'Reflejo el Classico' a classic case of good luck, unwanted colt now turning heads!

Written by Seth Soffian, Staff Writer, Ocala Star Banner June 26, 1999

The man on the phone was offering Donna Rondeau the horse she had always wanted, the horse she nearly purchased three years earlier at an auction in Miami.
But this wasn't a good deal.
The price was reasonable, in fact, it was practically the same figure the man paid to outbid Rondeau by a few dollars those three years earlier.  Yet this just wasn't the right deal.
The horse, a 9 year old, Paso Fino mare, named Bandolera, was virtually the same horse too, yet something was wrong with the offer.  Bandolera came with baggage.  She was, as they say, with child, a male child.  That was the wrong kind of horse, as far as Rondeau was concerned.
"Colts are difficult to handle," said Rondeau.  "You need different facilities, and I'm just a small breeder."
The deal actually called for Rondeau to take a third horse, another colt who had recently been born to Bandolera.
"The only thing worse than one colt is two," said Rondeau, who with her husband Chuck, didn't have room or the resources for colts on their modest farm in Morriston, Florida.
When Rondeau balked at the deal, the man on the phone insisted, "It's all or nothing," and Rondeau relented.
It was the best deal she ever made.
The already-born colt, Expresso, proved to be as difficult as Rondeau had feared.
He was aggressive, rambunctious and "proved to be very good at jumping fences."
Within a year he was gone, traded for a mare.
But there was something different about the second colt, the foal Bandolera was carrying when Rondeau made the purchase in June of '95.  The colt named Reflejo el Classico in homage of his renowned sire El Classic de Plebeyo, turned out to be calm, quiet and docile-everything a Paso Fino colt isn't supposed to be if he's going to be a champion.
"Reflejo was something different,"  Rondeau said of her colt, whose name means "Reflection of the Classic" in Spanish.
"Reflejo was always quiet, kind and gently," she said, "He was never aggressive.  I would take him from pasture and he would stand quietly and let me put a halter on him."
Originally believed to be anything but a champion, Reflejo has blossomed into one of the best young Fino colts in the country.  On Memorial Day weekend, the 4-year old won the Classic Fino championship at the nationally respected Spectrum competition in Tampa.  Now the horse once unable to command $8,000 as a yearling is worth at least $100,000.
All for a horse who supposedly lacked the presence and spirit upon which Paso Fino greatness is judged.
One trainer quoted to me, "Someone needs to teach this horse to be a horse and not a dog," said Rondeau, facing closed doors at every turn until convincing internationally respected trainer Cese (pronounced SE-say) Figueroa to take on Reflejo in late 1997.
Within weeks, the young colt was making great progress, all caught on tape at Figueroa's training center in Landrum, SC.
"When I saw that first tape of him, it was absolutely unbelievably," Rondeau said "I was really amazed and excited."
Suddenly national-level Paso Fino shows were on the horizon for the Rondeau, who to that point had won some local competitions with mares but had floundered at the national level.  Donna, a seventh-grade science teacher at Dunnellon Middle School, and Chuck, an account representative at Mark III, soon were watching their young colt compete with the best.
At last year's Paso Fino Grand Nationals, Reflejo finished fifth.  And that was only his fourth show.
"A lot of the horses that competed with Reflejo last year at nationals, are gone."  Rondeau said, They're asked to do too much too soon."
Reflejo continues to move forward though, as he's competing in another national-caliber event this weekend in Asheville, NC and perhaps another before tackling the 1999 Paso Fino Grand Nationals in Perry, GA.
"Cese has trained horses for 40 years and he says Reflejo is the nicest horse in his barn," Rondeau said.  "He doesn't have a mean bone in his body.  He's always calm, but when you pull up the reins and ask him, he's a dynamo, an absolute dynamo.  It's amazing.  You get goose-bumps.
None of which Rondeau expected four years ago when she was forced to take a horse she once called "Bandoleer's Baggage."
"It's absolutely incredible," she said.  "I look at him and I know what I'm seeing, but to have someone else tell me they're seeing the same things is a tremendous feeling.  When you watch your child at a dance recital, you know they're the best, but I always wonder if everyone else is seeing what I see.  To have it validated...is unbelievable."
"I'm still in awe when I see him in the ring and I think he was a little colt I tried to get rid of, I raised him and look at him now.  I cannot describe that emotion to tell you how it makes me feel."

Since the writing of this article Donna Rondeau has begun her eternal ride, however Reflejo El Classico is continuing to electrify people wherever he goes.  At the 1999 Nationals Reflejo was National Champion 4 year old Amateur Owner Fino colt and Grand National Champion Reserve 4 year old Fino Colt and Reserve 4 year old Fino Colt.  Cese Figueroa (his trainer) and Charles Rondeau (his owner) were awarded Fino Pro AM Championship and Reflejo was awarded the prestigious Title of Proficiency.  In 2000, Reflejo was awarded Hi Point Fino Amateur Owner Stallion and was the National Reserve Fino Amateur Owner Stallion.

At the very young age of six, Reflejo El Classico was awarded the prestigious Legion of Merit and bestowed the honor of presenting the American flag in the Tribute to America at the 2001 Nationals.

Donna's dreams became reality when her mare, Bandolera, was 2001 National Champion Produce of Dam, represented by Independencia Prestante and Reflejo El Classico.


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