Someone once said to me, "One day I can’t wait to leg you up on a horse that will make everyone else nervous."
At the time I didn’t think much about not having a horse like that. Probably because I always had some sort of weird confidence that someday I would.
I remember eventing for quite a while before I ever won a horse trial...even a novice event. I started riding for other people when I was 16. I started eventing when I was 12, and I want to say that I didn't win even an intro until I was 17.
Never thought much of it to be honest...I love eventing, and I rode anything I could get my hands on in California and continue to here. I had this horse named Reality Check when I moved to California, and he was only 4, but he was a really, really nice horse. He ended up going intermediate as a 6-year-old, but he had issues with colic that he ended up passing away from.
I never got the chance to say goodbye to him. At least I had that chance with Cooper. I think Cooper had a little bit of Henry in him...both had this sweetness in their eye.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I think about them a lot. I know this sport is hard, and I know you need to be tough, but it’s really hard to sleep right now knowing what tomorrow (or I guess today) will be like. Cooper was such a champion, and he won a whole lot.
I remember the first time he was second at a big event. Phillip won the CIC** on Baileywick at Red Hills, and Cooper was second. I remember thinking Cooper knew he didn’t lead the victory gallop. That horse gave me so many amazing memories...so, so many...more than I could ever deserve.
He’s led me to meet, train and compete against the most amazing people. Cooper had a few "owners" that he acquired through his eventing career. The first was Wayne Quarles, who judged Cooper’s first novice. He got a 22 and won that event. I remember Wayne telling me, “You take care of my horse. This one is special. This one will take you places.”
Wayne has been a part of Cooper’s career ever since. He always tells me to take care of his horse. (I kept telling him if he owned him, he could help pay for him too!)
Then I moved to the East Coast and met Mike Huber at Champagne Run where Cooper was going preliminary. He tried to buy Cooper off of me. Obviously, I didn't sell him, but ever since he called Cooper his horse as well.
Mike Huber came up to me after NAYRC when I won and told me to take good care of his horse and not go running around winning every intermediate in America. He told me Cooper was going to win big kid medals one day, and I should take care of him. Cooper only ran for time at two events after that day.
Karen O'Connor tried to convince me this year that I was too big for Cooper (as a joke of course), and every time I saw her, she would remind me that I was still looking a bit too big for him, and maybe she should take over the ride.
I could ramble on and on about all the amazing people Cooper has brought into my life...he was so special, and it kills me that he never got to be all that he could have been or at least had some sort of happier ending than this.
I will keep remembering him—every time I climbed on his back and thought he’s that horse.
If you have a favorite photo that you've taken of Cooper, and you'd like to include it in the photo gallery, email the photo to email@example.com. It has to be a photo you've taken, not one you've bought from a professional. Include your name, where the photo was taken, and why Cooper was special to you.