Eventing fans may know Cooley On Show as a big, gray cross-country machine with perfect knees over fences, but there’s so much more than meets the eye. With Sharon White, the 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ricardo Z—Jogantina, Grand d’Espagne) has racked up a multitude of top-10 performances in FEI competition, including finishing on their dressage score at the 2018 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event to place eighth overall. While “Louie” may be one cool customer around the barn, he does have a Mr. Hyde side to his Dr. Jekyll personality.
Read on to learn more.
• The majority of the time, Cooley On Show lives up to his name as the coolest dude you’ll ever meet. “He’s so loveable and squeezable and laidback,” said White. “Plus he makes this cute little snorting sound all the time. It’s the most adorable thing you’ve ever heard.”
• According to White, if her horse was a person, he’d be the cool quarterback of a football team. “Someone who lives on pizza and beer while partying all the time and never really has to try, but is still a star athlete and gets straight As,” she said with a laugh.
• Louie’s calm, cool and deliberate attitude is perfect for White. “I am definitely not a Joe Cool type; I can be intense with a perfectionist personality, and he is so laidback about just about everything, so we suit each other to a T,” she said.
• Although they’re great partners now, their relationship got off to a bit of a rough start. “When I first got him, I literally couldn’t make him canter,” said White. “He was so lazy, and I felt so stupid for not being able to even get him to go. But then we got to our first competition, and it was like someone flipped a switch, and all of a sudden I was on a completely different horse! I actually missed a fence on cross-country because he was so much fun. I was so blown away and fascinated by this new creature that I just went right past a fence and never saw it!”
• White describes Louie as the most fun, competitive horse she’s ever had, and the more people watching, the better. “He thrives on it,” she said. “Going cross-country on him is like being surrounded by a bubble of sheer joy. It should be illegal to have that much fun out there. Knowing how cool he is around the barn, sometimes it’s hard to reconcile how he turns into such a machine on cross-country.”
• In the past, Louie’s enthusiasm for his job could be a problem before heading out on course. “He used to be awful in the start box because he got so overexcited about getting to go cross-country,” White admitted. “He would be insane in the warm-up and then impossible in the start box, to the point where I was afraid we might get hurt. So over the first few years, we drove him around to so many events as a non-competitor, where we put on all of our gear and just hung out around the start boxes. We also did a lot of groundwork, and now he’s much better. But I’m still very careful how I warm him up. Someone called me a ninja because I warm up privately away from everyone else and then just show up at the start box ready to go. But that’s just the best thing for him and everyone else because his antics can be distracting for others too, and I never would want to interrupt anyone’s warm-up. They say that the first three fences of the cross-country course are your warm-up jumps, and that is definitely true with him!”
• Louie can be weird about his personal space, and when he first came to her barn, White couldn’t go into the stall alone with him. “He would literally attack you,” she said. “All of a sudden he’d come at you and try to trap you. You can see it happen—a certain look comes over his face, and I’m like, ‘Abandon ship! Abandon ship!’ It’s the weirdest thing.
“He actually chased me out of the field when we were at Luhmühlen (Germany),” she continued. “I went out to the paddock to say hi and give him a carrot. He was just grazing happily and looks up at me, and all of a sudden I see his face change, and I say, ‘Oh no!’ He comes at me with his ears pinned, and I start running and screaming.
“It’s funny now to talk about because I know he adores me, but he is weird about his space,” she added. “What’s even weirder about it is that he’s so laidback about the episodes; it’s like he just all of a sudden says very matter-of-factly, ‘I’m going to kill you now.’ There’s no emotion involved. Even though he’s much, much better now, and 90% of the time he’s fine, out of respect for him we never entirely let our guard down.”
• Treats are the way to Louie’s heart. “He thinks I’m a walking Pez dispenser, and I use that treat motivation to our advantage,” White said. “He’s very one-track minded, so if we have to do something to him that he doesn’t like, we just get him to focus on treats, and then it’s no problem because he’s all-in on that treat. He’s a little bit like that in his training too—learning some new things can be difficult, but then once he knows it, he’s got it for good.”
• Louie will use any available opportunity to put anything in his mouth. “We’ve tried toys with him, but they’re not that interesting for him—he wants what you have instead,” White said with a laugh. “He loves to carry his own lead rope around or carry your whip for you. He’s very helpful in that regard!”