Last year, Jim and Heather Fitzpatrick had the vision of creating an equestrian center for the East Pasco community.
Blazing Saddles Ranch, at 10219 Wirt Road in Dade City, has made that vision a reality.
The Fitzpatricks purchased the 25-acre property in May and, by August, they had transformed the property from a farm to a full-service horse ranch.
“We’re on the cusp of booming Wesley Chapel,” Jim Fitzpatrick said, “so this is more or less a stall for my wife, and the rest is for everybody else.”
Catered toward adults and children, the facility is an ideal setting for residents scattered across Dade City, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills.
While many venues are geared toward one equestrian discipline, Blazing Saddles offers multiple specialties.
Riders can learn English dressage and western dressage. Or, they can try western-style and hunter-jumper.
Full board and pasture is also available.
Blazing Saddles, though, is more than just a ranch with a large riding arena. In addition to a 10-stall horse barn, a gazebo and patio will soon be available to accommodate weddings, corporate retreats and even pony parties.
Plans are also in store to build an open field cross-country course on the property.
Essentially, Blazing Saddles offers “everything from soup to nuts,” said barn manager Karen Rezabek.
“There is not one need we can’t meet,” Rezabek said. “If we have to go get your horse for you, we can do that, too.”
The ranch, interestingly, is an ode to the classic 1974 Mel Brooks-directed Western satire film bearing the same name.
Enter the facility, and you’ll witness an aura heavy on family, hospitality and equestrian expertise.
It all starts with the facility’s tight-knit group of staff and trainers.
Each has their own skillsets, and various specialties.
Among the most captivating is J.R. Reeher, a former rodeo cowboy who once toured on the Professional Bull Riders circuit.
The New Mexico native with Dade City ties is described as a “horse whisperer” of sorts.
He breaks in young horses and retrains “troubled” ones.
Put more simply, he can “work a horse.”
“You’ve always got to have one cowboy tucked away in a barn,” Reeher said, with a smirk.
More importantly, he fills a giant void, said Rezabek.
“We were fortunate that we found him,” the barn manager said. “He puts all the training rides on, he’s bridling the horses for restarting. He does a lot of colt-starting.
“He’s a jack-of-all-trades.”
There’s also Krystina Hemphill, who specializes in hunter-jumper equitation. Likewise, she prepares young riders for local competitions and showcases.
Meanwhile, the other staff includes Amy Epperson, who teaches dressage, and Karen Miller, who handles speed pattern racing, known as gymkhana.
“We all kind of work together and feed off each other,” Hemphill said. “We’ve got a good thing going here.”
At Blazing Saddles, it all comes down to instructing proper horsemanship.
Heather Fitzpatrick, who sells real estate by trade, said the purpose of the ranch is to help aspiring riders correctly learn the fundamentals.
“I think our philosophy is that we want to build a good foundation, and then go from there.” she said. “Lay the foundation — make sure it’s right — and then let them do the discipline they want.”
“Everybody needs the basics,” Rezabek added. “The good thing is that we have a very solid basic foundation. We also wanted to be well-rounded, so it’s a one-stop shop.”
Ultimately, Blazing Saddles Ranch wants to be a place “for people to feel comfortable” via an open, welcoming environment.
“It’s a really good atmosphere,” Hemphill said. “Everybody’s very laid back, everybody’s very helpful. They’re not afraid to step in and help when needed. There’s a good camaraderie around here.”
Meantime, the facility will be hosting Gene Cox Horsemanship clinics throughout January, February and March.
There, participants will learn to communicate with a horse, and fine-tune riding techniques.
One-day jumping clinics and other camps are also on the horizon, Rezabek said.
For more information about Blazing Saddles Ranch, call Karen Rezabek at (813)793-7696.
Published January 11, 2017