Better preparation for the Ocala 1* in April, Poplar or Pine Top in March?
I have been to Pine Top (schooling, not to compete) and never been to Poplar. I like the date better for Pine Top as far as spacing out the ponies preliminary runs, however, for those of you who have run preliminary at both venues, preferences?
I don't mean easy vs hard, but whether they are good 1* preparations, good jumps, good footing, stabling is decent, well run events. Any input would be great!
I've never been to Poplar, but I love everything about Pine Top. The footing is great, the stabling is excellent, and it is a superbly run event. I also think it is good prep for Ocala as there are usually some big questions, the water may be almost as hard as a 1* (old experience on that) and it is a great confidence boosting run as the courses tend toward great galloping.
I would imagine that Pine Top is closer to Ocala in terms of terrain and course layout (I've never been to Ocala but have been to Pine Top and Poplar) - Poplar is quite twisty and nippy, whereas Pine Top is definitely more of an open galloping course. That being said, I did the Poplar CIC a couple years in a row as my first 'bigger' prep event of the season, and always felt like it set me up really well for the rest of the spring (I went on to Bromont CCI* one year and moved up to Intermediate the next).
I'll second Pine Top. I love the footing, love the courses, love their events. The course designer at the upper levels works on good galloping courses that ask the right questions. Our horses have always come off XC asking for more.
I like both. Pine Top was very tough preliminary the first time I ran it; more recently, I thought the XC was a bit on the smaller side though it was still fun. Good questions, just not huge - I used it as a first-of-the-year and it felt like a nice way to open. I've not run for time there, but the footing was quite good on the XC course. If they are still running the SJ on grass, I recall the course was a lot of big oxers that took some forward riding. Poplar I tend to like their SJ a bit better (particularly the footing) but that may not be as important to you. For what it's worth, I don't think I've ever ridden at Poplar when it didn't rain there at least one of the days, but that may just be my own poor luck.
I have to say we are a bit spoiled in Florida, the sandy footing for xc is also good. Both Rocking Horse and the FHP have amazing arena footing for SJ, although RH has a SMALL arena, lots of turns to fit the jumps all in.
Since we are using the March run as a prep for the one star, which is in Ocala in April, tougher questions are good, size maybe less important to the pony. Ocala is a gallopy type course, the jumps are substantial in size. No terrain to speak of.
I've done Poplar and Pine Top many, many times, including at Preliminary. Honestly, although Pine Top is bigger, and sometimes a bit more technical, I think the courses there usually flow better than Poplar. Poplar is very hilly, and it's harder to make time. It tends to be more twisty turny, and Pine Top tends to have a More flowing, gallopy course.
I also feel like the actual fences at Pine Top are less looky, and more inviting for the horses. I've always been impressed with how my horses have stepped up to the challenge there.