The Ups and Downs At Poplar Place

March 27th, 2014 9:22 AM | Comments Off on The Ups and Downs At Poplar Place

Heather Gillette for The Sport Horse

Hello there, I’m Heather Gillette and the people at have asked me to blog about all things Eventing.  This includes an Ask an Expert question and answer blog to share my experiences and advice about eventing.  I can’t wait for your questions to start rolling in!  Ask away!

Last weekend one of my favorite events was run in Hamilton, Ga. — Poplar Place Farm! With all of the attention garnered by the Carolina International, there was not a lot of coverage of Donna and Gary Stegman’s top notch event. I am not sure how many horses were there, but it had to be close to 400 running from Beginner Novice to 3*. There were numerous top pairs out competing in the upper levels and plenty of riders in the lower levels.   It never seems crazy, things run on time, the volunteers are always smiling, and nobody is ever overwhelmed by the task of running such a huge event.  The courses as also always were beautifully presented, which was no easy job after the amount of rain they had on Monday. The tracks were testing without being unfair.

What was a bit concerning to me was the time on the preliminary course.  Time at the upper levels is always hard to make and is an integral part of our sport.  However to have fast and clean rounds by several experienced riders end up with time penalties in the high teens and low twenties there is something amiss.  With the time being so difficult to get, riders start going much faster than may be safe.  This is teaching people to ride their watches before their fences.  The emphasis on riding the course with balance and care becomes secondary, which is both dangerous and wrong.  Chasing the time should come after learning to jump the jumps well.

Okay, I have that out of my system.  On to how my weekend went!  As I said before I love Poplar Place.  The rings are lovely to ride in, the courses are testing but usually fair, and the people are great.  It is a great indicator of your horses fitness with the hills you constantly have to run up and down.  It tests your ability to balance your horse on varying terrain and to ride forward and straight to the questions.  What more could you want from a course?

My wonderful longtime partner Our Questionnaire was very happy to be out running.  He was in the Open Preliminary and had a marvelous time!  If he had hands and feet he would have been clapping and dancing.  He did a lovely dressage test, though thought the Prelim dressage test is lacking in flying changes.  ( He loves those!)

Cross country was quick and easy, though the time issue caught us a bit.  No fooling around apart from some festivities in the warm up.  An easy clear show jumping round left us in 6th in a quality field of horses.

Questie is for sadly for sale. Not sad for him, we will find him a wonderful new home where he will get to continue to do what he loves.  It is heartbreaking for me.  He is such an amazing horse and it has been my privilege to have this horse in my life.  If this is to be my last event on him, we sure did have a great time!

My young horse Boris O’Hara and I had a tougher weekend.  He was fabulous in the dressage once again.  He has wonderful gaits and is really maturing in the ring.

His maturity in the jumping phases is coming along more slowly.  His athleticism is fantastic but harnessing and directing it is proving to be a bit of a challenge.  One day I think I have found the key to his ride-ability just to be proved wrong the next time out.  It has been frustrating for certain, but I will persevere and figure it out.  The only good thing about it all is I am narrowing down the list of things to try to get the results I want!  I elected not to run cross country since out systems were not functioning on all cylinders.  I have been diligently doing ‘homework’ since we arrived home and think we are making progress.  But you never know! At least I am not bored.

That is your Poplar recap!  Until the next time, happy eventing!

Heather Gillette is an upper-level event rider who owns Heron’s Landing Eventing Team, based out of Merrywind Farm in Pottersville, N.J. She has competed extensively at the three-star level, and has a strong client base of young riders and adult amateurs who remain loyal to Heron’s Landing thanks to her passion for the sport, her dedication to her students, and her ability to make an analogy out of just about everything.

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