Shallary Guymon’s smile was as big and bright as the Wasatch mountains that surrounded her in Ogden, Utah at Golden Spike Horse Trials. “We won!” Guymon said as she took a picture on Sunday afternoon. The pair, Shallary Guymon and Coco Chanel, won the Preliminary/Training (P/T) division at the Golden Spike Horse Trials on June 15-16, 2019. It was their first win together and the first ever win for Coco Chanel. But, behind their blue comes a story with a fighting spirit that breaks typical norms and defies the odds of gravity.
Anything but the norm is Coco Chanel (aka Coco), a 2007 Quarter Horse Friesian cross mare owned by Ingrid George and ridden by Shallary Guymon. The 12-year-old mare stands at 14.1 hands which is, by definition, a pony. A pony with a will that’s as strong as her hooves, Coco Chanel goes year-round barefoot. Guymon explains that the barefoot pony, “is an interesting one. She could jump out of any grid you put in front of her and knew all of the dressage movements, but she couldn't stand tied to save her life. She wouldn't leave her friends. She refused to walk on a loose rein. She wouldn't dream of halting on command. And it's not for anyone's lack of trying! She's just really good at training humans. The moment you get upset is the moment Coco wins. So, you never, ever, get upset at Coco.”
“She has been given away multiple times now. Ingrid [George] got her for free, basically because she’s a dragon and the previous owner knew Ingrid could ride her,” said Guymon
Ingrid George shared the story of how she was first given the mare. “Coco’s first owner purchased her because she wanted to own a Friesian horse, but at that time Coco was barely halter broke. One day, I was leading her behind the barn and a tarp flew on a haystack and the pony levitated off the ground like straight up above our heads. Her owner freaked out and asked me, ‘I thought you liked this horse?’ I said, 'I love this horse, I think she’s great,' and that’s when her previous owner said, ‘Well, she’s yours.'”
“She’s scopey and talented, but the last time Ingrid competed her was at Golden Spike [in 2015],” said Guymon. “I love her, but I do not love riding her,” added George. After Coco wouldn’t leave the warmup and ultimately ended up retiring from the competition, George passed the reins over to Guymon.
“In the beginning, my motto for any and all Coco interactions was ‘Don't let her train you’. I got her in November and spent that entire winter sitting around on her bareback, out in the snow, feeding her cookies. We eventually progressed from standing around to walking through the herd and feeding cookies to her friends from her back. She especially hated that. She wanted all of the attention and all of the cookies, and she didn't understand why I was doing neither of those things. At some point, I think she decided I was actually too stupid to be trained, and she would just have to babysit me instead. That's been our agreement ever since,” said Guymon.
“For the first year or so, I was mostly a monkey on her back, sometimes telling her things that she would promptly ignore. This past year, my input as a rider has become, dare I say, useful. Now she takes my input into consideration occasionally, and sometimes even agrees with me! She still thinks I'm pretty stupid, but I think she likes that. It lets her think that she's in charge because let's face it: she is.”
The talent that Guymon mentioned was on display as the powerhouse mare cleared heights of 3’7” in the Preliminary show jumping and fired around cross-country to jump clean on Sunday, June 16 at the Golden Spike Horse Trials. “I had so much fun,” said Guymon after she finished her cross-country round with the ‘dragon’ who is known as Coco.
Ingrid George took Coco to her first event in 2014 and successfully moved up to Training level by summer 2015. Two years later, in 2017, Shallary Guymon and Coco competed at their first event together and returned to Golden Spike in 2019 to win the P/T division. Under the watchful eye of Ingrid George and Christian Eagles, Shallary Guymon and Coco Chanel compete across Area VII and Area IX. With a special partnership and strong will, they have their eyes set on Preliminary at The Event at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell, Montana.
The USEA is made up of over 12,000 members, each with their own special horses and experiences. The USEA's Now on Course series highlights the many unique stories of our membership. Do you and your horse have a tale to tell? Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Submit your story to Jessica Duffy at [email protected] to be featured.
All the major contenders passed the eventing final horse inspection at the Tokyo Olympics and will carry on to contest the show jumping phase in a few hours’ time.
The ground jury (Nick Burton, GBR, Christina Klingspor, SWE, and the U.S.A.’s Jane Hamlin) and vets only failed to accept one horse - Fantastic Frieda, ridden by Poland’s Joanna Pawlak, who had completed the cross-country in 41st place with a refusal and 25.2 time-faults.
The FEI has announced that the Swiss horse Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel has had to be euthanized after pulling up extremely lame on the Sea Forest Cross Country Course during Equestrian Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on August 1, 2021.
In 2002, at the age of 15, I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Maine while Tremaine Cooper was there building some cross-country jumps. I helped him build a trakehner, not realizing that this day would set the course for my future. A few weeks later he called asking if I could help him at Millbrook Horse Trials. From there I helped Tremaine during most of my school vacations and throughout the summers. After graduating high school I kept at it never looking back. I lived the gypsy lifestyle for about six years going from coast to coast and event to event. In 2013 my wife Kathryn and I settled down in Lexington, Kentucky. These days I spend roughly 60-75 percent of my time on the road preparing events or building private schooling areas. I’ve had the privilege of being involved with some really great events around the states and have cultivated many friendships all over the country. In 2019 I was asked to be a part of Team Evans Olympic cross-country building crew. As I write this I am on my third trip to Tokyo. Here’s a day in Tokyo . . .
The British team cemented their gold medal position at the Tokyo Olympics with three magnificent cross-country performances, all clear inside the time. Added to that, their first rider, Oliver Townend, holds pole position individually after the dressage leader, Germany’s Michael Jung, picked up 11 penalties for triggering a frangible device.