Fernando Cardenas, DVM
Roots and Wings

  • Q: What drives me?
    A: The horse, of course. The horse is the driver.
  • Q: What grounds me?
    A: My family.

From my first backyard pony, “Pildorita”, to my most recent mount or my most recent patient, and every horse in between, the horse is the driver. Whether I deliver a healthy foal, heal a lame limb, improve performance, prolong a healthy life, or jump 1.60 fences, the horse is the driver.

From steering the wheelbarrow as a child to steering 3H as Practice Owner, the horse has been the driver. It’s the horse that drives me to take the small steps every day that make 3H a better place. Every time I do, I feel a little happier, so happiness is the by-product. I also honestly believe that our clients want the same thing, and trust us to deliver on their desire for a healthy partnership with their own horses. The bottom line? When our horses are healthy and happy, we as owners, veterinarians, riders, breeders and trainers are all a little happier, too.

Let me tell you a little personal story: “it’s in the genes”. I was born with a horse-person gene from my father, his father, and his father before him. My dad, (at 76 years of age!), not only still owns and operates 3H Equestrian Center in Florida, but he still confidently rides 6 horses a day, and up at the crack of dawn every single day to feed the herd of 50. The horse is his driver, too.

Long before vet school, riding was my passion, but other riders were beating me in the ring. With next to 0 capital, we realized if we could improve breeding, and prevent or heal injuries, we would one day get “there” too. The sky’s the limit with good bloodlines and hard work, we reasoned, so we set out to improve our breeding program by importing stallions and mares from France in 1987, while continuing to refine our training methodology “by littles”. It took a while but the proof is in the pudding: two horses out of those first imports starred in the 2015 PanAm Games and were 2016 Olympic contenders. Valentine Car (2009) is now well on his way, having won the 2017 Duke Jump for the Children. Having a better horse to ride, was the driver.

Vet school took me out of the ring for a while but there I learned staying ahead of the curve with innovative technology could make a difference in performance. But without schools to specifically teach about rehabbing a horse, it remained “an art form”. My own horse, Quincy Car, was the driver for the purchase of a treadmill. I believed in his potential but I didn’t have the time to optimally condition him. He, in turn, trusted me to try something new. I honestly believe he would not have been the Olympic contender, nor recovered from the insults of his jumping career, without rehab technology. Quincy’s results have driven me to offer that chance for optimum fitness and recovery to all performance horses.

I’ll never give up on the path to “make it better” with little steps every day because the horse deserves it, and I, personally, want it. But make no mistake: I’ve happily made other choices along the way, because work-life balance is key for me. It’s a complicated dance, this balance. Yes, the horse drives me forward professionally and as a rider, yet it is the every day parenting of our child that grounds me.

Roots and wings are a good thing. Thank you, Hollis!

Go Colombia: PanAM Games 2015 (Wendy Cardenas, 2015)
It's Not All About Me, It Takes a Village

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