Monday, June 10, 2024

POP- Breaking 40!

Goggles and I tackled the starter three phase Partners of the Park (POP) schooling show at the Florida Horse Park yesterday. We schooled the XC course on Saturday and then went and competed on Sunday. 

Goggles started the day early Sunday morning in fine form. My brilliant plan to use Ben as bait on the trailer back fired when Ben loaded up politely like the good boy he is and then Goggles lost his marbles in the field and wouldn't let me catch him. I tried for a couple of minutes and then pulled Ben back off and used him as bait at the gate instead. I had an 8:25 dressage time and worked until midnight Saturday night, so I really hadn't left myself time for this kind of fuckery. Fortunately Goggles came galloping up as soon as Ben was on the outside of the gate. I caught Goggles, tied him up to the trailer while I reloaded Ben and then left Ben to eat his breakfast on the trailer while I hosed off the sweaty star of the show. Goggles did in fact think me removing Ben after he loaded was a pretty dirty trick. I don't plan to use this technique frequently, but see above with ride times and work times. I watched him in the cameras and he settled down to mostly face forwards by the time we left the neighborhood. 

Once we arrived, he hung out politely while I went and got my number. Then I brushed him off and tacked up and headed to dressage warm up. He felt kinda behind my leg, kinda tired. I do love that you can school the course the day before, especially because FHP is no joke for the levels, but it does make for a loooooong weekend. We kept it as short and sweet as possible on Saturday, but I think some of his good behavior in dressage was due to being a bit worn out. 

He was sight seeing some in warm up, but compared to the ping pong back feeling we had in warm up at Majestic both times, I'll take it! JT had me keep him on a smallish circle at the trot being gently insistent about bend. Then we did some walk trot transitions and then took a break. They let me know the two riders in front of me weren't there so if I wanted to go early I could. So we picked back up, did a quick canter in both directions that was shockingly civilized considering what our prior warm ups had been, and then headed in.

It was by far our best test to date! I was still having trouble keeping him on the rail tracking left without counter bending him, but overall it was obedient and pleasant. It was the FIRST test (of 3 now) that we did without bucking in the right lead canter, good boy!!! The free walk also remained focused for 2/3 of the diagonal. 

It's funny, the comments are a bit less encouraging now. It seemed like when we were incredibly chaotic and barely staying in the ring and performing the movements (see test one and test two) the judges were trying so hard to find anything positive. But this test just got a lot more of "needs..." which was all totally applicable, just an interesting change of tone. 

I hosed him off after the test, popped him back on the trailer relatively easily and turned the fan back on. 

Then I headed over to walk stadium. It was a nice, looping sort of course, in the arena that usually holds the dressage arenas. There was a LOT of space and it would be easy to bog down in the corners, but the jumps were strategically positioned so that if you looped just outside of other fences, you had a decent path to the next one. It was jump one, loop left to two, loop right to three then seven strides to four AB, a two stride. Then right hand loop to five, left hand turn to six, a skinny, another related distance to seven, then a left hand turn to eight, bending line to nine. 

I tacked him up and then tossed my XC vest over the pinny and attempted to get on holding a plastic bag containing his XC boots. I quickly aborted that and ended up grabbing them from the truck rail once I was on. That worked better and he only snorted at the bag a little bit, he's such a sensible creature as long as it doesn't involve things on the ground itself. As he skidded sideways during my first mounting attempt, I thought about how it would've been a super silly reason to fall and get hurt. I was mostly trying to avoid hiking over to the stadium warm up in my tall boots that feel fine while I'm riding but give me blisters within a quarter mile of walking. 

Nice shady parking spot, but a bit of a hike from the arenas

He warmed up super for stadium in spite of being in a new ring. We trotted the crossrail then the vertical. JT told me to land in two point if he was going to be soft in his back so that he stayed that way. It felt really lovely. We then trotted the oxer twice and headed in. He was a bit looky at the banners around the arena, but much better to do that during a stadium round than during a dressage test. Given how well he remembers things, I'm glad we got the chance to go jump in there before hopefully dressaging in there for a few recognized shows this fall/winter. 

