A 30-Year-Old Show Horse Proves Longevity Is Not “Wishful Thinking”

BY HADLEY ZEAVIN

I have owned my Westphalian gelding, Wishful Thinking, also known as  “Winston” or “Winnie” since I was thirteen. My mom was not a horse person, and she sort of happened upon him in a very roundabout way. A friend of my younger sister’s had a stepsister who imported dressage horses found him in Germany. 

Photo courtesy of Hadley Zeavin

Although Winston has great dressage bloodlines, he topped out at around 15.1, so they were looking to sell him. She sent a videotape of him free jumping in Germany to our house in Santa Barbara, CA. I fell in love with his beautiful face and floaty trot immediately. I showed it to my trainer, and a few months later he was mine. We had so much fun showing when I was a junior, but more than successes in the show ring, Winnie has been a friend through good times and bad. He is truly a member of my family. 

Photo courtesy of Hadley Zeavin

The first winter Winston was in California, he grew a coat like a Yeti and had to be body clipped four times. When he arrived at Mark Watring Stables, Winnie had never jumped a fence with a human on board. So Mark and his assistant at the time, Tiffany Mulligan, brought him along very slowly. 

Photo courtesy of Hadley Zeavin

Winnie has an angelic face and a great sense of humor, and he is the most well-schooled horse I’ve ever had the privilege of riding. My family lived a little over an hour away from the barn, and my dad would wake up on Saturday mornings to drive me down for my lessons. One of my favorite memories of Winnie is during one of those Saturday lessons, when my dad was sitting reading the newspaper on a bench beside the ring. He turned the page as we trotted by. Winnie spooked, I fell off, and after the lesson my dad asked “How was your lesson?” Mark and I just looked at him and laughed. That is just one of many wonderful memories that include Winston. 

Photo courtesy of Hadley Zeavin

Winnie has taught me more than any other horse I’ve ever had and I feel so lucky to have owned him for the past twenty-two years. When I moved to Tennessee for college, Winston stayed at Mark’s and got to teach other kids the ropes. A few years after graduate school I moved him with me to Virginia and he actually got to live at home with me, which was really special. 

Photo courtesy of Hadley Zeavin

We showed a little bit in the Adult Hunters when we lived in Virginia, and he got to try trail riding (he was not a fan) and befriend a sheep. When Winston turned 20 I tried to retire him in Virginia, but he was just unhappy. He is the type of horse who loves to have a job and be a teacher. 

Photo courtesy of Hadley Zeavin

So I listened to him and Winston moved back to California in 2011 to continue teaching other kids at Mark Watring Stables. Jenny Watring notes that “Winnie has a magical way of taking his riders from the beginner ranks, to teaching them the rhythm of jumping around courses with his textbook form over the jumps! We have been blessed to have Winston as a part of our Mark Watring Stables team for so many years. We just adore Winnie as he continues to share his funny personality and wisdom with our future equestrians!”

I am so fortunate to have had Winnie in my life for so long, and am so grateful to Mark and Jenny and their assistant Jackie for keeping him happy and sound for many years. Mark says that “Winston has truly touched the lives of so many. He has taught so many riders and continues to, to this day. He’s been a great friend and pal of mine for twenty two years and counting. He’s a champion.” 

Winnie’s current rider with the ribbons he helped her earn. Photo courtesy of Hadley Zeavin

And, in fact, during Week II of Desert Circuit 2021, Winston taught yet another kid, Jordana Focil, how much fun horse showing is. They were reserve champion in the Short Stirrup Equitation. Another memory for another rider that will last a lifetime. 

Photo courtesy of Hadley Zeavin