Champion Conformation Hunter Cold Harbor "has always had owners who allow the schedule to be tailored to him. Every major decision is made as a group, always taking into consideration what's best for the horse," said rider Hunt Tosh.
"I always hate to say 'horse of a lifetime' because you hope there's going to be another one, but we do spoil Cold Harbor," said Hunt. "My daughter feeds him too many carrots. But he spoils us, too. Horses like this get whatever they want."
Learn more about the top care that Cold Harbor receives and the support team that give it to him.
Occupation: Show hunter
Hometown: Milton, Georgia
Height: 16.2 hands
Cold Harbor’s people:
Owner: Dr. Betsee Parker
Rider: Hunt Tosh
Groom: Jose Guiterezz
Major accomplishments: Cold Harbor has won more than 50 championships and reserve championships in Conformation Hunter divisions on the East Coast in the last five years. In 2011, his first full year of competition with Hunt, his accolades included the Capital Challenge Grand Hunter Championship, the HITS Ocala Green Conformation Hunter Circuit Championship and the U.S. Equestrian Federation Limited Green Conformation Horse of the Year award. Last year, he won the Devon Horse Show Regular Conformation Hunter Championship and was the Regular Conformation Reserve Champion at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show. The National Show Hunter Hall of Fame named him the 2011 Green Conformation Hunter Horse of the Year and the 2012 and 2014 Regular Conformation Hunter Horse of the Year.
Background: Hunt fell in love with Larson when he saw him in a video of German prospects for Douglas Wheeler in 2010. Douglas imported the 5-year-old that fall. The following year, he was jumping so well “that we went straight into First-Year Greens,” says Hunt. “He never did the Pre-Greens. Looking back, we may have been a little bold, but he was champion at every show that first year.
“He’s the epitome of a hunter,” Hunt continues. “He’s a beautiful mover, beautiful jumper and beautiful horse, and he has the heart to win. Whenever we look at new prospects, we compare them to him. He is also super sweet, loves attention and is the most well-mannered horse we have.” Larson is everybody’s favorite, especially Hunt’s 9-year-old daughter, Maddie’s. “He was sweet with her even years ago, when she was younger.”
Dr. Betsee Parker bought Larson from Douglas in 2012. “Much of his continued success is due to her support,” says Hunt. “She allows us to do what’s best for him, which includes limiting his season to only 10 or 12 shows a year. Instead of showing week-in and week-out, we build him up to peak at certain shows, such as Devon in the spring and Indoors in the fall.” In November and December, he enjoys some downtime although Hunt continues to keep him in light work—hacking and trail riding—so he doesn’t lose his condition entirely. He starts to gear up for the next show season after Christmas when the barn goes to Florida.
Daily routine: Larson has an oversized broodmare stall at the end of the aisle overlooking the fields and ring. “He stands with his head out the window 90 percent of the time, daydreaming and watching us ride all day long.” Larson also loves his turnout in a large, grassy pasture for about four hours each day.
Even though Hunt has exercise riders on staff, he usually rides Larson “because he’s such a pleasure to ride. I usually do him first. He puts me in a good mood.” He jumps the horse only a few times before shows and over small jumps before starting the season in Florida. “We do lots of flatwork to keep him fit and ride in the field quite a bit. He’s great to trail ride.”
In addition to his five or six rides each week, Larson also walks on the treadmill about three days a week, doing some work on an incline to maintain condition.
Jose Guiterezz has taken care of Larson since his first day on the farm. “I’m lucky that I have such good help,” says Hunt. “Larson gets lots of rubbing. We try to pay extra special attention to his coat because he’s a Conformation Hunter. But he’s so healthy and beautiful that we don’t have to do anything besides what we do with all our other horses.”
Larson wears stable bandages on his front legs every night and ice boots after jump schools or other hard work. Jose poultices all four of his legs at shows the nights before and after he competes. “Knock on wood, he’s a sound horse with great feet,” says Hunt. “He’s easy on himself, which makes it easier for us.”
The only special care Larson requires is an extra-soft halter. “He has sensitive skin, and we don’t want to irritate it and make his hair fall out. He can’t wear sheepskin so when we ship him he rides loose in a box stall with no halter.”
Nutrition: An easy keeper, Larson doesn’t need much grain to maintain his show condition. He eats a low-sugar and -starch grain, Legends CarbCare Show & Pleasure, and free-choice alfalfa-orchard grass hay. “I’m not a huge supplementer,” Hunt adds. Larson gets just a hoof supplement, Farrier’s Formula®, and a multivitamin/fatty-acid supplement, Nu-Image®, which brings out the shine in his coat, plus plenty of carrots. Maddie has also turned him on to peppermints.
Other care: Hunt credits his vet and farrier for helping to keep Larson in top form. Although he doesn’t bother with many other alternative therapies, he does use injectable joint-support products. “I’m a big believer of Adequan® and Legend®,” he says. “Larson stays on a series of both year-round.”
As a Conformation Hunter, Larson’s movement is especially critical and his shoeing plays a role with that. Shod every four weeks, he wears aluminum shoes on his front feet during the show season. Hunt explains that this lighter material produces the flatter, floating movement desired in the under-saddle classes. In the off–season, however, Hunt puts steel shoes on the horse. “Even though they’re heavier, they flex better with the foot, allowing it to flex and grow.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Practical Horseman.