Oct 04, 2022

Jim Wofford Delivers His Fun and Education Formula at Woodside Clinic

Photo courtesy of Judy Serie Nagy

Specifics of the "Fun & Education Formula" were provided to all at the Jim Wofford Clinic held on August 20 & 21 at the Horse Park in Woodside, northern California. Eager riders, auditors, and volunteers gathered for a much anticipated two-day clinic with the master bright and early Saturday morning.

Wofford is considered one of the best eventing trainers in the world. The three-time Olympian, member of both the USEA Hall of Fame, and Colorado’s Culver Military Academy Halls of Fame has had students excel at every U.S. Olympics, World Championships, and Pan-American Games since 1978. All riders at the 2000 Sydney Olympics were graduates of Wofford’s program, and 75% of the 2002 WEG Gold medal team were his students. Wofford was twice USOC Developmental Coach of the year, and he coached the Canadian team in 2003 and 2004.

The weather was California perfect, with temps in the mid-70s and a nice breeze. Wofford opened both days with an hour of Q&A plus lecture, including fascinating whiteboard diagrams. The Preliminary riders then mounted up and the jump crew hit the arena, with the auditors joining them. Three groups of riders at the Preliminary, Training, and Novice levels rode different lines designed by Wofford.

He emphasized the importance of rhythm throughout. He had each rider practice counting in rhythm with each stride from start to finish of an exercise, rather than counting strides to a fence or combination. This ensures that the horse keeps in balance, and the rider experiences that as well. To teach the riders to be softer with the rein, Wofford showed how hands held in the ‘driving position’ give the horse more ability to properly jump using his head and neck.

Photo courtesy of Judy Serie Nagy

Wofford advised riders to put a knot on their rein buckle so that the rein won’t break at its weakest spot while slipping the reins at a down bank-type jump. The rider is to stay vertical during the landing phase. The reins are then shortened with one hand sliding up both reins, while the other hand pulls from the knot. Lots of mounted and dismounted practice makes it happen without looking.

Novice rider Pam Wright said, “Mr. Jim was fantastic, and I loved his sense of humor. These words came up several times: ‘Your horse would like you to shut up. Sit still, so he can figure out his job’. That just cracks me up! It made me smile then and I will still be smiling when riding, thinking about this quote.”

Lucy Beard had a super experience, as did her horse and shared she love to come back whenever Wofford returns to Woodside. “What really stands out to me beyond Jim’s obvious expertise and skill, is his absolute passion for teaching. He certainly doesn’t need to be traveling the country working through the same issues week after week, and yet here he is, 4:30 p.m. on a dusty Sunday helping me, a Novice rider, get the best out of my green horse and prepare us for our first competition. What a force he is in American eventing, and what an honor it is to learn from him."

Jump crew Eben Haber had a great time and stated that Wofford was great to learn from just by listening. “My favorite takeaways were: ‘Don’t push your heels down, let the stirrup push your toes up. How many jumps did you do? You didn’t do any jumps, your horse did the jumps.’ He advised the riders to ride a dressage circle in the middle of the jump course to settle their horse. Trot into jumps, let the horse’s movement lift you into jumping position, the same way the horse’s movement lifts you in the rising trot.”

Vijoa Lucas rides at the Training level and shared, “It’s clear that Jim Wofford truly cares about helping us improve. He is adamant that our horses are trained to be a partner, not a slave. ‘Let your horse do it, let your horse learn, stop getting in his way.’ He also trains students similar to a horse training the rider… through humility and great fun! I’ll never forget this clinic.”

Training level rider Ari Kann shared “it was an absolute privilege to work with a man who shared his wealth of knowledge in a way that was empowering, yet light-hearted. It is humbling the way he still loves and admires these amazing animals. That love and passion are felt through his teaching. I had a blast, learned a ton.”

Ari and her horse found their relationship much improved, with added confidence for them both. She really appreciates having such a great experience.

Photo courtesy of Judy Serie Nagy

Kim Goto Miner rides at the Preliminary level and had an amazing weekend while enjoying the company of old and new eventing friends. She watched Wofford make improvements in everyone with his take on basic skills, things that affect her own riding and will benefit her students at home.

Deborah Rosen, who rides at the Preliminary level, found Wofford to be the most knowledgeable and accomplished horseman of our time. “To ride with him is a master class, in theory, practice, and historical reference of the training of the horse. Whether you are in the tack or on the ground auditing, you will leave with information worth its weight in gold. From the lectures to the riding exercises, Woffard sets you and your horse up for success. He is a gift to us all.’

Jump crew Annie Shaw marveled, “The man has eyes in the back of his head. He heard the hoof beats of every horse approaching a jump, whether he saw it or not—a highly accurate diagnostic tool. With that, and asking the riders to count strides and circle to return to a dressage canter between lines, tempo and rhythm were the order of the day at all levels. Riders were amazed and delighted at the results.” Annie found the variety of horses’ breeds, jump style, and training to be highly educational. “They all appeared to come away from the experience more confident, focused, and relaxed.”

Preliminary Rider Ruth Bley observed, “Jimmy gives you the opportunity to fine-tune your riding. Nothing goes unnoticed. He picks up on all the subtleties. Things that upset your horse’s balance, or things that communicate the opposite of your intentions, are just a few examples. There are no gimmicks, just solid training that lets you and your horse learn.”

Photo courtesy of Judy Serie Nagy

Preliminary rider Sally Phillips appreciated all the work that went into this clinic. She appreciated his wisdom “It was a gift to ride under his tutelage.”

Riding at the Training level, Karen Horn found Wofford to be “a great clinician- so knowledgeable and able to deliver feedback in a clear and direct way… and not at all intimidating!”

Wofford left a horse park full of northern California eventers eagerly anticipating his next visit, which they hope will be soon.

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