Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135 made their names known in 2019 when they won a competitive CCI3*-L at the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International (Maryland).
A successful young rider, Baughman, now 25, works as an assistant trainer to Sharon White at her Last Frontier Farm in Summit Point, West Virginia.
In 2018, Baughman went to Germany to work for a year for Dirk Schrade, and he returned with a ton of experience and a new horse—C’est La Vie 135, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro I—Anette, Aarking xx).
The pair moved up to advanced in late 2019 and last year finished third at the MARS Equestrian Tryon International CCI4*-L (North Carolina). Most recently, they finished fifth at the Maryland International CCI3*-S.
The pair is competing this weekend at the Plantation Field International CCI3*-S (Pennsylvania).
We caught up with Baughman to find out more about “Contendro.”
• Like many upper-level horses, Contendro has his quirks. “He’s a bit of a dingus really!” Baughman said. “He’s a super quirky horse. He doesn’t like to be touched a whole lot, but he likes to touch you, so it’s kind of weird. If he comes up to you really friendly, and you go to rub up on him, he lifts his head and looks down on you and slowly backs away. But if you just stand there then he’ll scratch on you instead.”
• He thinks there are monsters lurking among us.
“He’s always a super laidback, chill horse, then out of nowhere he’ll decide something is going to kill him,” Baughman said. “He’ll be hacking along, and all of a sudden, [he sees] a specific blade of grass, and he won’t go anymore. He just stops, lifts his head and backs away. That’s his go-to.”
• He loves his turn out and goes out from 3 p.m. until 7 a.m.
“It’s a shame because he’s a black horse and sometimes gets a little bleached, but the difference in his personality—he’s completely unmanageable if he’s not turned out. When you do, he’s the most laidback horse in the world,” said Baughman.
• He has his pre-ride ritual.
“Whenever you put a saddle pad on him, he has to stretch,” Baughman said. “He’ll start pawing. At first I was like, ‘Knock it off.’ But I realized if you step back a step or two, he immediately does a downward dog stretch. Then you put the half pad on, and he does it again, then you put the saddle on, and he does it again, and we’re good to go.”
• He knows when to turn it on. “He really knows the difference between when he’s at home and when he’s at the competition,” Baughman said. “It’s night and day. At home, he’s a bit of a donkey. Some days you have great days, and some days it’s like, how is this thing trained? He never disappoints me when we get to the show. Totally relaxed and game face.”
• Despite his quirks, Baughman thinks Contendro is the most simple horse he’s had; he just needs the system that works for him.
“He doesn’t like a lot of people time,” Baughman said. “He goes on his walks, then I normally just leave him alone. If I mess with him all day—get him in and out, pre-ride, do all that stuff—it gets worse. He can be quite hot to ride, but the more you do to try to take the edge off, the sharper he gets. We’ve tried it both ways, and less is way more. We tend to do that and let him do his own thing.”