What's Happening at Team Symphony
Rule #1. Breeding is always a risk. Never forget that while imagining the gorgeous foal that you will take to the Olympic Games in 2020 ...
Here at Symphony Dressage Stables, we have a small, but mighty breeding program. The first 3 mares we bred are now competing in the FEI levels, and our Rocky just broke that barrier last season with his first Prix St Georges and Intermediare 1! This story is all about Rodarte, aka Rocky. I started calling him Rocky after watching him fight to live from from his very first day.
Jan Handlers and I bred Free Spirit (7th in the nation in her Hanoverian mare inspection) to Rousseau (need I say more?). We had dreams filled with sugarplums and Olympic medals! Spirit conceived right away, and the pregnancy stayed on track. We sent her to the local vet hospital to foal. She gave birth to a magnificent black colt on July 21, 2010. When I got there, I gasped, he was so beautiful! But then he tried to get up...
That was not so beautiful. He had severely contracted tendons in both front legs. The tendons running along the back of his front legs would not stretch enough to let his heels touch the ground. He stood like a crab, with his knees out in front, on his tippy toes. The next day, he could only get one front leg out, the other dragged under his body. By the third day, he just shuffled around on his knees with his butt in the air. It was a pretty awful sight. Fortunately, he was tall enough to nurse from his knees.
We agonized over the vet's recommendation to consider euthanasia and breed again. Our regular vet was out of town. After a day or two of diagnostic tests, we had a healthy foal except that he couldn't stand up. I finally got my vet on the phone to update him on the foal's status. Dr. John Halford said to bring him home, he would meet us there.
We got Rocky up into the trailer and drove the 10 minutes to the barn. I carried him to his stall with a frantic mom in tow. Then, all of my clients started crying! He was a really pitiful sight shuffling on his knees trying to keep up with mom in a 24 x 24 stall. They settled down quickly though, the horses, that is. The people were in varying states of despair.
When Dr. Halford arrived, he calmed everyone when he said, "We can fix this." That was when Rocky started to resemble Forrest Gump. We wrapped enormous rolls of sheet cotton around his entire front legs from hoof to elbow. Then at least an entire roll of vet wrap was added to each leg. Finally, a length of a PVC pipe was secured with duct tape to the back of his legs for support.
We found a halter that could be used as a harness. The nose part went around his neck while the buckle went around his girth. We then had a handle on his back. This was necessary to help him stand several times a day to put pressure on those tendons. At first, the PVC splint was positioned so his toe and the splint touched the ground at the same time. Over the next several weeks, we gradually re-positioned the splint so that the toe and the heel would reach the ground more and more.
For the first few weeks, he could not get up on his own. We moved our travel trailer to the barn and lived there 24/7 to get him up every hour. After a week or two, we attached the halter to a lunge line looped over the rafters in the barn. This allowed him to walk a little with support.
Jan, his owner and breeder, was going through her own issues with a frozen shoulder. She felt terrible that she couldn't help while everyone at Team Symphony was helping so much. No one minded the time spent; we were all set on the same goal.
One day, we had a little bit of an argument about whether to give him more time to get better or to euthanize him. Of course no one wanted that, but it was hard to see him struggle and be so dependent on us for everything. On top of that, we didn't really know if it would help him in the long run. While we were having this mildly heated discussion, Rocky got up on his own for the first time! I'm sure that he knew what we were talking about, and he said to himself, "I'll show them!" That was the last time we talked about euthanasia.
After that, Rocky improved steadily and didn't need as much help. At 3 months, he and his half brother, R Star from our Grand Prix mare Nova, went to their American Hanoverian Inspection. For Rocky, this was his very first time running at his dam's side. We were all holding our breath. I was hoping that he wouldn't trip and fall or otherwise injure himself!
He was amazing! The judges starting talking about his nice suspension, etc. I don't think any of us really listened. He TROTTED! That was the AMAZING part.
He proceeded with growing up, and then it came time to start him under saddle. His forearms were still under-developed due to having the wrap around them in the first months of his life. In the beginning, he tripped often. My assistant trainer, Jackie Duncan, had the ride. She did a beautiful job and even took him to CDS Junior Championships and won her division!
Earlier in the season, I had ridden him in the FEI Young Horse 4-year-old class at San Juan Capistrano. His first time out he ranked 7th in the nation! He and I continued on to Second Level coming in 3rd with a 70% at the CDS and USDF Championships. This past season, we took a show break to get some concentrated training in. He showed PSG for the first time earning a 64% and is now moving on to Intermediare 1. At home, he is schooling one tempis and piaffe/passage.
He loves his work, and he loves to please. One clinician almost made me cry. After hearing his story, she said, "He seems to know how much you have given him, and he wants to give as much back to you."
Watch Rodarte, aka Rocky, as he continues moving through the levels. He's going to knock your socks off. He will have his ears up with bright eyes while doing it. He definitely has the eye of the tiger!
Thank you to all of Team Symphony, past and present, for your help and support of this wonderful miracle baby!
It's raining in California! It's great for the environment, but not so great for riding . So, I got on my yoga ball to show you how I ask for leg yield, shoulder in, haunches in, canter, and counter canter. I hope this helps you practice your riding on a rainy day!
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Chemaine Hurtado, owner of Symphony Dressage Stables, professionally trains horses and riders of all levels. Chemaine holds her Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals with the United States Dressage Federation. In addition, she has also earned her USDF Gold, Silver, and Bronze Freestyle Bars, a feat accomplished by very few riders. Team Symphony, her group of junior and amateur riders, has also enjoyed many years of success in both English and western dressage.