|Flying high: Heather Blitz and Paragon are England-bound. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|
Heather and Paragon, who finished sixth in the Olympic selection trials last weekend at the 2012 US Equestrian Federation Dressage Festival of Champions, actually finished one place too low to earn the invitation to be the traveling reserve. But as I explained in yesterday's blog post, invitations are extended in ranked order--and the fifth-placing pair, Todd Flettrich and Cherry Knoll Farm's Otto, declined the invitation.
Otto, a sixteen-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding who with Todd represented the US at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, instead is to be retired.
Otto has traveled across the pond many times, and the rider and owner preferred not to subject the horse to yet another trip with relatively little chance of actually competing. I suspect they believe that Otto probably doesn't have another WEG or Olympics in him, so it's better, kinder, and more dignified to retire him now. I'm sure it was a difficult decision to make, but Todd and Cherry Knoll Farm owner Margaret Duprey are to be commended for doing right by this wonderful horse.
In contrast, Paragon is a Grand Prix greenie: This is his very first season at the level--which makes his accomplishments all the more remarkable and a testament to owner Heather Blitz's training.
Theirs is a wonderful story: Heather was present when Paragon was foaled, and she has been the sole owner and trainer of the now nine-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding. Paragon is a rangy and leggy drink of water, just like his rider, with wonderfully expressive movement and a unique swanlike neck.
Even though Paragon won't compete in the Olympics unless misfortune befalls another pair, he and Heather will gain tremendous experience during their time in England.
Paragon will ship over with Ravel, Calecto V, Rafalca, Wizard, and Legolas on July 9, according to USEF national dressage technical advisor and high-performance coach Anne Gribbons. Stabled at a private facility about 90 minutes outside London, the horses will pick up their training on July 13. The following weekend, the American horses will get a tune-up--and some welcome foreign exposure--at a dressage competition at Hickstead, England.
On July 28, the final four--three team horses and an individual competitor--will ship to the Olympic competition venue in London.
So we bid "happy trails" to Otto, and then we look to the future. The Olympic machine is cranked up, with exciting happenings taking place almost daily. Tomorrow, it's hello Ravel! as The Big Horse arrives in Gladstone, NJ, from his home in California.