American-bred Hanoverian stallion Pikko del Cerro HU (Pik L x Rohdiamant) will retire from the sport of dressage due to an injury according to his owner, Anne Sparks. “Unfortunately, we discovered that Cerro has reinjured himself and has been withdrawn from the 2016 Adequan GDF CDI 3* Grand Prix this week,” informed Sparks. The dark bay stallion competed just two weeks ago in Wellington. Pikko del Cerro HU showed the crowd his maturity in the piaffe and passage, scoring 8’s on both movements.
Lisa Wilcox planned on competing the horse during this year’s Olympic trials in hopes of making it onto another United States Olympic Team. “Making the US team was always our goal for the horse. Cerro has won so many championships along the way and that was the one thing we felt was missing from his résumé.” Due to his injury, a successful rehabilitation in time for Rio is not possible. “It is bittersweet for me as both an owner and a breeder. Together, we decided that it was in the best interest of the horse to suspend his sporting career in order to have a long, happy career at stud,” continued Sparks.
Born and raised in New Mexico, Pikko del Cerro HU is one of the most successful American-bred dressage horses to-date. The Hanoverian stallion amassed a lengthy record of wins. Those were earned both in-hand and under saddle, including a record setting score of 90 points at Dressage at Devon. He was also named Stallion Champion in 2009. Cerro’s first championships under saddle came with his former Danish rider, Mikala Gundersen. “It is very impressive that Cerro has gone all the way from winning in-hand, at the age of two, to winning at the CDI Grand Prix level. This proves that if you breed a great horse, train it correctly and keep it in a program, you can be successful,” she says confidently. “I’m very proud of Anne for creating the horse, believing in him and making a commitment to realize his full potential.”
Pikko del Cerro HU, with Mikala Gundersen, became the 2009 USEF/Markel Six Year Old
National Dressage Champion. “Cerro was so much fun. I enjoyed bringing him up the levels and ending with a 6-year-old championship. Due to my Danish citizenship, I was not allowed to continue into the Developing Horse program but was very proud to hand over the reins to Lisa Wilcox so that he could continue his journey to the top of the sport,” explained Gundersen. Bringing along a young horse is usually an adventure and Gundersen’s experiences with Cerro were no different. “Cerro is such a character,” she chuckled. “As a young horse he could get pretty naughty in the warm-up ring but as soon as you went down centerline he pulled himself together and went for the blue ribbon.” Pikko del Cerro HU, with Mikala Gundersen, became the 2009 USEF/Markel Six Year Old
National Dressage Champion. “Cerro was so much fun. I enjoyed bringing him up the levels and ending with a 6-year-old championship. Due to my Danish citizenship, I was not allowed to continue into the Developing Horse program but was very proud to hand over the reins to Lisa Wilcox so that he could continue his journey to the top of the sport,” explained Gundersen. Bringing along a young horse is usually an adventure and Gundersen’s experiences with Cerro were no different. “Cerro is such a character,” she chuckled. “As a young horse he could get pretty naughty in the warm-up ring but as soon as you went down centerline he pulled himself together and went for the blue ribbon.”
Once Lisa Wilcox took over riding duties on Cerro, it was clear that the match was ideal. Together, in their first try, the pair won the 2011 USEF Developing Horse National Championship. The following year they parlayed this success into yet another championship. Pikko del Cerro HU became a three-time National Champion after his win at the 2012 Inaugural USEF Developing Grand Prix Horse National Championship. As an FEI horse, Pikko del Cerro HU had victories in the CDI Small Tour classes and later at the CDI Grand Prix level. He consistently scored over 70%, including Grand Prix victories in Germany.
Balancing the career of a stallion is not an easy endeavor. Lisa Wilcox is very experienced in this aspect of the sporthorse industry. She spent many years riding world-class stallions, including Pikko del Cerro HU’s grandfather, Rohdiamant. “I’m grateful to Anne for allowing me to focus almost exclusively on Cerro’s athletic endeavors these past six years,” praised Wilcox. As the owner of Horses Unlimited, Sparks is passionate that breeding stock should have a show record. She believes that you have to always be cognizant of the need to balance a breeding versus sporting career. “When do you make the decision to bring them home to do the job they were ultimately intended to do?” remarked Sparks.
After the difficult decision to retire Pikko del Cerro HU to stud was made, Wilcox was asked to reflect on her partnership with the talented, yet occasionally rambunctious stallion. As one might expect, the announcement brings mixed emotions for her. “On one hand I’m extremely saddened at the thought of not working with him on a daily basis. I’m going to miss his curious eyes watching my every move in the stall and watching me train other horses in the outdoor arena,” she explains. “Cerro’s nickname is “Monkey” because he always wants to know everything! Funny enough, Ernst (Hoyos) always calls me “Monkey” for the same exact reason. Cerro and I are a lot alike, I’m going to miss my partner in crime!” After more than six years of daily interaction with the bay stallion, no one knows him better than Wilcox. “Cerro was an athlete, incredibly smart, very elastic, and great to work with. We enjoyed traveling together, discovering new venues and he was always up for the challenge. Wherever we were, he rose to the challenge. We have a great relationship and have great respect for each other,” she divulged. “The jog, however, was always his way of showing that he was a man’s man! No Madison Square Garden for him,” joked Wilcox.
With her eldest homebred stallion’s dressage career abruptly coming to an end, one may think that the disappointment could be overwhelming to his owner. Anne Sparks chooses to focus on the positives of the situation. “Cerro has given me everything, more than I could have ever asked for! Last year he just missed the World Cup by one placing, he is long-listed for the Olympics and was a long reserve for the Pan Am Games. Even with his limited breeding up until now, he has given me some exceptional offspring. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of his babies soon!” pronounced Sparks. However sad Lisa Wilcox may be about bidding farewell to the daily interactions with her “Monkey”, she is very candid when explaining what his retirement means to others, and the sport of dressage. “Cerro is the whole package! He has good looks of course, and his walk, trot and canter. The future of United States Dressage depends on this quality of horse! Cerro is going to make lots of breeders and mares happy!” she exclaims.
Pikko del Cerro HU will now be available for the 2016 breeding season at Hilltop Farm in Maryland. Due to his retirement, he will finally be offered to mares via both fresh and frozen semen. “I appreciate the Hilltop team for allowing Cerro to join their lineup of stallions at the last minute,” noted Sparks.
Lisa Wilcox and Anne Sparks will continue their partnership after Cerro’s retirement. With the Horses Unlimited homebred Gallant Reflection HU (Galant du Serein x Rohdiamant), Wilcox looks to develop yet another FEI Grand Prix horse. This combination is well on their way to attaining that goal. In 2015, they won the USEF/Markel 6 Year-Old Dressage National Championship. Look for the pair this winter competing at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. They have already won at the Prix St. Georges level. Gallant Reflection HU is available to North American breeders via frozen semen in 2016.