Behind The Stall Door With: Cooley Cross Border

Feb 20, 2018 - 8:42 AM

He’s the epitome of tall, dark and handsome, and he’s a nice guy to boot. He’s Cooley Cross Border, a talented black gelding with just the right amount of chrome who has been steadily rising up the ranks of upper-level eventing.

Kim Severson is hoping that Cooley Cross Border will be one of the top U.S. contenders for the FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina) team this year. They finished 2017 on a high note with the win in the SsangYong Blenheim CCI*** (England).

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Cooley Cross Border. All photos by Molly Sorge

Severson’s management of the talented but quirky star earned her the Chronicle’s Eventing Horseman of the Year title in the Feb. 12 American Horses In Sport issue. The magazine article explained how she rebounded from a disappointing spring to earn the Blenheim win.

Severson doesn’t have a southern base—she prefers to stay in Virginia for the winter and travel south to the early spring events, so we went to Severson’s Charlottesville, Virginia, farm to get to know Cross a bit better too:

•  Just like Winsome Adante, Severson’s three-time Rolex Kentucky CCI**** winner, Cross lives outside 24/7. It’s Severson’s first choice in horsekeeping. The horses all have stalls and come in during extreme weather and to be groomed and ridden, but the majority of their time is spent out in a field.

•  Cross’ field is at the front of Severson’s farm and has quite a bit of terrain to it. “We call it the goat paddock, and it helps keep him fit because he’s always walking up or downhill,” said Severson’s head groom, Andi Lawrence.

Cross in his “goat paddock.”
Cross’ Rambo blankets have a snazzy Kim Severson Eventing logo.

•  In one way, Cross is a bit like a small child. He needs his nap. No matter where he is, if Cross isn’t being ridden at 10 a.m., he’s snoozing. “Every day he takes a nap at 10 o’clock. Every. Day,” Lawrence said. “He’ll lie down out in the field and sleep, or in his stall if we’re at a show.”

•  He might be a big winner, but Cross is anything but pretentious. “He’s very friendly, and he’s always looking at what everyone’s doing. He’s got a salt lick that hangs outside his window, so he can hang his head out and lick it,” said Lawrence. “He loves everybody. He’s never in a nasty mood. When the farrier’s here, he’s always the horse nibbling on the farrier’s apron or his belt.”

Cross nibbling on Andi Lawrence’s jacket as she grooms him.

•  No matter what his schedule calls for, Cross is pretty easygoing. “He’s very chill. He goes with the flow,” said Lawrence. “I’ve traveled all over the world with him, and he’s just the same, so easy. He just never changes, whether he’s at home or sitting on a pallet for five hours waiting to get on the plane.”

•  Cross is a good drinker and eats well. Severson feeds all her horses Nutrena Pennfield feeds, and Cross will eat either Fibergized Omega or Ultra Active, depending on his workload and energy demands. He also eats a rice bran supplement.

Cross in his stall at Kim Severson’s farm.

•  Cross gets much of his roughage from grazing in the summer due to his outdoor lifestyle, but they do supplement his diet with hay, especially in the winter. “He’s big on hay; he will change weight depending on how much hay he’s eating,” Lawrence said. “So we keep an eye on how much hay he’s getting, and we’ll change it quite a bit depending on how fit he needs to be.”

•  There’s not much wanderlust in Cross’ personality. “We could probably let him out loose on the farm, and he’d stay around and mow the yard for us,” Lawrence said.

•  He plays the tongue game. “He’ll lick your hand, and you have to catch his tongue and pull it. He loves it,” said Lawrence. “We play lots of games with Cross.

“We train them all to lower their heads, and we put the hose at the forelock, and he really likes that. We play water park, and he likes to let the water drip down his face and then he sticks the whole hose in his mouth,” she added.

Cross and Lawrence playing the tongue game.

•  Cross has an odd calcification on one side of his jaw, and he’s very protective of that spot even though he loves a good grooming everywhere else. “He’s not sensitive at all, but if you touch that he does not like it!” Lawrence said.

Cross’ strange lump.

•  Part of Cross’ pre-ride routine is stretching. Lawrence always runs a pen cap down his belly midline to get Cross to lift his back. He’s not a huge fan of the routine, but he’s good at the stretches.

•  Perhaps Cross should try some yoga? “He’s very flexible. He’s one of the most flexible horses I’ve met,” said Lawrence. “If there’s a fly on his back, he can reach all the way around to get it.”

Lawrence giving Cross a quick groom.

•  Cross doesn’t have the best feet, so Lawrence and Severson are always on the lookout for products to help improve his hooves. The staff at Cooley Farm used Kevin Bacon’s Hoof Dressing on Cross over the summer, and Severson and Lawrence were happy with the results, so they order the animal-fat based hoof dressing from Belgium.

Lawrence applying Kevin Bacon’s Hoof Dressing to Cross.

•  Cross has a lovely black coat, but he’s a bit hair-impaired in the mane department. “He doesn’t have much mane or forelock. Sometimes it’s hard to get his braids nice and tight,” Lawrence said.

•  At events, Cross doesn’t get too hyped, but he does amplify his personality a bit. “He’s Cross times two,” Lawrence said. “He’s always in your face. Heaven forbid someone feeds him a treat—he’s incorrigible. But he’s not a hot horse, so he doesn’t get excited or spooky. He just gets playful and shows his personality that much more.”

Cooley Cross Border and Andi Lawrence.
Lawrence leads Cross to the barn from his field.
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