Badminton Horse Trials diary: meet Gaby Cooke and the tricky Sir Roscoe

  • Hello all… I’m Gaby Cooke, I’m 21 years old and a professional event rider. (That sounds rather like a “Blind Date” introduction!)

    Like most people I started eventing through the Pony Club, this is where my love for the sport was established. I went through all the area teams before I started British Eventing. Since then I’ve been truly hooked and left school the summer of 2007 to event full time.

    Thankfully I had a good 2008 season, winning my first event abroad, Jardy CCI* – this meant I didn’t have the headmaster and all the teachers wagging their fingers at me saying “I told you not to leave!” I was then selected for the junior Europeans that summer and then went on to be second at the Weston Park CCI** under-21 champs.

    Sir Roscoe, the fruitcake

    2007 was also the year when we bought Sir Roscoe, who will hopefully take me to my first Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials this year. All I can say is thank goodness I had left school – without doubt we would not have achieved what we have done if I had stayed in education.

    He’s a tricky one to say the least! We knew he was very difficult when we bought him but when we got him home and tried to start training him, he was something else. His whole dressage training had to be undone and go back to three-year-old work, although he was eight. His showjumping was impossible, I’m not joking. I couldn’t even canter him to a pole on the ground without him bolting. One word…. fruitcake!

    In absolute despair we took him cross-country schooling, only to find that I could canter to nice big hedges softly and he would jump them beautifully, make a nice shape and land in balance.

    Gary Parsonage had previously had him for a short time to sell. Gary introduced him to cross-country very well, although he did admit to Roscoe being rather strong! Clearly he had no physical problem. Something must of happened in the past as far as coloured poles are concerned… Back to the drawing board. We were not going to give up on him.

    Since then he has progressed very quickly up the grades, despite needing a few attempts at CCI**s. He gets super strong and went through a phase of leaving the odd knee. In 2009 I bravely entered Blair CIC*** and had the most fantastic and rewarding round.

    By 2010 we were finally starting to get somewhere with him, the dressage work had moved up and by Blair – where we were second in the CCI*** – we had managed to jump an upright in the m ©nage. Same place, same coloured poles, same routine. The hours and hours of blood, sweat, tears and shear gritted-teeth patience were finally starting to pay off. The near broken noses and black eyes were becoming less frequent and he’s only managed to knock my front teeth out once!

    Our first four-star

    With Badminton being so early last season we decided to give it a miss as I just simply would not be able to get the jump training in, as he has to do it at the events. So the big aim was Land Rover Burghley, my most local event and the one I’ve dreamed of doing.

    We had the most horrific prep up to it – he had a very nasty accident at Barbury CIC*** in the water, splitting the muscle in this chest and slicing his elbow down to the bone. Bless him! Being the little Trojan he is, amazingly he coped with the pain and the vets decided I should give Burghley a go, so after just four weeks off he was back in gentle work.

    By the time we got to Burghley he felt fantastic, although his fitness wasn’t where I wanted it and I knew I was going to have to be sensible cross-country. We produce an absolutely personal best dressage test on the Thursday lunchtime which left us 13th at that stage. He was super – it was such a huge relief after him cantering around the arena with his nose horizontal pulling my arms out earlier in the week – not pretty!

    I decided not to ride him Friday morning, but by Friday afternoon he wasn’t himself – he was terribly quiet. I went to give him a canter up the gallop strip, when another horse nipped in front of me and went flying off in front. This is normally my nightmare but Roscoe’s dream – an excuse to bolt! He never took the bridle and that’s when I realised something was wrong.

    Saturday morning wasn’t much better – he’s normally rearing in the start box, and I have to have quite a fight with him at each fence to get him to listen. None of this was happening and it became clear just before fence eight when he flipped his soft palate (read more about this condition here), I was not going to get home. With the wonderful use of hindsight, I wish I had pulled up earlier when I heard that horrendous noise. We live and learn.

    After long investigations, all we could find was that his bloods were horrendously out. However, he’s back on form now and hoping for a successful season. First stop Tweseldown… Let’s hope the brakes work! I’ll let you know how it goes next week.


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