Behind The Stall Door With: Coco Bongo

May 29, 2018 - 12:27 PM

If you’re a parent, you know the rule: No playing favorites among the kids. Eric Lamaze’s top jumper Coco Bongo has made that a little difficult for caretaker Bo Vaanholt.

“This is a little my fault,” Vaanholt said with a laugh as “Coby” pawed at his stall door begging for treats and attention. “You’re not supposed to have favorites, but I can’t help it! Everyone in the barn knows he’s my favorite. We drive everyone crazy.”

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Meet Coby! All photos by Ann Glavan.

Vaanholt has been taking care of Coby ever since he joined Lamaze’s string in 2015. Initially purchased for a client, Lamaze took over the ride for Artisan Farms and has piloted the now 13-year-old Rheinlander gelding (Caretino—Calizinthe, Calido) to great results, including four- and five-star wins, representing Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games (Canada), and a double clear for Canada’s gold-medal effort at this year’s Nations Cup in Ocala, Florida.

We went to visit Coby at Lamaze’s Torrey Pines stable in Wellington, Florida, to see what makes Vaanholt’s favorite horse tick!

So what exactly is it about Coby that has Vaanholt so in love with the gelding? She can’t quite put her finger on it.

“When I first met him I thought, ‘Who is this horse? He doesn’t seem like anything special. He’s just like a nice, plain horse—nice, but nothing special,’ ” Vaanholt said. “Then I started taking care of him, and two days in I was in love. He’s really got his own personality; outside people, they don’t really get it, but once you get to know him he’s just really sweet. For everyone else he probably seems very obnoxious!”

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Coby enjoys a special bond with his groom Bo Vaanholt.

• When the camera came out for his photo shoot, no one had to tell Coby to look cute. It was pricked ears and posing as long as the shutter was clicking.

“He knows what’s going on, like when we’re somewhere big like in Aachen [Germany] he does most of the prize-givings and parades and all that kind of stuff because he loves it,” Vaanholt said. “He’s so chill. Fine Lady doesn’t like prize-givings, so he’ll go in the ring for her.”

• When it comes to snacks Coby subscribes to the sharing is caring mentality, and he makes sure Vaanholt follows suit.

“He eats everything, and he especially loves human food. Everything I eat he wants to have,” Vaanholt said. “Like anything from French fries to coffee, and he loves coffee.”

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• As far as his kicks go, Coby has similar shoes to a lot of Lamaze’s top mounts—it’s a slightly wider aluminum shoe with a rim pad.

• Coby is quite particular about his skin, which results in a few different behavioral oddities. “He loves being body clipped, loves it,” Vaanholt said. “He really loves being scratched, so when you’re clipping, especially when you’re on his shoulder, he loves that.”

Only the softest, itch-free blankets are up to Coby’s standards.

“He’s very particular about the kind of blanket he wears, like certain materials just bother him,” Vaanholt said. “He’ll just rip them off if he doesn’t like them.”

And then there’s his back-scratching turnout routine.

“He loves turning out, and he never runs—the only thing he will do is roll,” Vaanholt said. “He finds the dirtiest patch of sand and rolls like 20 times. Then he’ll get up and kind of shake his head and move one leg, and that’s him being wild. Then he just starts eating.”

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Coby’s fancy kicks.

• When he’s not being ridden or turned out Coby can go on the walker, but he really prefers to go on a little adventure with his walks.

“He likes going on trail rides, and he’s the best one to take,” Vaanholt said. “He’s not scared of anything, and he actually enjoys it. You can take him by yourself and go for hours.”

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Coby loves his scratches.

• Though he was gelded late (Lamaze gelded him after the Pan American Games) Coby isn’t rude with other horses—in fact he quite likes the company!

“He loves other horses. He’ll talk to them, and he always just wants to say hi to everyone,” Vaanholt said. “He’s particularly close to Chacco Kid because they go to shows a lot together and are always stabled together and fly together.”

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• Ask Vaanholt if Coby ever gets fired up or naughty at the shows, and she’ll be the first to defend her favorite child.

“He’s perfect!” Vaanholt said with a laugh. “He does get proud when he knows he’s done a good job; [he] gets very happy and pleased with himself, but when we’re at the shows he’s so happy. Once he goes to the show he’s in his element and just loves being there.”

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