bit at that point (and it was only 6:17 in the morning, far too early to break even a sheen of sweat). Knowing that there was a logical voice of reason to keep me from rash decision making, I texted Sue to say, “He is perfect, but I will show him to my Mah.”

My Mah must be consulted in such matters. I show her horses (that I AM NOT going to buy) on the regular, and she literally sniffs and walks away from the video. She is very choosy. Also, it shall be duly noted that every horse that has been “Mah-Approved” over the years still lives with me and each has been quite successful in his or her own right. The “Not-Mah-Approved horses” not so much. I went to work (my parents live on the property where my horse business is, lucky them) and showed her the video.

“Call Susanne,” she said. “Better call her now!”

……this was an unexpected turn of events……


So, of course I took a logical line.

“MAH!” I exclaimed. “I AM NOT buying a horse this year. It would be madness. It would be a terrible, bad idea.”

“WELL,” she said, “HE IS THERE NOW!!”

Damn these people and their never-ending logic.

In the blink of an eye all systems were a go (well, go to the vet anyway), and suddenly I had skyrocketed into a level of posh that I had never experienced. I suddenly had a fancy agent to confer with, named Viola, which made me feel extra rich. I was like, “Oh yes, I shall call my agent Viola, and we shall discuss many important dressage things, dahhhhling.” As someone who has always bought horses straight out of someone’s U.S.-based barn, this was just too much fancy for me to take seriously! (But it was great—everyone needs a Viola. She is really the best!)

At this point, despite the excitement, I was seeing cross-eyed. I was absolutely swamped in work, as summer brings summer camp, and I am still stuck somewhere in my 20s bopping around with 7-year-old students. (Who am I kidding. It’s my favorite! Even in my mid 30s…) Anyway, I was up to my ears in child riders and far too busy to think too far ahead, and I certainly did not have the time to get caught up in the possibility of a new golden pony. (Again.. who am I kidding?)

Also, I was quite sure this pony would not pass my 400-point vet inspection. I was quite convinced. Positive.

Would he?

Stay tuned.

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.




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