A white horse from North Cornwall known locally as 'the unicorn' has had a starring role in Fortnum and Mason's Christmas brochure. Sarah Pitt takes up the story
When Rosie Malcolm first saw Mr Happy, she knew she could not go home without him. The stunning white horse – a Lipizzaner-Shire cross – had been advertised for sale as an eventing horse, and no mention had been made of his striking pure-white coat and mane.
When the eventing rider and her mum Linda arrived at the stables on Dartmoor, however, they found a pure white horse, with the grace of the elegant Spanish Lipizanners, but the gentleness of a Shire.
What he clearly wasn't though, was an eventing horse, which was what Rosie was looking for at the time.
She and her mum turned to go but, says Rosie: "He just looked so sad and we couldn't turn away. Mum said 'you must buy him'. So I bought him for mum, and she took up hunting on him again, at the age of 50."
Mr Happy has become well-known in Rosie's home village of St Mawgan, where the children know him as "the unicorn" because of his long white mane, now almost down to his feet.
And, after he was asked to appear in a pop video for Cornish band Rosie and the Goldbug, ridden across Bodmin Moor by singer Rosie Vanier, owner Rosie has occasionally hired him out for bits of modelling work.
"We did start to think that he could be in the films, it seemed such a romantic idea," she says.
A few months ago, a London modelling agency, which has Mr Happy's details, got in touch to say that a department store in the capital were looking for a white horse to play the unicorn in a fantasy snow scene in their Christmas catalogue.
"We were only told it was a London department store and we were guessing at Selfridges, then when we arrived and were told it was Fortnum and Mason, we had to sign a confidentiality agreement not to tell anyone until the catalogue came out," says Rosie.
The shoot – a snowy, fantasy scene in which a princess rides a unicorn followed by children carrying presents – took place during the heatwave last summer, in a film studio in Surrey. "It was sweltering, but there was a snow machine chucking out the snow," she says.
The photograph which came out of the shoot was a bit of a miracle of Photoshop, she reveals, with many details, including the unicorn's horn and pink tinge to Mr Happy's fur, superimposed later.
There is, unsurprisingly, no sign of Rosie leading her horse, or the children watching.
"There were four or five children at the shoot and they asked if they could have a ride on Mr Happy," she says.
Back home, Mr Happy is a hit with local children too. "Everyone knows him in the village, and they called him the unicorn even before he was a unicorn!" says Rosie.
Keeping Mr Happy pure white is quite a challenge. "It takes a whole day to get him ready," she says. "We wash him with Persil to get him snowy white."
Mr Happy is now taking time out at home in St Mawgan, his stable, painted pink, decorated with his page in the Fortnum and Mason catalogue. "I have stuck the photo on his stable door so if anybody comes into the yard they can see how famous he is!" says his proud owner.