How Carlos Pardo remembers his accident is in disconnected fragments.
One moment, riding in a small schooling show in Ocala, Fla., aiming his horse at a jump, and the next, waking up in a hospital bed with his father beside him.
His father, a horseman from a long generation of horse-owners, helped him piece together the story. His mount had spooked at something, possibly a backfiring trailer, while Prado was doing his class, and took off. Pardo fell out of the saddle and hit the ground, but a foot remained lodged in the stirrup.
“I was dragged back to the stabling area and knocked out,” says Pardo, 21. “I remember waking up and having this really weird feeling, because the last thing I remembered was riding.”
Only 18-years-old at the time, Pardo was still mature enough to recognize that if he didn’t climb back in the saddle as quickly as possible, he might never again.
So, shortly after returning to the Youngstown, Ohio area where he lives, Pardo set small, manageable goals for his riding. He went out on tranquil, trail rides nearly everyday, and worked on the flat, in the riding ring.
His confidence doing these things disappeared, however, when he attempted to ride up to a jump, Pardo says.
Race name: Touch of Success
Barn name: Star
Sire: Touch Gold
Dam: Never Fail
Foal date: March 13, 2006“I started to panic. I couldn’t jump,” he says.
After repeated failures, Pardo’s girlfriend suggested he look for a horse he could bond with, one he could trust and with whom he could rebuild his confidence.
The search was over almost as soon as it began. After a friend at Thistledown Race Track showed him a picture of a small, unassuming mare named Touch of Success, Pardo found himself behind the wheel, driving a trailer to the racetrack, before even meeting her in person.
“I saw her picture on Oct. 5, 2011, and that was it. I fell in love with her from the picture,” he says.
Petite and easy going, the mare he renamed Star, folded right into farm life. Her gentle manner made her a hit with little children, who would come to hang all over her.
And, when Pardo started riding her this past spring, she dazzled him with her floating gaits, and trustworthy temperament.
“My girlfriend rode her first, and took her to a show on March 6. She was amazing! She came out of her first round ever with a first place! She also had a fourth-place and a second-place,” he says. “We were both so shocked that the little Thoroughbred won.”
But, the reward that far outshines the ribbons she wins now, and in her future, is the confidence and trust that she has instilled in Pardo.
“I had a mental block for so long” after the accident “and I’d just freeze,” he says. “But, we trained each other. We started with a cross pole.”
She gave that first pole a questioning look, and Pardo kept his eye up, and looking straight ahead. And together, they trotted bravely over it.
From those humble beginnings, the pair has recently started doing small jump-courses together.
“We had our first course ever yesterday!” he says. “They were only three cross-rails, but we were both perfect.”
With Pardo’s confidence well on its way to being restored, and Star looking more and more like a perfect hunter/jumper, who points her toes, and daintily picks her up over jumps, they each have something to teach the other.
“I’ve never had a bond like this with a horse before,” Pardo says. “ She protects me. The other day in the ring, I aimed her at a jump standard, and she just moved over a little bit to save us from my mistake.”
Star is everything he hoped for: a horse to trust, with whom he can make a comeback.