EN’s Got Talent: Kelli Temple and Scirocco

EN’s Got Talent is Eventing Nation’s newest series. We hear all the time about horses at the top of the sport, but what about the next generation of equine talent? This series introduces the future superstars of the sport, interviewing riders about how they’re tackling training with these youngsters. Have you spotted a spectacular young horse at an event you think should be highlighted in this column? Tip me at [email protected]

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Kelli and Rocco battled a torrential downpour at the Young Event Horse East Coast Championships at Fair Hill. Photo credit to Shannon Brinkman.

Kelli Temple doesn’t just want to see how far Scirocco, a 5-year-old Holsteiner gelding, can progress through the levels. “I want to go to Rolex!” she said. When Jules Stiller, who owns “Rocco,” sent the horse to Kelli for training earlier this year, he had barely been backed. But he placed second in the Young Event Horse East Coast Championships just a few months later, showing Kelli that Rocco has serious potential for the future. “He’s just a stunning horse in every aspect,” Kelli said. “He has strong conformation and a great gallop. He’s a fantastic jumper with amazing style, a beautiful mover and just so balanced.”

While Kelli could immediately see that Rocco moved and looked like a superstar, she never intended on aiming him toward the YEH Championships. “At first I was just trying to get him going,” Kelli said. “Normally my 5-year-olds would be going training and then do their first prelim at the end of their 5-year-old year. He was a bit slower to get going.” But once he started his eventing career, Rocco showed just how talented he is, winning the first event of his career in novice at the Maryland Horse Trials in May. “He was perfect for a young horse,” Kelli said. “He had a very steady dressage test with no mistakes. It was very workmanlike and relaxed.”

Rocco shortly after he arrived at Kelli's farm this spring. Photo courtesy of Kelli.

Rocco is already far ahead of the curve when it comes to the dressage, which comes very naturally to him due to his fantastic build. “The sky’s the limit with him because he has such good movement,” Kelli said. “He’s already very supple laterally. He schools shoulder-in, haunches-in, half pass, counter canter and flying changes. He’s a child prodigy. I could easily see doing straight dressage with him.” Looking to the future, Kelli thinks Rocco’s dressage will continue to develop easily as he moves through the levels; but, of course, she’d love to see him have a successful career as a straight-up eventer.

Rocco is equally talented when it comes to jumping, although cross country and show jumping have presented their own unique challenges. “He’s very careful and he doesn’t like to hit anything,” Kelli said. “It took him awhile to level out. He would just jump straight up. It’s a fun feeling, but I was glad I was going novice through that phase and not prelim.” While Rocco is very brave to elements like the water on cross country, he can be spooky in show jumping, especially when it comes to boxes, fillers and flowers. While Kelli acknowledged Rocco is tough to ride in the show jumping, she’s also confident he will settle more as he advances through his career.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRyRwLJfmUE
Rocco at the Maryland Horse Trials in July 

“He could be so many things,” Kelli said. “He could do just jumpers or dressage, or be an event horse. At this point I’m just going to carry on making him stronger. I’m getting some help from Linda Zang; she likes him a lot. Phillip Dutton helps me with his jumping. With a young horse, many times they are extremely talented and it just comes down to developing the physical aspect of their training. Just because the horse is talented doesn’t mean you can’t take your time.”

Next week on EN’s Got Talent: Kelli breaks down Rocco’s performance at the YEH Championships, including her wet-and-wild jumping round during a torrential downpour. “He jumped the first jump so big and my tack was so wet that I just could not stay in the saddle,” Kelli said. “I went flying up and landed on his back. I was terrified to jump the next jump because I thought I was going to fall off in front of all those people.” Luckily, Kelli was able to stay firmly planted in the saddle for the rest of her round.

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