Heather Blitz Designed Paragon Too Well to Sell, Now Pan Am & Olympic Hopeful

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Paragon, ridden by Heather Blitz, shows off his gaits in his first CDI. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Heather Blitz loved riding a brood mare so much when she worked in Louisiana a decade ago that she “designed” a horse using the same bloodlines, hoping to have a gelding to train to sell.

Now, the baby that she helped stand up when he was born has grown into a prospective superstar. The eight-year-old by Blue Hors Don Schufro out of Pari Lord by Loran, a bright chestnut, is no longer gangly at 18 hands (183cm) as he builds muscles and strength. And as Heather is well over six feet (1.8m), the pair are well matched.

On the immediate horizon for the pair are the Pan American Games, held once every four years at small tour and scheduled for Guadalajara, Mexico, in October. In their first Prix St. Georges qualifying show at a CDI recently, the pair won with a score higher than 70 per cent on footing so poor she took advantage of an unusual policy that allowed riders to scratch without penalty, and withdrew from the Intermediaire I.

Paragon displays all the potential for the Grand Prix, which fits with Heather’s main goal of London in 2012, the Olympics that everyone seems to want to be in.

At age 42, Heather has enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic. She competed in Europe on Otto, a Danish Warmblood gelding, for two years until the end of 2008 when the horse was bought for Todd Flettrich to compete at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last year. At the same time, she competed the mare, Arabella.

Heather was working with Oak Hill Ranch in Folsom, Louisiana, about 60 miles (100km) north of New Orleans, 10 years ago riding a mare with great temperament, willing, smart, a natural sense of balance, supple and great in the bridle.

“I started her and loved her,” she recalls. “It was a no-brainer. I wanted one of her babies, not an international horse but one to train and sell.”

When the colt was born, ” I saw him come out and helped him stand on his his legs… he was too big to stand up. I knew him from day one, actually, even before.”

Paragon was first under saddle at the age of three–“I just got on him”–when he was already 16.2 hands (167cm). He was “kind of sweet, middle of the road,” following in his mother’s footsteps.

“He would not have knocked your socks off,” she recalled for dressage-news.com. “He didn’t have front legs, was not uphill, butt high.”

Paragon  stayed that way until more than four years old. “I was still thinking of him as a nice sales horse; do a flying change and then sell him.”

Then came the offer to move to Denmark with Otto. Paragon was “one of my belongings so he went with me.”

Even that move wasn’t so smooth. While Heather was in Germany with Otto training with the U.S. team, Paragon had been been put in a paddock in Denmark with a another gelding and a mare that were best buddies.

Robert Dover talking with Heather Blitz after a competition ride on Paragon with USA coach Anne Gribbons. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

So the gelding forced Paragon off the farm. The police had to be called to find him.

His laid back, calm and very confident nature changed abruptly one day when Heather got upset when she couldn’t get Paragon to move off the wall.

“The day he knew he was in trouble,” she said, “was the day he became a ballerina instead of a stoner. He knew I was upset with him and I saw a whole new side to him.”

Because he is too big to push around, she has to ride him mentally.

Now, the big gaits that Heather and Paragaon display are making him a star.

The pair are not in training with any specific coach, but she has occasional lessons with six-time U.S. Olympian Robert Dover. “I’ve gotten some really nice help from Robert. He doesn’t try to change the track I’m in but makes sure I stay on the right track.”

An extensive tour in Europe is also planned after Florida’s winter circuit next year, though there is a possibility she could be offered a funded tour this year.

While the Pan Ams this year are an obvous goal, Heather hasn’t decided whether the pause to focus on the small tour would prevent them moving to Grand Prix in time to have a shot at London. As Paragon would be only nine years old in 2012, she thinks he could have two Olympics in him, as well as World Equestrian Games in between.

Is Paragon still for sale? She has had some hefty offers already.

“If I get an unknown call,” Heather said, “I don’t pick up because I don’t want to be tempted.

“I never thought I would ever have a horse this nice. buying him as a foal. Not shaking in my boots at millions of dollars. I can rest at night because I bred him and own him.”