By Fernando Cardenas, DVM
Common sense says it takes “a village” to raise a child.
Less common knowledge (yet equally true), is that equestrian show-jumping requires “a team”. Unlike ball sports on the court, horseback riding in the arena is viewed as a “solo-sport”. Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. Yes, our spectators see only a single rider enter a nearly silent ring on horseback, but no rider gets to the end gate on his own. More often than not, five minutes of performance require at least as many people behind the scenes.
For this, I am not just grateful but indebted. I’m surrounded by priceless volunteers, including unsung family, friends and colleagues who help and encourage in ways untold so that I can have the privilege of five minutes of single-focus with single steps. My hands-on inner circle is a small one: a team in clinic, and a team in the ring. These individuals have taught me the very definition of TEAM, by their own example. Specifically, my dad, Fernando Cardenas, sr., is the accomplished equestrian, who has bred most of the horses I ride. He continuously shares an ever-impressive body of horse knowledge, garnered from a lifetime of dedication to the sport. Similarly, my trainer and coach, Manuel Torres, has elevated his passion for horses to the level of 5-time Olympian. My staff works tirelessly six days a week to run 3H vet, caring for, conditioning and rehabbing our horses. We distinguish ourselves from other vet practices by our team approach. Finally, I rely equally heavily on the awesome individuals who accompany me to shows. Far more than horse-handlers, grooms, rig-drivers, administrative assistants or a reliable jump crew, these people are my friends. No words can contain my gratitude.
To love your work and love the people you work for is a privilege. Some never get such a “chance” because chance, itself, is a funny thing. Is chance a lucky break or a matter of timing? A series of fortunate events and coincidences, or the predictable result of hard work? No one knows for sure, but scoring a win together puts broad smiles on all the faces in our time. Similarly, through thick and thin, they have been there and gone the distance, especially during the disastrous fire that threatened to destroy us. It did not; it could not because our teams held strong. I know, too, I can never compensate them for all they deserve. They continue to be involved every step of the way, often leaving home before daylight only to get up and do it all over again the next day. But make no mistake: it’s not just the winning that gets them out of bed in the morning. These teams are comprised of those precious few who love the horses so much that their joy, like mine, is in seeing the horses excel, too. 3H boasts of Patient Superstars in the Clinic, and nobody out-cheers us in the ring.
In some ways, we are like the very horses we serve. The horses do an awful lot of hard work (approximately 40 jumps in every grand prix class), meet every challenge (rarely training at home over 1.50 fences) and they take “a lickin” (bruises and muscle strain on occasion). The horses do it all for a few carrots and apples! We do it so we can love what we do and continue to grow as a team.
PS: I want to believe the horses love their “village”, and their jobs, too.