Five Tips from Jimmy Wofford

Five Tips from Jimmy Wofford

Translated by a Struggling Novice Event Rider

By Danielle Mayer Aymond

“Did I rub your nose in it enough?? Have you learned yet?” – Jimmy Wofford to me at the recent clinic held at Lagniappe Equestrian Center.

I brought my 7 year old OTTB, Frankie, to the Novice Level clinic in hopes of wowing Jimmy with my skills and fantastic horse. We may have fell short of that mark. However, as to be more realistically expected, I learned more then I could ever retain. The man is legendary and he does not fall short of expectations.

He has tricks, solid advice, and time proven exercises that will actually fix you and your horse. I tried to remember every wisp of knowledge that I could. I put together the following five tips that I think any rider could benefit from. Please keep in mind that these tips were directed at “novice” level, and would obviously change for riders and horses competing at a higher, more technical level.

1. Where to look while jumping different obstacles. So simple,  so fantastic.

The Vertical. Look steady between the horse’s ears. You will see as the horse sees. You see the jump approaching and when you can no longer see the obstacle, you are preparing to go over it.

The Oxer. Focus on the first and closest pole to you as you approach.

The Triple Bar. The focal point is the farthest and highest bar from you.

Cross Country jumps. Simply enough, Jimmy gave the same advice for cross-country obstacles as the vertical. He did add, however, that you return your seat to the saddle at least four strides out so your horse feels you and you balance and center yourself before the obstacle.

2. Release or your horse will hate you.

This was where the dog discipline reference I quoted above was used on me. This is the basics that we all may think we do, but it may not be enough. My homework for this winter is gymnastics gymnastics gymnastics … with no reins. So like no stirrups November, it No Reins Winter. I’m less than thrilled, but the lesson is valid. We often interfere so much with our horses; they begin to rely on us instead of themselves. Most of our horses can jump beautifully and all we need to do it set them up and release.

3. Leads Leads Leads.

If your horse is not an automatic flying lead changer, this lesson is for you. While practicing arena jumping, always fix your lead. And I mean always. After every fence, Jimmy had every rider do a simple lead change to fix their lead. This tactic was used after every single fence, even your last fence. The basis is that your horse will learn. You will learn. It is much easier to land on the correct lead then to stop and fix it every time. You will both learn to think ahead of the fence regarding your leads. Your horse will listen to the signal you give him over the fence on which direction you are going next. Thus, even if you never become the automatic lead changer, you will always have your correct lead and a flawless stadium round.

4. Rhythm

The leads lesson easily transfers into the rhythm lesson. To jump beautifully you must have rhythm. A horse and rider with a correct rhythm won’t miss a distance and won’t pull a rail. Rhythm is the key. To work on this time proven solution to all your jumping issues, the homework is practice. More specifically the practice is doing a jump and circling until you get into a nice rhythm and then go to your next jump. Never do a whole course running like a jumper pony on speed. A nice rhythm will carry you through with no faults. This applies to both your approach practicing Stadium and Cross-Country.

5. Seat, stirrups, position

This is the biggie. Without the proper seat, stirrups, and position, you won’t be able to effectuate the above. I can’t begin to give you the breadth of knowledge Jimmy has on all the minute details for the perfect seat, stirrups and position, but I can give you a couple points that resonated with me.

For jumping in Stadium, you should remain at the three-point, which is slightly elevated and with a forward body position. Your two-point is for over the fence. At this level you should not be kissing the mane over your jump; it’s not necessary and makes you look silly. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle. Pull those stirrups up, this is not dressage. And absolutely, do NOT post at the canter. I’ll admit, I’m guilty as charged.

For jumping cross country you should get off of your horse’s back but do not brace against him. You should feel limber in the joints and allow your hips, knees and ankles to take your weight rhythmically (there’s that word again). You should, as mentioned above, move some weight back into the seat at least four strides away from an obstacle. It reminds the horse you are there and allows you to re-balance together before the obstacle.

For those of you that missed this clinic I highly recommend coming to audit the next one. Jimmy plans on returning once a year. His “classroom” lesson each morning was as, or more, helpful than riding in the class. Also, like his advice, his books are clear and pointed which helps this Type A personality rider immensely.

Wish me luck on No Reins Winter!

Danielle Mayer Aymond on her horse, Frankie, with Jimmy Wofford at Lagniappe Equestrian Center. photo ©Tony Tribou photography

Danielle Mayer Aymond on her horse, Frankie, with Jimmy Wofford at Lagniappe Equestrian Center. photo ©Tony Tribou photography

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