Who wants to saddle up a unicorn?

Fantasy trail ride makes dreams come true

click to enlarge Who wants to saddle up a unicorn?
Photo by Jon Waits

OBVIOUSLY, you’re a princess. Or a pirate. Or maybe both.

In any case, you have a mystery to solve. Or buried treasure to discover. Or you have been charged with rescuing stolen magic and must restore order to the realm.

Whatever the quest, you’re going to need a worthy steed.

Look no further than Unicorn & Centaur, a horseback riding outfit that brings role-playing fantasies to life with guided trail excursions through the forest near Fort McAllister.

Founded by local actor, equestrian and tour guide Michelle Padgett, the company launched this summer out of Chimney Fields Stables in Richmond Hill and offers an interactive theatrical experience with costumes, themes and a very realistic-looking unicorn. Meet-and-greet photography sessions have been a hit so far, and reservations are being taken for trail rides that will begin in the fall.

“This is for those people who have been waiting their whole lives to ride a unicorn through the woods—you know who you are!” laughs Padgett, whose fairy wings seem perfectly natural as she stands next to Artax the Unicorn, his mane braided with yellow and pink flowers.

click to enlarge Who wants to saddle up a unicorn?
Photo by Jon Waits

You may recognize Padgett as the teal-tressed tour guide regaling visitors around the squares with Historic Savannah Carriage Tours, or perhaps from behind one of the life-sized characters of Angela Beasley’s Puppet People. A self-described “Air Force brat who grew up everywhere,” she’s been involved in the Savannah theater community for over 20 years and caring for horses for 10. Combining those passions was fantastically inevitable.

“I was that horse-crazy little girl, and always a big nerd who liked to dress up,” she grins, adjusting her tiara. “This is the culmination of my life’s work.”

Padgett has tapped into her network to recruit riders with a penchant for storytelling (and vice versa) to ensure that all of Unicorn & Centaur’s guides give a seamless performance—even the safety lecture is conducted in character. Each outing is an intimate experience for two or three at a time, and riders don’t need horseback experience but must be aged eight and up (heck YES it’s for adults).

“It requires a level of participation and attention,” explains Padgett.

“It’s not just pony rides in a circle.”

Rates for the hour-long guided rides are $95 for the first rider and $75 thereafter. Some props are provided, and riders are encouraged to wear their own favorite costumes. The next professional photography session is Aug. 7 and includes prints and digital files.

Seeking out mellow rescues, retired rodeo stars and otherwise unwanted horses from around the Southeast, Unicorn & Centaur is slowly building up a stable of magical creatures. The tale began with Artax, named after the horse from the 80s fantasy classic, The Neverending Story. The life of this Artax is far less tragic (don’t YouTube it unless you have tears to spare).

click to enlarge Who wants to saddle up a unicorn?
Photo by Jon Waits

The six year-old dappled gray Arabian is much happier since being liberated from an uninspired situation earlier this year and is thriving from daily rides and gentle adjustments with veterinary chiropractor Karen Voss. There is also devoted attention from Padgett’s 8 year-old son, Liam, who helps with grooming duties when his homeschool schedule allows.

Also, he gets to be a unicorn.

“He seems to enjoy it,” says Padgett, centering Artax’s spiraled horn as he bends down to graze on a patch of lush grass next to the barn.

Artax also has a pirate costume, complete with a see-through eye patch. While it’s impossible to know if his fantasies are being fulfilled, Unicorn & Centaur’s theater-on-horseback is already making dreams come true, including Padgett’s.

It’s summed up right there on her t-shirt:

“I Never Thought I’d Grow Up to Be a Super Sexy Unicorn Lady But Here I Am, Killing It.”



Jessica Leigh Lebos

Community Editor Jessica Leigh Lebos has been writing about interesting people, vexing issues and anything involving free food for more than 20 years. She introduces herself at cocktail parties as southern by marriage.
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