Lauren Hough’s flashy partner Cornet 39 turns heads wherever he goes. The 13-year-old, Oldenburg gelding (Cornet Obolensky—Celine, Caletto I)—who goes by the barn name Cotton—is gray in color with swatches of darker shades scattered across his body.
Bred by Björn Sternagel and Max Kühner in Aschheim, Germany, a young Cotton was already turning a steely gray by his 2-year-old inspection. But even his breeders and Hough aren’t quite sure from where his unique coloring originates.
Hough’s client Paris Sellon and her Willow Grace Farms purchased Cotton in 2014. The horse was originally meant to be for Sellon herself, and the partnership debuted at St. Lô CSI*** (France) that fall. But midway through the next season’s Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.), Cotton transferred hands to Hough when it became apparent that he’s quite sensitive.
“He has some mind issues,” said Hough. “I gave him a bit of a break after Florida this year, and I don’t think I prepared him enough for [the Longines Global Champions Tour of] Shanghai [in April]. So he spooked himself—and he’s the type that overthinks—but he’s building back up from that.”
Cotton has multiple top placings in international-level competition, including a win in the $130,000 Engel & Völkers Grand Prix CSI**** during Week 11 of the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival. More recently, Germany’s Daniel Deusser took the reins at Knokke, Belgium in July.
With his finely shaped head and his buggy eyes, Cotton has an inquisitive look about him, according to his grooms, Sinead Anglin and Zane Josta.
“It’s as if he’s always asking, ‘What’s going on, guys?’” remarked Anglin.
And to learn everything that’s going on in his own life, we went behind his stall door to learn everything there is to know about the affectionate, little gray called Cotton:
• He loves to give kisses.
“His trick is to give kisses,” said Hough, as she demonstrated with treats on hand. “But he get a little tense when getting touched.”
• He’s a bit of a scaredy-cat.
“He gets scared of things,” said Josta. “He’s really sensitive so you can’t talk too loud or move too fast around him. It doesn’t mean he’s being bad—he’s just sensitive.”
• He’s also a little horse-shy.
“He doesn’t like the other horses getting near to him,” Josta revealed. “He got kicked once in the warm-up so he’s really aware of the horses. He won’t spin around, but he gets scared.”
• Cotton’s mind issues also mean that he can’t be rushed in the warm-up ring.
“We give him time to chill in the warm up,” said Josta. “Fast warming up doesn’t work for him.
• So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that he’s a cribber.
“He cribs so I leave water buckets on the ground, with snaps, so he has things he can crib on,” explained Josta. “The collar doesn’t work anymore. He gets annoyed when he doesn’t have anything [to crib on] so I have to let him [do it] a little bit.”
“I remember at a show last year, I hung apples on pieces of string and used them as a boredom ball—instead of a Jimmy’s or Likit ball,” added Anglin. “He likes to play games. He likes to keep himself entertained.”
• He’s big on his turn-out time.
“He goes in the paddock,” said Anglin. “He loves the paddock—he can stay out all day long. He gets turned out in bell boots, front boots, and hind boots. And he wears his Horseware fly mask and blanket. Basically, he gets wrapped up from head to toe. Even when it’s raining, he still gets turned out wearing his Horseware Amigo blanket.”
“He’s easy at home, pretty chilled,” Anglin added. “But if he hasn’t been out in a while, he gets on his toes and trots the whole way to the paddock.”
• Traveling by land is not a problem for Cotton, but he’s not a big fan of flying.
“He’s good in a trailer,” said Josta. “He does get angry with his neighbors and kicks now and then. I give the horses hay nets for traveling to keep them busy. Cotton won’t stay in the truck last—he can’t be the first or the last. He goes somewhere in the middle.”
“He was a big trouble flying last time,” she added. “It was too much stress for him.”
• Cotton lives for meal time. He gets Dodson & Horrell grain three times per day and hay in the morning, afternoon, and at night check (Hough uses the Haygain hay steamer). He also eats a bran mash at evening feed.
“He’s very passionate about his feeding times,” said Anglin. “He takes a mouthful of grain and then he throws it out into the stable. It gets a bit messy in the evening. He gets very excited about his bran mash at night time, and it goes even into his ears.”
• To keep Cotton clean, Josta and Anglin use Cowboy Magic spray and Quicksilver shampoo.
“At shows, I muck out constantly to prevent stain, but he still gets dirty at night,” Josta said. “I also swear by the Aluspray silver spray for cuts and Sudocrem for small rubs.”
• Hough competes Cotton in a blue rubber pelham and uses a nose net on his bridle.
“I don’t believe in gimmicks,” Hough said about the net. “He’s not a headshaker but he came with it. It just works for him.”
• Cotton reflects the energy of those around him.
“If you’re chilled, he’s chilled and relaxed back,” explained Anglin. “He’s quite affectionate. He’s a funny character. He overthinks, but he’s super special.”