Wayne, Illinois – Roccoca WF may have only one eye but that hasn’t slowed her young horse career. The beautiful Hannoverian mare, bred and owned by Vanessa Carlson and ridden by Verena Stock, took second place in the Markel/USEF Five-Year-Old Young Horse competition at Lamplight Dressage with a final score of 73.20 percent.
Roccoca was bred at Carlson’s 120-acre Woodridge Farm, located near Tulsa in Claremore, Oklahoma. The farm is a successful breeder of Hannoverians and Oldenburgs and stands six stallions, one of which competed in the 2003 Pan American Games. Carlson and her husband, who is American, bought the farm in 1981 and before that had lived in her home country of England.
As a child, Carlson never owned a horse. “I was a hobby rider and did all the pony club stuff. But I never actually owned a horse in England because there were always horses to ride in the stable,” she said. “I never did any serious riding or competing but I’ve always loved horses.”
Stock, who hails from Germany, joined Woodridge Farm as trainer and rider in 2002. “I came over for the 100-day stallion performance test in Cincinnati, Ohio. I had planned to stay for one year but basically never left. I like it here,” she said. And she especially loves living in Oklahoma. “It’s easy living down there. Here, up north, like in Chicago, everything is more stressful. It moves too fast. Oklahoma is so much easier.”
“Verena is a very good, young rider and starts all the young horses. She’s also very experienced with stallions,” Carlson said of her trainer.
Young Horses are the Focus of Woodridge Farm
Carlson focuses on breeding and developing young horses and has sold horses to clients living as far away as Norway and England. In fact, one English buyer who was pleased with the first horse recently purchased a second from Carlson. Woodridge Farm has had a horse in the Young Horse National Championships three years in a row. “I think that speaks well of us,” Carlson said.
Although the focus is on producing dressage horses, not all horses end up in that discipline. “We let the horses tell us where their talent is,” Carlson said. “We breed for dressage, but if they’re more talented toward jumping, that’s how we promote them. There are jumping lines in all of the stallions. We do what the horse wants to do.”
The farm keeps some of the better horses to add to its breeding stock. The remainder are put on the market. “We start them under saddle and then put them up for sale. So, usually we only have young horses under saddle and that’s why the Markel/USEF Young Horse program is nice. It provides breeders with a showcase and a way of promoting their breeding,” Carlson said.
She’s personally on hand for every foaling and takes a great interest in seeing that her “babies” go on to good lives with happy owners. “When you bring a horse into the world, you have a responsibility to find the right use for the horse, whether it’s jumping or dressage. So my first goal is to make sure my horses have the right career and the second is to make sure they have the right owners.”
Roccoca WF is a Keeper
Roccoca WF was reserve champion at last year’s Markel/USEF Four-Year-Old Young Horse competition and is definitely on Carlson’s keep list. The five-year-old mare was born without a left eye but the condition is not something likely to be passed on to her future foals. “So I’m going to keep her because she’s a super mare and she’s out of my favorite broodmare who died last year. Obviously, she’ll take over from her mom in the broodmare bank,” Carlson said.
She admits it’d be hard to sell a one-eyed horse anyway. “How much do you take off for an eye? To me, it doesn’t matter. She’s a nice mover and she’s beautiful in every other way. She was a premium foal and was the highest scoring horse in the country last year in the mare performance test.”
Carlson said having only one eye has never been a problem for the mare “because she doesn’t know anything different. She’s perfectly comfortable with horses, people, anything going by on her blind side.” And Stock said it’s had no impact on the mare’s training. The panel of judges in the Markel/USEF Five-Year-Old Young Horse competition at Lamplight Dressage seemed to agree. They most loved the mare’s walk, calling it the highlight of the ride. “Very elastic, big rhythm, very marching,” is how Janet Foy described the walk and said that “a good walk looks like Marilyn Monroe from behind and she looks a lot like Marilyn Monroe.”
Judges said the mare’s trot showed “a nice cadence and good reach and the medium trot gains ground and shows the start of an uphill balance.” The canter had a few balance issues, but judges felt that would correct itself over time as Roccoca WF gained strength. Overall, judges said the mare had a good future as a dressage horse and told Stock her training of the horse was going in the right direction.