30 Days to Poplar Place

Anyone who loves horses has their own horse library. Whether it’s just a book or two or (like me) takes up half the wall-sized bookshelf, we all have a few samples of horse literature. Recently, I’ve been revisiting one of my favorites: Training the Three-Day Event Horse and Rider by James C. Wofford. I’ve had this book since well-before I was actually riding eventing, but now that I’m getting Johnny ready to move up through the levels, it’s an invaluable reference source. Incidentally, I’ve wanted to train with Mr. Wofford for a VERY long time, but I have yet to find a clinic within traveling distance. One day…

In his book, Mr. Wofford outlines several sample plans for bringing horses along all the way up to the 4* level. Granted, Johnny and I are only gearing towards training level this year, but the plans make a great template for our own. I’m starting Johnny this week on the ’30 day Poplar’ Plan. Our first event this season is in January at Poplar Place, and it’s more like 40+ days away, but our Christmas plans will result in some non-riding time.

So, what does the plan entail? For Johnny, the biggest issue is getting him fit enough to gallop since his laryngeal hemiplegia impairs his breathing. I realize it sounds crazy to take a roarer and turn him into an event horse, but he absolutely loves cross-country, and I’m hoping to scrape up enough money this year to have tie-back surgery done–then I’ll have my 1* horse (I’m telling you, he has so much potential). So, our training plan includes lots of canters and gallops. For gallops, we’re fortunate enough to be able to trailer out to the drop zone, where there are hundreds of open acres to run. (Let’s just hope a well-placed manure pile doesn’t end up a landing spot for some poor Airborne school soul!)
There’s also, as expected, plenty of dressage every other day to help keep him sharp and focused. I’ve started incorporating lots more lateral work to really help loosen up his shoulders, and as an added bonus, it’s really helping our canter transitions since I have more control of his hindquarters.
There’s some show jumping tossed in, but we’re not jumping any courses or even our show height. Instead, I’ve pulled several of the gymnastic exercises from Mr. Wofford’s book (there are tons), and I have plenty more to choose from in my Eventing magazines (and Practical Horseman mags, and 101 Jumping Exercises, and so on…). We’ll work on his ability to lengthen and shorten his stride between fences, bending lines, bounces, one strides, and all the other tricky things that help a show jumper develop those cat-like reflexes.
And, finally, we’ll take lots of relaxing hacks onto Fort Benning. Andrea reminds me every time we head out, “No riding on the CG’s (Commanding General) lawn, and NO riding on the golf course!!!!” as if I have forgotten. Though, admittedly, I have fantasized about galloping across the fairways a few times. Luckily, we have lots of trails to explore that aren’t anywhere near anyone’s lawn or the greens.

I’ll keep you updated on Johnny’s progress and discuss what works (and what doesn’t). If all goes well, we’ll finish out the season performing well at Training level, with the goal of moving on to Prelim next spring.

Wofford, James. (1995) Training the Event Horse and Rider. Doubleday Pubishing. New York, New York.

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