The Bay Unicorn

I can’t tell you how many times I get calls and a prospective buyer tells me they are looking for their “unicorn.” You know, the perfect horse that will win at the National level (in open, ATR , and walk-trot), can go out on the trails, is “finished” (I hear this term a lot… FYI - they are never “finished”), is at least 15.2 hands, will cook dinner, blah, blah, blah, the list goes on and on. I usually say to them, “After you look for six months to a year, call me back.” By then, the list has shortened substantially. This mythical “unicorn” is unique, not only because it’s rare but because it unique to each buyer. One person’s unicorn might be another person’s “Ed,” you know the white pony on Facebook that is always running off with his rider. I don’t know about you, but I can’t watch it. Anyway, I’ve been training horses for.... let’s just say a long time. In that time, I have only come across a handful of horses that I would consider true “unicorns,” so when you do get one, you want to fly around on it and show the world your magical creature! Do unicorns fly?

I grew up with a mother and stepfather that trained quarter horses. So, I had never seen a real Arabian horse, they weren’t popular in my household. Arabians were as mystical to me as unicorns. As you know, there was no internet back in the 70’s (we didn’t even have TV where we lived), so to see an Arabian horse I went to the school library and saw tiny pictures in the encyclopedia. The images always showed their heads up high (like a unicorn), their tails flagging (like a unicorn), and their hooves barely touching the ground (also like a unicorn)! They say Arabians are the foundation to all breeds and I believe unicorns too!

Now if you have stayed with me this far you’re probably wondering where I'm going with all this. Well, here it goes....I eventually ended up becoming an Arabian horse trainer and I happen to have a unicorn! I captured her over seven years ago, and she is the most incredible mare, a lovely, bay Arabian mare! To be exact, an Arabian unicorn fondly known as Lacey and owned by Jan Dunlap. If you don’t know Jan, you should. She has a heart of gold and her laugh is absolutely infectious! But I digress...

One thing about unicorns is that the first time you ride them you will know instantly if they are a unicorn or not, and I knew in the first minute with Lacey. She came well trained (by Ron Becthel), she responded perfectly, was smooth as glass and as quiet as a church mouse. We began by showing Lacey in the Hunter division, and she would win most of the time. Jan was somewhat green, but Lacey knew what to do and they would still win. My daughter, Mia, started to show her also and they would also win. Mia taught her side saddle and they would win! In fact, one year Mia was only 14 years old and she won the Region 3 Open Hunter Pleasure Championship and the Open Side Saddle against all the trainers....at 14!

Are you starting to see the horn on this Arabian unicorn? It just gets better... After several years of showing Hunter and Side Saddle (open, ATR, and JTR) and earning several Regional and Scottsdale wins, Jan decided she wanted a new challenge, so she bought herself a new horse and sadly was going to take “my” unicorn home. Noooo! I thought to myself. I had to think fast. This is where another wonderful client comes into the picture, Karen Biane. Karen owns a very energetic Half-Arabian Hunter Pleasure mare that she is gradually learning to ride. I suggested that it may be a good idea that she lease Lacey to show Hunter Pleasure (Karen had never shown) in order to get comfortable in the show ring. She said yes! Jan said yes! And I got to keep my unicorn! But wait, the best part is yet to come...

One year, Karen attending her first regional show, was reserve champion in Hunter Pleasure with Lacey, this was when I started to notice that Lacey was starting to slow down a little with age in the Hunter classes. Unfortunately, Karen had been having trouble with her ankle and needed to have a very invasive and difficult surgery. Posting at the trot was going to be out for Karen for quite a long time. Not only was my rider going to take a break, but I worried that “my” bay unicorn might fly away again! A thought occurred to me… I suggested that we try Lacey in the Western Pleasure division. Everyone agreed (yeah!), and I started training her for this new division this past winter. Once I started working with Lacey, I realized there was more to her than only the pleasure; she could also pattern!

Fast forward to Lacey’s first show of the year in 2018. She was Champion in the Western Riding, and she won the Horsemanship (with one of my talented amateur riders, Ally Edwards). Fast forward some more to Regionals, and Lacey won three regional Championships in Western Pleasure with three different riders (beating national champions no less). Now, this might sound like enough to justify her unicorn status, but I’m just getting started.

Through all the many years that Lacey was showing, Nationals was just never in the cards for her… that is until Canada 2018. At the age of 21, Lacey finally got to go to a nationals! Yes that’s right 21! Lacey would have a pretty demanding schedule, even for a horse in its prime, but by now you know Lacey is not a regular horse. Lacey is a pro and handled the show like the champ that she is. Her first class was Horsemanship AATR with Ally and she was Top Ten (3rd overall)! Her next class was Open Ranch Riding with me and, presto, another Top Ten! After that, she switched into Western Pleasure mode and, by golly, she was top ten with Ally in the AATR 19-39. But that wasn’t the end of her remarkable run... to top it all off, Lacey went on to earn a Top Ten in the very competitive Western Pleasure Select with Karen on board and even had a first on one card in her section cut. Not only was this Karen’s first time showing at a Nationals, but this was Karen’s first time showing Lacey Western and remarkably, this was Karen’s first time showing western EVER! Don’t you agree that Karen was incredibly brave to try it at a Nationals? Of course she was, but when you ride an Arabian unicorn, anything is possible.

Lacey with Ally.
Lacey is showing her thoughts on 3rd place in the Horsemanship.

Karen and Lacey receiving their top ten award



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