Stadium can be summed up by We did thing! Video hopefully pending. We pleasantly trotted one, trotted after to change leads, then cantered two. JT had told us to trot three, so we did, but then cantered on down to four and did the two stride very pleasantly. I brought him back to the trot because he was pretty pleased with himself and rolling forward a bit after the two stride. We trotted five, landed cantering, but came down to the trot for six because it was the skinny. He flowed forward nicely to seven. Eight to nine flowed quite nicely, and I pretended we were still looping around to another fence afterwards, so it kept his focus and kept the last rail up. GOOD BOY! JT and I were both THRILLED. He was pleasant and responsive and just overall such a good boy. 

I put his boots and my vest on and then we headed over solo to XC warm up since JT had her working student headed to stadium warm up for her round. We had done the whole course in three to four jump sections on Saturday schooling, so I felt pretty confident. We popped over the roll top in warm up with a bit of an awkward distance, but he felt willing and happy, so we headed over to start. Like Saturday, we picked up a nice canter and cantered three quarters of the way to one before coming back to the trot. JT instructed me to "only go as fast as you can keep him straight" and that was our mantra for the whole course. 

Because we'd schooled it on Saturday, I didn't walk the whole course, so some of these pictures are a bit subpar. Which is kind of a shame because FHP really goes all out for starter. It is a BN course only 4" shorter. 

He popped right on over one like the good boy he is these days. He landed in a pleasant canter, so we cantered most of the way to two 

A mini triple step. Which gave him no problems at all 

See the resemblance? 

I was impressed by three when we schooled it the day before. He was not particularly and didn't give it a second thought Saturday or Sunday. 

Four was a ways away, so we cantered most of the way over before coming back to trot to pop on over. 

Then we turned left and came back to trot again to pleasantly hop over the ditch at five. He got distracted by the jumps and other stuff in the tree line to the left after the ditch as we headed to six, so I had to "get busy" to get his focus on the jump. This is what I didn't do at Majestic and JT used the phrase "get busy" when his feet slow down and that stuck really well in my head. Somehow it works better than just "add leg". If I squeeze and nothing happens, I kick. If I am kicking and his feet aren't moving any faster, I tap. He just needed a couple of kicks here to stop his sight seeing and remember he had a job and then he popped on over six, which was probably the smallest, least impressive fence on the course. 

Right hand turn to this split rail kind of thing for seven. 

Then through an unflagged water. We could've gone around but they were definitely setting you up to head through the water between seven and eight which I loved for the starter course. He had needed a quick lead in on Saturday, but with a few kicks Sunday never broke the trot, took a bit of a leap in, and then settled to a bouncy trot on through. 

Number eight, this brush roll, was 10+ strides out of the water. We did the left hand BN one while schooling on Saturday and it felt fantastic. Every once in a while I'm getting small feelings of his potential, and it's so exciting. 

I actually let him canter nine since it was all alone without distractions. 

Ten is a spooky fence and they love to put it in the tree line to add the light dynamic to it. While schooling Saturday I ended up having to "get busy" to the point that after multiple kicks I tapped him off the ground. It was interesting that unlike Ben who lands mortally offended and kind of running when he gets tapped for his favorite chip chip chip, Goggles actively responded off the ground, but then wasn't offended still on the back side. Sunday it was cloudy as we were going so the light-dark contrast wasn't as substantial. He popped gamely over with just a few kicks of encouragement. 

Another look at ten

I let him canter most of the way to eleven, this mulch table, then brought him back to the trot. He slipped back into the canter the last few strides and popped over smoothly. 

View from the back of twelve, the last fence. We cantered it on Saturday and got a really awkward spot the first time but fixed it the second time. I almost let him canter it Sunday, but I thought about how annoyed I'd be at myself if we had a run out at the last fence. He politely trotted it and landed in a canter, getting SO MUCH praise about what a good boy he was. 

We finished with one second of time from stadium added to our dressage score, good enough for 9th out of 13. I am SO PLEASED with him. He was professional and lovely in all three phases. He was FUN to ride AND, I think he had fun too!! I feel like I've spent the past nine months having more challenging rides than fun ones so to feel like it is finally all coming together and he's understanding his job and having a relaxed, fun time while doing it?!?!? It feels amazing. 

Some grass in the shade for the goodest boy

Pulling out by 11 AM, truck reading the shade temp of 81. It bumped up to 95 on our drive home. He got off the trailer an hour later just a tiny bit sweaty, not too bad.


  1. woot woot congratulations!! also i lol'd at Goggles getting mad when Ben came off the trailer... sounds like overall a really solid experience, congrats on such easy clear clean jumping and a smoother dressage test!

    1. Thank you!!! Can't wait to hear about your weekend!