Three Saddles, a Shoeing Kit, and Labels Galore: Karl Cook Does Not Take Show Packing Lightly

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arl Cook’s spring is in full bloom — and I’m not just talking about the epic butterfly migration happening in southern Cali (although those painted ladies sure are pretty). After a successful circuit in the desert, Karl and crew packed up and headed to Blenheim, where Karl scored a win in the $40,000 1.50m Gold Tour Welcome Speed Stake aboard longtime partner Caillou 24.

As team Pomponio Ranch prepares to hit the road yet again — this time to show at the Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix at the Horse Park in Lexington — it’s vital that Karl’s tack trunks stay organized. Packing ‘light’ isn’t an option when it comes to traveling with horses, but Karl doesn’t mind. His motto when it comes to show setup and barn organization? “It has to function first.”

Bits
“It’s amazing how homogeneous all the bits are ... There are hundreds of bits that are there, but I can give you five and you can make do with 98% of the problems,” says Karl about his jam-packed bit box. “I only use five bits.”

Bridles
“All my bridles are custom made and they’re all made to be specific for what they’re used for,” Karl shares. “Everything matches [and] everything looks appropriate.”

Reins
“We keep a wide variety of them: super thick ones, different thicknesses of flat reins. We also keep some rubber reins new, some rubber reins used, because of feel.”

Saddles and Girths
“The saddles are labeled with numbers and the horses [have] their first, second, third saddle,” Karl says. “We [also] label the girths. We put a piece of tape on it, so yellow, red, and blue, and they pertain to the size.”

[INSIDER] Karl has some no-nonsense advice for dealing with show nerves.

Therapy
Karl is insistent on making sure the horses stay comfortable while traveling. “We bring all of our machine stuff. Shockwave machines, nebulizer machines, laser machines.” Their mental health is important, too: “We bring lots of toys. It’s better for us to own it.”

Shoeing
“We always travel with a trunk with all their old shoes in it, so if they pull a shoe and they lose it, we have it,” he says. “If a nail is loose, we can pull it. If the shoe needs to be pulled off, we can pull it. If some of the nails get a little loose, we can tighten them. I just like being able to do what I need to do without having to call some shoer.”

Hay
“We do bring our own hay, generally, from home whenever we can so that we don’t have to change hays. We test all of our hay to make sure it has the right levels of nutrients. We’ve sent whole semi-truck loads of hay back.”

Ring Bag
“Different nosebands, blinkers, rubber bands, safety pins, combs, scissors. We’ll have a leather punch in here in case we need an extra hole. Earplugs on the side here, Vaseline for the bit. Different reins, a halter, [and] the lucky pink hoof pick.”

That’s definitely the Boy Scout approach to tack trunk organization. And Karl, you make our OCD so happy.

Editor's note: Whoopsie! We were so impressed by Karl's organizational skills that we miscounted the number of saddles he had at the show. Previously, we reported he packed three saddles per horse, and while that sounds pretty great, it was not the correct count.

Read this next: What Olivier Philippaerts Is (And Isn’t!) Packing for Longines Masters of New York

All photos by Anasofia Vazquez for NoelleFloyd.com. 

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Written by Kate Kosnoff

Kate Kosnoff is an equestrian journalist, blogger and photographer. When she isn’t working, Kate can usually be found sipping green tea, scrolling through Twitter, or petting her horses—sometimes a combination of the three. She is based in Indiana and can often be spotted in jumper rings across the Midwest and Florida aboard her strawberry roan, Waffle.