I think the ups and downs of horses are something that we all know about. We either learn before getting into the sport or shortly after. Any rider or trainer is willing to hand out stories of horses that have died or come back from awful situations.
I’ve had quite a few myself, but I never imagined it would continue with Cooper. To be quite honest, Cooper got put on a pedestal in my eyes. He wasn’t just a great horse that won some shows. He changed my life. He got me my job at Phillip’s, he got me every sponsor, and he has made some of my dreams come true. Not to be corny, but I know that’s the truth.
Cooper has taught me that luck can change and that persistence pays off. I think I started to think of Cooper as being this invincible creature. He was perfect for so long. He was never lame, never stopped, perfect in the dressage, always show jumped clean. He’s amazing, and I took it for granted.
Things don’t stay perfect, and horses get knocked of these pedestals all the time. Karen O’Connor told me once that you’re only as good as your last competition. I think there’s some truth to that in your feelings and confidence, but although Fair Hill and Bramham didn’t go as planned, I hope Cooper is thought of as more than that.
At Fair Hill he was show jumping unreal, and I came around the turn to a skinny oxer that sat next to a cross-country jump. As I made the turn, I got that feeling that I was spot on. I can’t really explain it, but it’s like when you know you’re right from like eight out. And then he was looking at the jump. His focus was elsewhere. I think he was looking at the cross-country jump. It was weird. I didn’t get his focus on the jump he was supposed to be jumping until the take-off stride, and by that point there really wasn’t a distance or any real chance of him jumping. He crashed straight into it.
Standing there I thought to myself, “I can’t believe that just happened.” It was an unreal round. Then Mark Phillips signaled me over, and Cooper was lame, so I retired in the ring.
His left hind leg was cut, and he ended up having a serious injury to that leg that required surgery. He still has a shot to come back, and I have faith that he will.
Unfortunately Cooper colicked yesterday and underwent another surgery. I feel so awful for him. It was quite serious, but I am sitting in his stall this morning, and he is alive. I am relieved. If this horse only ever sits in a pasture I am happy. For those who know Cooper, he is the sweetest most loving and kind animal. He seriously is a love.
I’ve been discouraged about eventing lately to be honest. People make up some weird stories, and I get discouraged by things sometimes. But I have to say that the outpouring of support has been incredible.
I’d like to thank Ronald Zabala, Barrett Diehl, Shannon Kinsley, Boyd Martin, Kelley Merrette, Lillian Heard and Emma Ford for being with me last night. Whether waiting the four hours through the surgery or just stopping by it meant a lot. Thank you to the hundreds of people who have emailed me, written on my Facebook page, and the Chronicle Forums (yes, I can’t help myself I read them).
I’d like to thank Captain Mark Phillips, doc Kevin Keane, the vets at New Bolton, and my vet doctor Dave Bogenrief as well.
I’d also like to say upon leaving that Mark Phillips was incredibly supportive on Sunday at Fair Hill, and I am shocked at how concerned he was. I think he cares a lot more for the welfare of the horses than he gets credit for.
Thank you to the Duttons as well. They have been great, and it is a pleasure working for them.