Caracole is now the #1 Horse in US and Karl Cook is the #2 Rider 

Karl Cook and Caracole de la Roque (Zandor Z x Kannan GFE x Quick Star) were the top US rider/horse pairs in CSIO 5* in Rome and La Baule in France. In a true test of stamina, Karl and Caracole jumped eight 1.6M rounds over 19 days in 2 Nations Cups and 2 Grand Prix’s each week at the maximum height of 1.6M for a total of 8 rounds, 122 individual jumps and only 2 rails fell. This level of consistency, stamina and soundness hasn’t been recorded since the 1996 Olympic Year of CSIO 5* events, and maybe even further back!* The most recent USEF Rider and Horse Ranking Poll confirms these amazing results! Karl Cook is now the #2 Rider in the US and Caracole de la Roque is the #1 horse in the US, according to the Rolex/USEF Show Jumping Ranking List published June 14, 2024. 

Showing their blistering speed, the pair won the Rolex Rome Grand Prix by 1.31 seconds and just missed winning the Grand Prix of La Baule by .13 seconds, a near photo finish, to beat Europe’s and the US’s top Olympic-level riders. Karl gave much of the credit to his amazing French-bred mare, Caracole de la Roque (age 12 years) saying, riding her is “a bit like lighting a rocket, and you can’t turn it off, so you just have to point her in the right direction.” Caracole loves to compete and seems to rise to the occasion as the classes and the crowds get bigger. She has really quick footspeed and spends the minimum of time in the air over the fences which makes her very competitive when there is a need for speed. Evidence for this includes her Nations Cup performances where she was the fastest of the US team in each of the 4 rounds.

Learning to ride Caracole for top results has been an educational experience for Karl as she goes in a hackamore and she shows barefoot. A hackamore is a bridle without a bit in the horse’s mouth so the rider has fewer controls to steer and steady the horse, and works in entirely different ways than a typical bridle with a bit. Initially, Karl tried riding Caracole in a bridle with a pelham bit. Eric Navet, Karl’s longtime trainer, said, “We found out that Caracole did not like to show with a pelham, and she made us understand that she wanted to show in a hackamore. So, Karl had no other choice than to learn how to ride her for top results using a hackamore.” 

Caracole has always gone without shoes and even her previous rider, Julian Epaillard (France), kept her unshod as they rose up the levels. Competing in the beautiful shows of Rome and La Baule presented a challenge because they are on grass which can be much more slippery than riding on sand.

When horses show on grass, they wear studs which are like cleats but are screwed into the shoes for the competition. But you can’t use studs if the horse isn’t wearing shoes. Karl and his team came up with a plan to use plastic shoes. Since Caracole was used to jumping barefoot and studs can add significant weight, Karl came up with a plan to make very lightweight, but strong studs using titanium, which Karl machined himself. 

Mostly, the plan worked great…except for the jump off in the Grand Prix of Rome where half-way through the jump off, some nails in a hind shoe came off and the shoe rotated 90° and then finally flew off over the last jump! It didn’t slow Caracole down as she finished 1.31 seconds faster than the second place finisher. 

Both the Rome and the La Baule shows attracted the very top International Riders as all were competing to make their own countries’ Olympic Teams. But La Baule was so special because Caracole has her own fan club of enthusiastic French fans who follow all of her top performances. Many came out for the La Baule show to welcome her back to top competition on French soil. 

Showing in Rome and then one and a half week later at such prestigious 5* CSIO shows can be really hard on a horse, but Caracole has been really sound and is cared for by Philippe Benoit who has been the French Team vet. “This mare has been one of the soundest horses I have been lucky to take care of in my 30 years of practicing. This mare is a warrior, and adjusts incredibly well to different environments compared to others. She is also kind, and amazingly responsive to the physiotherapy.

These recent unprecedented results build on Karl’s strong 2023 year where he and his horse Kalinka van t’ Zorglievet were the USEF Grand Prix horse of the year and Karl was the top Major League Show jumping rider of the year. 

Karl and Caracole’s outstanding performance in Europe is so rare that we want to celebrate and call attention to them as we look forward to championship competitions in the future! 


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