Re­mem­ber­ing a Leg­end

The Span­ish horse world loses Miguel Án­gel de Cár­de­nas.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Di­ane E. Bar­ber Pho­tos cour­tesy of Ca­bal­los de C‡rde­nas

The Span­ish horse world loses Miguel Án­gel de Cár­de­nas.

T he Span­ish horse world is mourn­ing the loss of Miguel Án­gel de Cár­de­nas— one of the most highly es­teemed Pura Raza Es­pañola (PRE) breed­ers in the world. Señor Cár­de­nas passed away Feb. 6 in Spain at the age of 83. His beloved Fuego XII be­came his most no­table Ca­bal­los de Cár­de­nas am­bas­sador to the U.S. af­ter the mag­nif­i­cent stal­lion and Olympic dres­sage rider Juan Manuel Muñoz brought the au­di­ence to its feet dur­ing their elec­tri­fy­ing freestyle per­for­mance at the World Eques­trian Games (WEG) in Ken­tucky in 2010.

Some­times we ex­pe­ri­ence mag­i­cal mo­ments that we cher­ish for a life­time. Such was the case for me when I was for­tu­nate enough to be in the grand­stand at the WEG in Ken­tucky where I was cap­ti­vated by Juan Manuel and his mount Fuego as they cap­tured my heart along with the hearts of count­less fans world­wide. Sev­eral years later, more such mem­o­ries were made when my cu­rios­ity and pas­sion for Span­ish horses landed me at the Cár­de­nas farm in An­dalu­sia dur­ing one of my an­nual eques­trian trips to Spain. Not only did I en­joy meet­ing Fuego and spend­ing time with Juan Manuel, Señor Cár­de­nas per­son­ally wel­comed me and guided my tour, which was in­deed an honor. His aris­to­cratic grace, rev­er­ence for his ex­quis­ite PRE horses and gen­tle kind­ness that day will for­ever be em­bla­zoned on my mind. Af­ter visit­ing the sta­bles and walk­ing the grounds, we sat in his of­fice, where he shared pho­tos, books and some of his ac­co­lades with me as his soft eyes glowed with pride. When I re­turned home, I pored over a spe­cial book that he gifted to me, C‡rde­nas—Horses and Home, and delved fur­ther into his life. From the beau­ti­ful pho­to­graphs and sto­ry­telling, I caught a glimpse into his past, his jour­ney with his horses and his ac­com­plish­ments.

Señor Cár­de­nas had an im­mea­sur­able pas­sion for Span­ish horses as well as a deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for beauty, art and his­tory, and he lived a life that was richly steeped in tradi-

tion and ex­cel­lence. He grew up in the city of Écija in the prov­ince of Seville and loved horses since he was a young boy. His par­ents in­her­ited farm­land and live­stock from their fam­i­lies and his fa­ther be­gan breed­ing PREs in the 1940s, mark­ing the be­gin­ning of the care­fully es­tab­lished and ex­cep­tional Yeguada de Cár­de­nas blood­lines. (The Cár­de­nas PRE blood­lines are among the old­est found in the United States.) Af­ter the pass­ing of both of their par­ents, he and his younger brother, Pe­dro, di­vided the fam­ily’s herd. In keep­ing with An­dalu­sian cus­toms, Pe­dro in­her­ited their fa­ther’s brand. With his brother’s bless­ing, Señor Cár­de­nas later cre­ated his own brand by adding a “C” around the two yokes and an­chor that was their fa­ther’s brand. (The an­chor orig­i­nated from their grand­fa­ther’s brand.)

With an un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to per­fec­tion, Señor Cár­de­nas car­ried on his fam­ily’s PRE lin­eage and he and his horses won count­less cham­pi­onships, hon­ors and awards for decades. He was a found­ing mem­ber of the Na­tional Pure­bred Span­ish Horse Breed­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, or ANCCE, a mem­ber of the Span­ish Aca­demic Fo­rum of Eques­trian Stud­ies and he gar­nered nu­mer­ous awards and ti­tles, in­clud­ing 12 Cham­pion of Spain recog­ni­tions, which is the most cov­eted breeder honor in Spain. Of all his horses, it was Fuego XII who cap­ti­vated him in a way that no other horse had. “In the old days, we bred for beauty. Now we breed for beauty and move­ment,” he once re­flected when ad­mir­ing the stal­lion. Much to Senor Cár­de­nas’ de­light, Fuego XII rep­re­sented Spain in the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, the 2010 WEG and the 2012 Lon­don Olympics.

Juan Manuel re­cently re­flected on his 16-year ca­reer as a rider with the Cár­de­nas sta­bles with great fond­ness. “Miguel Án­gel was very fo­cused on the suc­cess of his stal­lions, es­pe­cially Clásico, Ecuador, Ván­dalo, Ge­nio Mac, Utr­erano and, of course, Fuego. He would come to the rid­ing arena to ob­serve the daily work and he trav­eled with us to all the doma clas­sica com­pe­ti­tions. He was al­ways the first one to get to the com­pe­ti­tion arena and the first one to ap­plaud all the par­tic­i­pants. He trav­eled with us around the world—Italy, France, Ger­many, Bel­gium, Aus­tria, Hong Kong, Eng­land, Hol­land and the USA—and was very happy about the ac­com­plish­ments of his PRE horses. I am deeply grate­ful for Miguel Án­gel and his wife, Maria del Car­men, and for all that we ex­pe­ri­enced to­gether.”

Grac­ing a page in the Cár­de­nas’ book that I now trea­sure, there is a phrase in­scribed along­side a serene photo of mares that, though Señor Cár­de­nas did not coin it him­self, seems fit­ting for his life and pass­ing: “God for­bid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses.”

May you live on in heaven sur­rounded by horses and in the hearts of PRE lovers through­out the world, Miguel Án­gel de Cár­de­nas.

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The stal­lion Fuego de Cár­de­nas (Fuego XII) be­came well-known in the U.S. af­ter the 2010 World Eques­trian Games in Ken­tucky. Here he is in Spain as an 8-year-old, reign­ing as the PRE breed Cham­pion, Cham­pion of Func­tion­al­ity and Cham­pion of Cham­pi­ons.

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