Despite not starting until nearly 11 p.m, the puissance class at the 1984 Monterey National Horse Show (California) enjoyed respectable attendance. The high walls of the indoor arena were lined with people resting their elbows on the boards to watch six competitors attempt the famous wall. The youngest of those riders was Candice King, then 15, who perched aboard a large, spotted gelding named Chocolate Mousse.
“Hap [Hansen, my trainer,] went to my parents and told them I could get some good experience in the puissance,” King said. “The class needed more entries, and [Hap] felt like we were up to the challenge. There were four professionals entered, plus Cara Anthony, who was an amateur at the time, and myself as the only junior. It was my first puissance, and it went really well! Chocolate Mousse just kept jumping. I remember the last round going down to it and realizing that I was looking up at the top of the wall, but we cleared it!
“My dad was so nervous,” remembered King. “After every round he was like, ‘No more, that’s enough, time to quit!’ And Hap said, ‘No, they’re good! They’re doing well!’ And he kept having me go back while my dad was a nervous wreck running up and down the side of the ring. That was a great night. I was very excited at the end, and there was an adrenaline rush that gave me the taste for jumping big jumps and set me on the path I’ve continued in my career.”
King acquired “Mousse” as a 4-year-old when she was 12. He’d originally been spotted at a western barn in northern California, where his jumping ability set him apart from his reining and cow-pony stablemates.
“Steve Bostwick and Matt Colby found him; they were young professionals trying to find horses to train and sell, and they saw he could jump, so they sent him to Joe Lifto in southern California,” said King. “At that time there was a lot of crossover between western and English in California. Joe was known for taking western or racing horses and converting them to show jumping. That same year [as the puissance] we were on the young riders team for Zone 10 and won the Prix de States [Pennsylvania]. A year or two later he was champion at Devon [Pennsylvania] and the Washington International Horse Show [District of Columbia] in the junior jumpers. He took me to my first grand prix; he gave me a lot of firsts.”
Mousse wasn’t the first notable Appaloosa in King’s string. When King was 9 she started riding a horse named Sioux Bobby, who carried her to her first Prix de States competition and introduced her to the Washington International when she was 12.
“Sioux was a roarer, so we didn’t pay much money for him at all,” King said. “He was my first junior jumper, and when I was 12 my mom and I drove all the way to Harrisburg [Pennsylvania] and Washington, D.C., because I qualified for those shows. Sioux took a more aggressive ride than Mousse. If I was positive, he would do anything for me, but he taught me a lot because if I wasn’t right on he would shut down. I definitely figured out how to keep a horse positive and going to the jumps.”
Sioux and Mousse engaged in interesting cross training at King’s family farm in Sunland, California.
“We couldn’t afford to keep my horses in training, so we’d work them on the cattle at home to keep them fit and quick on their feet,” King said. “So the whole time I was jumping these horses, they were coming home and working cattle in between these big horse shows.”
When King outgrew Sioux the family leased him to younger riders until he found a forever home and retired. King and Mousse conquered the jumper ring together for five years before finances forced the family to sell him. But he wasn’t as lucky as Sioux in his new home.
“My parents didn’t have a lot of means, and I was a working student, so we did have to sell [Mousse] to pay for everything,” King said. “My dad was always in the insurance business, and he got a call one day that Mousse was getting turned in for loss of use because he’d gotten hurt. My dad bought him back, and when we got him home to Los Angeles he was totally emaciated; they had to have the vet to give him IVs and tube feed him just to get him strong enough to start eating on his own again. My dad made it a point to get him happy and healthy, and I actually did show him again in an open speed event. We retired him, and he lived in our backyard until he passed away in 2005. Chocolate Mousse was a partner; he wanted to win in every class. He was just like the little horse that could. He was actually a lot like Kismet 50; they had the same attitude; you knew they were going to give 150 percent. ”