USA Olympic Reserve Combination in Disappointing CDI-W Grand Prix Special

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Heather Blitz riding Paragon in the CDI-W Grand Prix Special in Wellington. © 214 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Heather Blitz riding Paragon in the CDI-W Grand Prix Special in Wellington. © 214 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 11, 2014–The American Olympic reserve combination of Heather Bitz and Paragon, in their first show in nine months, turned in a disappointing performance Saturday that the judging panel at the Global Dressage Festival’s World Cup Grand Prix Special awarded the pair 60.745 per cent.

Some spectators in the VIP pavilion turned away from the arena and some shouted out to the judges to “ring the bell” to end the ride as they believed the horse appeared lame. The ride was not recorded by the official show videographer.

“A lot of things were better,” Heather told dressage-news.com after the ride on the 11-year-old old homebred gelding that two years ago was viewed by many as the next bright hope of American dressage. The pair finished third out of the four entries.

“The connection was better. I got to work on his power, to keep him more on the aids in the ring. I pressed him for more obedience which caused some mistakes. It was productive for the future.”

Natalie Lamping of the United States who was president of the ground jury, gave the combination the lowest score, 58.235 per cent, while two other judges marked the pair below 60 per cent, one at 60.745 per cent and the fifth at 64.216 per cent.

“I thought the horse needed more time and said so at the (2012) selection trials,” Natalie said. “This horse tries so hard. Hopefully his confidence can come back.”

She told dressage-news.com, “The horse was not lame. The horse was very confused. You could clearly see when it came to passage the horse in its mind didn’t know what it was supposed to do. It was hip-hopping, and the scores reflected that.

“You had to reward some good things. But there were mistakes on top of that. This horse tries so hard. He didn’t say ‘no’.”

Heather and the Danish Warmblood (Blue Hors Don Schufro x Loran) were scored at 68.020 per cent for fourth place in Thursday’s Grand Prix which was their first CDI start since the Florida winter circuit ended last April.

Heather and Paragon were on the U.S. gold medal winning team as well as claiming individual silver at the 2011 Pan American Games that were at small tour.

The CDI Grand Prix partnership began in Florida two years ago and the bright chestnut became known for spectacular gaits but there were also observations that the large horse needed more time to develop.

The pair went to London as reserve with the United States Olympic team.

Heather works primarily with Mary Wanless of Great Britain, who teaches: “Ride With Your Mind – Rider Biomechanics.”

After the 2012 Florida winter circuit she moved to the Boston area as the stable rider for Cutler Farm Dressage.