Heather Blitz has known Praestemarkens Quatero since before he was born. She advised his breeder, Inger Recht, on a stallion to breed her mare to, and after seeing him briefly as a foal, Blitz fell in love with “Quatero” five years later and bought him.
Now 9, the Danish Warmblood gelding (Quaterback—Rahvia Hojris, Rohdiamant) has won 10 of the 12 small tour CDI classes he’s contested in the last year and just won the USEF Intermediaire I National Championship at the Lamplight Equestrian Center, Aug. 22-26 in Wayne, Illinois.
“When I first swung my leg over and sat on his back, he took two steps, and I said, ‘This is my horse.’ I could just feel a connection. It was just a familiar feeling. You either get that or you don’t. It was pretty obvious,” said Blitz, who’s based in Wellington, Florida. “I remember distinctly thinking that it felt like putting on a comfortable pair of jeans. It’s not like everything was there, but the connection was there, like, oh, I could train this horse.
“He has nice gaits; he has power; he has collection and all that, but then he has what’s in his mind,” she added. “I think it’s almost more of a factor of what makes him a great horse than even the physical attributes. He’s just all in.”
“I’ve been working with horses for awhile,” said Angel Bucca, Quatero’s groom of two years. “When you see one horse with potential, you know it, like wow, if this horse is in the right hands he’ll go far. Quatero is in the right hands, and he’ll go far. That’s what I think, and that’s what I see in him.”
We went behind the stall door with Quatero to learn more.
• Quatero has a passion for life whether it’s on the ground or under saddle. “He’s eager in whatever he thinks—if it’s frustration, he’s passionate about that. If it’s wanting to be snuggled, he’s passionate about that. If it’s hunger, or trying to go forward and come back, whatever I ask him he just wants to do whatever he knows,” said Blitz. “If he doesn’t know what to do he can also show you he doesn’t know. In general he’s a huge personality, probably more than I’ve ever had in a horse. He’s sensitive, but he doesn’t have all of his eggs in one basket—he’s not always trying to go fast; he’s not always trying to collect. Whatever he thinks, he has a passion behind it.”
Blitz says she often likens him to a pit bull.
“He’s just got so much strength and passion about stuff, but all he really wants to do is be loved,” she said. “He loves adventure; he loves new things; he loves to learn. It’s almost intimidating how much he learns every little thing that I teach him. If it’s in him, it’s in him for good, so I have to be really careful with what I teach him because whether it’s good or bad it’s going to stay with him.
“I’ve had to be really careful to educate him before I expect him to do anything,” she continued. “He’s never been one that could have been made to do anything he doesn’t understand. He’s taught me a lot. I kind of thought I knew a little about training horses, but he’s taught me a whole other department of training—how much he has to be educated, and he has to figure it out himself before I can expect him to do it.”
• He’s very attuned to his people but other horses, not so much. Quatero prefers the company of people. As such, he’s very responsive to praise.
“He is very tuned in to my attention,” said Blitz. “There have even been times when I’ve been working him on the long lines or longing, and he is doing something and learning and soaking in something, and if he does something amazing then I’ll tell him, ‘Whoa, good boy,’ and he will whinny at me because I tell him he’s good.”
• How does he compare to Blitz’s former top horse and fellow chestnut Paragon? “It’s apples and oranges,” she said. “Paragon is still a horse of a lifetime. There’s so many great horses, but none that are quite like Paragon. He’s different. I don’t think there will ever be another one like that. He was a little less interested in the snuggly stuff. He was always super sensitive and with me, but if I went into his stall, he was more like, ‘OK, what are you doing here? Are you feeding me? What’s this about?’ ”
• “Unfortunately for him he’s an easy keeper, so he doesn’t get a whole lot of food,” said Blitz. “He’s always interested in more food, but he gains weight quickly, so he gets small rations and a lot of roughage, but not a lot of the yummy stuff he wants.”
• Bucca says Quatero is very vocal about his food. “Every morning when I go feed him, he knows I’m there, and he makes noises like he’s calling me. Every single day,” she said. “I wish I could make a YouTube video. Every morning he sees me and knows his food his coming. He’s totally different than the other horses. That’s what’s amazing about him. He’s got something different.”
• He enjoys his daily routine which includes 20 minutes on the Eurowalker, then a workout followed by a handgraze and two hours of turnout. He also enjoys hacking.
“I have a pack of Whippets, and when we hack he doesn’t care about that. He just wants to be a family member,” said Blitz. “I feel like he really likes his life because he has the same enthusiasm every day. He never comes out with an attitude, never says no. He might say, ‘I don’t get it,’ but he never says no.”
• Bucca says that the gelding has changed since he’s been at the barn.
“When I started working with him a few years back, it’s amazing,” he said. “He’s changed for the better. The more he’s grown up, the better he is. He’s such a good horse. The chemistry with me and him and everyone at the barn, it’s such an amazing feeling.”
• He loves adventures and likes to explore when he gets to a show. Once he’s in the ring it’s all business. “He doesn’t operate through his eyeballs; it’s more through my energy and knowing he’s a professional athlete,” said Blitz. “He goes in the ring like, ‘This is my court; this is where I work.’ ”
“He knows when he’s going somewhere,” said Bucca. “He’s good to go. He knows he’s going to go compete. It’s like he’s charging up. You can tell when he’s walking, like, ‘I’m ready to go.’ The same thing when I do the tack, like, ‘Boom, I’m ready to go.’ ”
• He enjoys carrots and apples. “I think he works hard because he knows he’s going to get a treat at the end,” said Bucca.
• He’ll let you know when it’s time to take off the ice boots. “Sometimes he’ll look at me like, ‘When are you gonna take these things off of me?’ ” said Bucca. “But only on his right hind leg. Not because he doesn’t like it, but it’s his routine. He shakes it.”