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AN AMERICAN IN DENMARK

American Heather Blitz is currently based in Esbjerg, Denmark, where she is a professional rider and trainer. Readers may recognize Heather as co-host of the Dressage Radio Show, a weekly online podcast that is part of the Horse Radio Network. She has joined international equestrian journalist and presenter Chris Stafford to make dressage more accessible to listeners. The show includes Heather’s Weekly Training Tips and

Paragon’s Diary, in which Heather will be bringing news of Paragon’s progress at home and in competition. Heather’s highly successful clinics, which form her Mind Your Riding Tour will also be a feature of the show in upcoming months. Heather was introduced to Danish Warmbloods when

she competed on the Elite Danish stallion Rambo for Oak Hill Ranch in Louisiana. Working at the ranch, she started six or seven horses every year, and that is what “sold” her on the breed. Sadly, Rambo was euthanized at age 23 in October 2009 due to pleuritis. Rambo’s influence on Danish breeding was significant and he has done particularly well as a dam’s sire. Many of his daughters have produced elite stallions and his sons and daughters have performed well in competition. His offspring have gone to amateurs as well as professionals for both jumping and dressage. Heather is currently riding Paragon by Don Shufro, one of most popular Danish stallions ever. “I brought Paragon with me and he’s blossomed into an international-quality, hopefully team-quality horse,” says Heather. “He’s really low key and he’s very simple; he’s not complex, not overly sophisticated. You might not look at him until I turn on his “on” switch, and then you can’t not look at him. He’s so willing to be his amazing self without it being an effort. I’m not used to that kind of horse, that can be performing such an amazing feat and at the same time be so ho-hum about it.” “I’m sure if I rode him wrong I would cause a lot of

problems,” she continues, “but as long as I ride him really correctly it’s obvious he’s bred to be the way he is. I would go back to the same breeding in a heartbeat; I know on

the racetrack they say not to go for a full brother, but I’d give it a try.” Heather also competed Otto, a 12-year-old

Danish horse that Cherry Knoll Farm bought for Todd Flettrich to ride. Heather describes Otto as “sort of a drama king, but every day he gives 100% of himself. He’s very hot and sensitive but combined with such sanity. I was always confused about how he could have that combination— you could hack him out and he’d be very quiet, but put him to work and he’d give 120%. He’s another amazing, athletic individual.” Heather can name many reasons why Danish horses

Heather Blitz and Paragon.

Photo by Amber Heintzberger

are becoming more popular. “As far as what I recognize as a generalization of the breed, I think they go for a very beautiful and kind of modern looking horse, being more long-legged, proportionate, a beautiful head, long neck and of course very elegant in general,” she says. “The temperament seems to be more geared towards an athlete in general; the sires tend to produce both dressage and jumpers, though at the stallion inspections and keurings they are starting to divide it, but I kind of like it when you just get an athlete. They have balance, rhythm and strength, and elasticity in their muscles; I think both dressage horses and

jumpers need that. Plus they tend to be rideable.” Heather says that her take on why Danish horses are getting more noticed lately is that their stud book is still fairly open to different breeds. “The stud books and mare books that get more closed, like the Hanoverians, sort of limit the improvement they can give to their gene pool,” she reasons. “The Danish studbook is less than a hundred years old; they still have a fairly open mind about what they can add to the breed to improve it. It’s an interesting place to be and to my mind seems to be why they’re producing such a top-notch athlete right now.” She also believes that economics play a factor in their

popularity. “I think they tend to have horses at a realistic price. There are about 5 million people in Denmark and there’s a big mind towards breeding even more than riding, and it’s a good experience when people come shopping here.”

WT

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