Friday, May 26, 2017

Unicorn hunting vs. unicorn gathering

Unicorns have shown up in my feed a fair bit lately.  Not the elegant beasts of mythology, but the kind you hear of but never actually see.  The perfect horse.

That definition is a bit different for everyone.  For some, raw athletic talent is critical.  For others, being unflappable is everything.  For a true unicorn, they need to have the look, the personality, the skills, the soundness, and the price.  Mostly, it's about the price.  Fantastic horses are easy to find, hard to afford.  For me, it's mostly the flexibility to do lots of different things without losing their mind, enough style to compete at the lower levels, and a personality that includes lots of cuddles.

During my jumping lesson today, Trainer A and I chatted about the concept of a unicorn while mi papi was catching his breath.  She's always horse shopping since she's running a lesson program and she knows how hard it is to find that critical combination of temperament, soundness, trainability, and price.  She can find it, but the price tag is usually more than a school program can afford.  I gave Theo a pat on the neck and said I'm not much of a unicorn hunter, I take them as they come.  Her response?  But he is a unicorn.  Now.

Trainer A started laughing, recalling the wreck we were when we started and he was trying to jump out of rings and porpoising around the town ring at that tiny schooling show.  I could barely get him over fences, he couldn't really canter, and he was as likely to toss someone as he was to help them.

Two years later, he's the horse I wish I could have afforded back when I was shopping.  Jump 2'6, competitive at first level with rated show miles, trail ride, pack beginners, and turn heads while doing all of it.

I think I'm a unicorn gatherer, not a unicorn hunter.

I gather up the raw materials and make them myself.  Fi wasn't really a unicorn since she was very specific, but she did grow up into a beautiful, well rounded horse that was well admired and I enjoyed her immensely.  I still miss her.  Allen had too many soundness issues to qualify as a unicorn, even if he nailed every other part of the checklist.  Hauling my terrified butt around a coliseum should get him automatic entry in the unicorn club, especially when looking that gorgeous.  But Theo is the first one that I feel is actually irreplaceable. 

But the real takeaway?  Unicorns are impossible to find for a very good reason.  After putting in the two years of blood, sweat, and tears?  No, I'm not selling him.  No, I don't want to hear about how good the home is or the number offered.  I'm just now getting to enjoy my work!  Why would I sell him when I'm getting to the good bits?  A horse for sale was being shown while I was riding last night.  The horse's owner was teasing me afterward that they talked more about Theo than the horse they were trying out.  The trainer kind of casually asked about his status while I was loosening his girth after the ride.

No, my unicorn is not for sale.  But thank you for the compliment.  Yes, he is very pretty and he canters on the buckle with his head at his knees and he dozes in the middle of a crazy busy indoor ring full of cantering ponies.  No, you can't have him. 

Go make your own unicorn.


  1. I love this!! I think that more people need to be open to the DIY unicorn. :)

  2. Sold my last unicorn, and will hopefully sell the next one, though my aims and goals are different than yours!

  3. Nothing wrong with selling a unicorn if you can -- I sold 2 as a package deal so I could make my next 2 ;) but yes, I prefer to make, rather than buy! I can't afford to buy, haha.

  4. Making my own unicorn - I'll have to remember that one <3

  5. Exactly! I'm a confirmed unicorn gatherer and my current horse Savvy is the ultimate unicorn (starting out more like a unruly goat) and is stuck with me for life!

  6. I'm a unicorn gatherer too. Was thinking about this as I rode my current "unicron in progress". I have a 12 year old unicorn. To get him there I reckon I've put at least 8,000 hours into him over 10 years. if I charge my time at a (low for my profession) hourly rate of $30Aus an hour, he's worth $240,000! And no, he'snot for sale.