California Riding Magazine • December, 2009

Symphony Farms
Mission accomplished and then some for top-flight P.R.E. Andalusian breeders.

by Kim F. Miller

The breeding program that wound up sending the first Pura Raza Espanola horse (commonly called an Andalusian in the USA) to a U.S. Olympic dressage selection trial began simply enough. “I had been breeding Tennessee Walking Horses and I wanted to find a three-gaited riding horse,” recalls Margaret Carrera, who runs with her husband Phil Joffe what is now a world-recognized Andalusian breeding endeavor, Symphony Farms.

Located in the Sacramento area’s Auburn, Symphony Farms now stands 2008 U.S. Olympic prospect, Rociero XV, and three other stallions. Carrera and Joffe are excelling in their mission of promoting their stallions and the breed itself through success in open dressage competition and perpetuating the best P.R.E. Andalusian bloodlines in America.

Kristina Harrison with Rociero XV in Oldenburg, Germany.

Rociero is Symphony’s rock star. He has been widely drooled over by Andalusian fans and dressage enthusiasts alike since Los Angeles trainer Kristina Harrison’s exquisite performance with him during the Grand Prix Invitational at the 2007 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. The first Andalusian to qualify for a U.S. Olympic selection trial, Rociero performed there in 2008 in a way that greatly broadened his fan base. Taking a break now from international competition, Rociero will make a priority of his sire services starting in 2010.

Rociero’s fine conformation and beautiful gaits are always on display in the show ring. Equally important but less obvious to fans is his temperament. “He had the best temperament in any horse I’ve ever had,” said former Olympian and selection trials judge and commentator Hilda Gurney, who had Rociero in her barn during earlier phases of his training. Andalusians in general are famous for gentle, willing, intelligent and trainable natures, which is one of the reasons they are so popular with amateur riders. Rociero’s mind represents the breed at its best.

Meanwhile, two of Rociero’s fellow Symphony Farms stallions are preparing to follow in his show ring footsteps. Klickitat recently began training with Steffen Peters in San Diego and Gancho, a maternal brother to Rociero, is in work with Sabine Schut-Kery in Los Angeles. Both are showing impressive potential for dressage.

Steffen Peters with Klickitat.

Purchased from one of the States’ top Andalusian breeders, Amy MacHugh, the beautiful dark bay Klickitat swept the division as a
2-year-old stallion in the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse
Assn. championships. Blessed with a natural piaffe and passage,
Klickitat has a spectacular trot with power and drama to spare in all his gaits and movements.

Carrerra and Joffe predict that Rociero’s jet-black half-brother Gancho, via their dam Bombardina II, may surpass big brother’s successes in the international Grand Prix ring. “He has a similar temperament to Rociero and may be bigger and stronger,” says Carrera of the 16.2 stallion.

Symphony also has a limited amount of semen available on Califa, who was originally owned and trained by three-time Spanish Olympian Juan Matute. His world-class gaits have been described as “Warmblood-like” and he is a proven producer of dressage prospects.

In The Beginning

“I began researching breeds with an eye toward the ‘wild’ breeds that people would really take notice of,” recalls Carrera of what brought her to the Spanish horse. That slant led her to Friesians and Andalusians and, when she narrowed her focus to the latter, she found a breeder nearby.

In short order, Carrera and Joffe owned three Andalusians and decided they wanted to learn more. They travelled to Costa Rica for a seminar on the Spanish Horse and attended the country’s national breed championships. It was a happily fateful trip as Carrera and Joffe met and began their ongoing friendship with Matute. What they saw in Costa Rica was also the catalyst for becoming dressage devotees.

Phil Joffe & Margaret Carrera with Kristina & Rociero at the Olympic Trials.

Carrera asked Matute to find a suitable dressage horse for her, and three months later she was on her way to Spain. There she purchased Bizarro, a coming 4-year-old. The stallion was left with Matute for training and Carrera and Joffe later returned to Spain for the next intensive immersion in the Spanish Horse world when Bizarro became the first American-owned horse to compete in Spain’s Salon Internacional del Caballo, aka “SICAB.” This is the week-long festival and national championship for the Pura Raza Espanola.

Carrera and Joffe describe SICAB as a remarkable experience during which tens of thousands of spectators, including Spain’s royal family, enjoy and fully appreciate performance and conformation classes. Their experiences at SICAB “made us all the more hungry to find more really nice horses to promote in the States,” Carrera explains.

In the ensuing years, they bought several mares and stallions, mostly through Matute, to build the breeding program at Symphony Farms. But they were not looking for another horse when Matute called about Rociero back in 2002. They bought him on Matute’s advice as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a horse of this quality and largely for Margaret to ride and simply enjoy at home. Along with the breeding goals, one of Symphony’s Farm’s priorities is to provide lovely horses for Carrera, notes Joffe, who clearly loves their horses as much as his wife does.

Although Rociero came with no competition-oriented dressage training, he quickly displayed his potential. Early on, Joffe and Carrera challenged themselves to develop an Andalusian with proven potential for the U.S. dressage team. That mission was first accomplished with Rociero in 2008 and seems likely to be repeated.

The Symphony horses only campaign in open dressage competition, rather than breed shows. “That’s the best way to promote the breed’s abilities,” explains Joffe with complete confidence in the Andalusian’s ability to take on the discipline’s dominant Warmblood breeds at any level of the sport.

Because Andalusians comprise a relatively small population, Symphony Farms wants to help build up the breed’s numbers in the United States. Simultaneously, Carrera and Joffe are very selective about who they will allow their stallions to be bred to. The first criterion is that mares must be of the quality to produce offspring with potential to earn their place in the Spain’s P.R.E. studbook. Potential breeders are given priority if they have serious intentions to direct these youngsters toward dressage competition. “We know they may not all grow up to be Grand Prix horses, but we do want them to go to good homes where they will be utilized and made part of the family,” Carrera stresses.

Sabine Schut-Kery with Gancho.

Symphony Farms owns four horses in Spain, including Rociero and Gancho’s dam. But at home they have cut back on the number of mares and young horses they keep in order to focus on campaigning and promoting their stallions. Part of the reason for this is that they find it almost unbearable to part with any of the horses they breed and raise themselves. “It was heartbreaking,” says Joffe. “They are like children to us.”

With Rociero now focused on breeding and two promising youngsters entering the open dressage circuit, Symphony Farms’ endeavors are music to the ears of all who love and appreciate the beautiful Andalusian breed.

For more information on Symphony Farms, visit www.symphonyfarms.com or call 530-823-2409.