One of the speakers at this year’s Maryland Horse Expo in February was going to be Jim Wofford, the well-known and highly accomplished eventer. But we got a blizzard instead, and the Expo was sadly cancelled. Three feet of snow will do that!
While it’s not nearly the same, I figured I’d make up for the lost opportunity by reading one of Wofford’s many books. I chose Cross Country, since that’s the aspect that separates eventing from the other disciplines.
The book is simply a collection of his columns, as previously published in Practical Horseman. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of compiling existing articles. I’ve read all of these columns over the years as they came out in each edition. But when you put them together in the order that a trainer would teach the concepts, as opposed to the order in which a publisher would print them, it becomes useful in an entirely different way.
The book version shows us the progression, as Wofford would implement it. It begins with “Rider Fitness,” and “Competition,” then moves to “Secrets of Galloping and Jumping Well (and Safely!). There are also sections on “Working on Your Own,” and “Staying On During the Off-Season” which are great for training during the winter. For this amateur, they are a great way to get some specific and useful exercises organized for a week or so of riding, especially when you are training on your own.
In addition to the articles, my edition came with a bonus DVD. In the video, Wofford takes the viewer through the progression of the CCI*** course at Fair Hill. He shows us several elements and combinations, explains what is being tested, and backs us up to show the progression of a school a horse and rider, working things up from flat ground in the arena.
Specifically, he takes us through the finer points of addressing questions like banks, ditches, corners, and combinations. We get to see a variety of riders take on each obstacle, and hear Wofford’s commentary about what they each did well, and what needs correction. I know it wasn’t put in there just to make me feel better, but we get to see several riders deal with refusals and gain a better understanding of why they happened.
So while it wasn’t as good as attending one of Wofford’s lectures in person, or riding in one of his clinics, Cross Country is a great source of fundamental instruction from a master of eventing.