Back To Riding

a monthly web column

November 2011: Weekend with Wofford

with 3 comments

By Katherine Walcott, Illustration by Jean Abernethy

“It’s simple. It’s just not easy.”
James C. Wofford, Training the Three-Day Event Horse and Rider [Doubleday 1995]

You gotta respect an instructor who can start a sentence with, “When I was teaching [Olympic Silver Medalist] Kim Severson……” At the end of October, I spent two days at Foxwood Farm auditing a clinic by Jimmy Wofford.

Wofford’s Words of Wisdom
(As interpreted by me. Mr. Wofford should be held harmless from however I chose to butcher his ideas.)

Horse and rider need to jump the same jump at the same time.

It’s not against the law to be green.

When reapproaching a jump after a problem, don’t ride faster, ride stronger.

To steer around a stadium course, point your chin at the jump.

Flat jumping comes from increasing speed.

Perfect doesn’t happen. Aim for really good.

The difference between bad riding and good riding? I can‘t see good riding.

The horse hears the aids he wants to hear. Quick horses ignore your hand and overreact to a touch of leg.
Sedate souls, vice versa. Therefore, you may have to unbalance your aids to balance your horse.

Punish immediately and reward immediately. Make a fuss over him. Pat him a lot. Tell him he’s wonderful. He’ll start to believe you.

The brief guide to jumping: Canter in a rhythm. If they jump, you kiss ‘em. If they don’t, you kick ‘em.

Clinic Theory
I believe in undershooting when entering a clinic. If I rode at X level, I’d sign up for the X-minus-one group.
I’d want to be at a level where I was rock-bottom certain. That way, when the clinician told me to jump a funky gymnastic line at least I wouldn’t be worried about the height of the fences. This weekend, for example, one young lady kept sticking her tongue out when jumping. Wofford warned her and then made her jump with her glove stuffed in her mouth.

How was life over in my little angst-ridden corner of the universe? I first proposed this clinic back in March (blog posted in June). So I’ve had half a year to adjust to the idea that I wasn’t riding in it. Come the day, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy watching without riding but if I stayed home, I’d sulk. Mostly, at least publicly, I did okay. However, each of the clinic days I did disappear for a quick snivel. Both occasions were after lunch, so blood sugar may have been involved. I subdued my disgruntlement by taking notes as if the clinic were an event to be covered. Occasionally I was pulled out of writer mode by an attendee’s horse misbehaving. At that point, I’d have an anxiety attack in sympathy by imagining the Technicolor fits Rodney would have thrown. That’s the point. I did NOT ride because I was NOT ready. If I ever DO ride in this or any other clinic, it will be when I AM ready. But try telling that to my stomach.

In keeping with my promise of looking on the bright side:
1) I was way more relaxed than had I been riding. Annoyed, frustrated, and depressed, yes. But more relaxed.
2) I was spared the sight of my oversized giraffe in the Beginner Novice group with the pony brigade.
Blog frequency – monthly.
Links to past WordPress & USEA columns, plus weekly commentary, on Facebook at Rodney aka Perpetual Motion. Note, I occasionally forget to switch identities before posting there, so please select “Everyone (Most Recent)” under the photo strip to see all entries.


Written by Virtual Brush Box

November 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. […] I wrote about the Wofford clinic later that year: Weekend with Wofford. ~~~ The Further Adventures of the $700 Pony is available on Amazon as an ebook. ~~~ The Goode […]

  2. Good one! It also looks very nice on the screen.

    Sarah Your Friend

    November 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm

  3. Humiliation definitely trumps depression mitigated by relaxation. So, good choices all around. Next year, there is always next year.


    November 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm

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