In preparation for the Kentucky Three-Day Event, international eventer Sharon White rode her 14-year-old gelding, Cooley On Show, at the Carolina International Horse Trials CCI4*-S. Following the show jumping phase on day two of Carolina, I spoke with White about her five-star mount and how they're getting ready for the CCI5*-L at Kentucky.
Can you tell us about Cooley On Show — your top mount for the Kentucky Three-Day Event?
Cooley On Show is a 14-year-old Irish Sporthorse. I'm his owner, I've had him since he was 7. This will be his fourth Kentucky. I'm very excited it's happening this year and he is a super, super, super horse. I'm looking very much forward to it.
How did you bring him along?
I have to keep it different for him, he gets really bored. We've come full circle—he was wild when we got him and now he's back to being wild again. It's a very good thing. I went too far to the extreme of a little too quiet. He's like a transformer, so if you can push all the buttons, you're sitting on a world-beater. It's just trying to figure out the exact timing for that, which is not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it is really fun to try.
Does he have any quirks or funny personality traits?
He has a ginormous personality. It's all about Louis, it's Louis' world. He is the most relaxed horse I have ever met in my entire life. No matter if he is like a ball of fire, he is completely relaxed and one hundred percent confident in what he's doing. If that means he's going to kill you, he's completely relaxed and he's very confident that that's what he's going to do. If he's going to go jump the world's best jump, then he's one hundred percent confident that that's what he's going to do. He's very self-assured. He's a very special horse, and I know everyone says that, but he is quite an athlete. It's nice that a horse that's such an athlete loves the sport and has those buttons. Again, it's if I can just get all the buttons right—the right timing that is.
Are there any specific health-care routines that you follow with Cooley On Show and your other horses?
I'm a believer in preventative maintenance. I'm a believer in doing absolutely the most and the best you can for your horses. I treat them like top athletes. We have magnetic blankets and TheraPlates they stand on and massage blankets—they get everything. They get absolutely everything you can do to take care of an athlete. And, I think part of that is what you feed. You cannot out-exercise a bad diet. It's true for humans, it's true for horses. It's so important what you ingest, and Blue Seal has been my feed company for 20 years because they believe like I do—only the best. What you put in your horse you will get out in athletic performance and state of mind. These are athletes, so how they feel in their bodies is really, really important and good nutrition is a ginormous part of that.
We are the caretakers of our horses. It really matters. You're asking them to perform for you. They cannot care for themselves. We've put them in a situation where we have to take care of them. If you're going to do this, you should take care of your horses to the best of your ability at all times. You don't need a magnetic blanket; a curry comb is the same principle. We just happen to do it all because it makes me feel better. But again, good nutrition is absolutely paramount.
How do you prepare mentally and physically for a big event like Kentucky?
Every day. Every day, fastidiously, repetitively. I'm a believer in repetition, so I find things that work and keep on doing them.
What do you think the most challenging part of the Kentucky Three-Day Event might be? Will the absence of spectators come into play?
Spectators or no spectators, if you're at Kentucky, it's a world stage event and the world is going to be seeing it. Whether you're there in person or not, there's this wonderful thing called the internet now, so everyone's going to see anyways. I don't think that not having people there matters at all. [Kentucky] is absolutely a place where your strength of character and as a competitor will be tested, which is one of the beautiful things about it.
Do you have any pre-show routines?
I probably have a lot of them, except I don't know them. I just do the same routines consistently. And, probably my car. It's my little place where I can go and meditate and get myself in my zone.