One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read at least one book a month to improve my riding. In order to keep the bar low enough so that I didn’t blow the whole resolution in the first month of 2017, I started with a relatively small and unassuming little book, titled 101 Eventing Tips, by Jim Wofford.
I’ve been a student of Wofford’s for some time now, attending his sessions at HorseExpo whenever I can, and reading his columns in each edition of Practical Horseman. So picking up this book didn’t seem like an arduous task. But once I started reading it, I realized this was going to be a double or triple read. You know: read it once to get the gist, read it again to pick up some of the detail you missed the first time, and then read it again to get all the detail it includes, and the nuance that is there for the taking.
Because the book is written in literally 101 short chapters — just a page or two each — it’s a good one to pick up for five minutes, set down, and pick up again later. But don’t let the user friendliness of it fool you. There’s a ton of great information in here!
Officially, it’s divided into sections on Getting Started, Dressage, Cross Country, and Stadium Jumping. Then there are two appendices on Grooming and Training that are just as useful as the main sections. Finally, the bibliography points you to more books for further reading. I chose to start by reading all the way through. Then, I took each section, re-reading it several times to get the most out of it.
Getting Started reassured me that Charlie Brown and I were on the right track together: finding our trainers, getting our saddles fit properly, joining the right local and national organizations, continuing to read (including the official rule book) and learning when out of the saddle.
The Dressage section took us through everything from competition clothing, to proper position for leg/seat/hand/arm, to making sure the horse moves off a light aid, to stiffness and hollowness, and transitions.
The Cross Country section gave me great information on horse fitness, rider fitness, pace (and the importance of feeling different paces), balance, and visualization.
Show Jumping was full of ideas about seeing and feeling the distance to a jump, pacing off a course, differences in position versus the other two phases. It specifically goes through different types of jumps like liverpools, corners, and narrow fences.
The Appendices are just as important as the main sections. Wofford believes strongly in good horsemanship, and that includes your giving your horse a thorough grooming every single day. Not only does it keep your horse healthy, it helps solidify your relationship with your horse.
Wofford is also a devout conditioner, but he especially understands the delicate balance that comes with training an event horse. You’re not training a dressage only horse, or a jumping only horse, but a well-rounded equine athlete. And he give you a clear plan to condition your horse — not just how he does it, but how to adjust the plan for what your particular horse needs. So, for instance, even though a trail ride isn’t on Jim’s official plan, I know that Charlie Brown needs the mental break, so we include a good long hack in his weekly training schedule.
I’m currently knee-deep in yet another read, focusing (for now) on the Dressage section, using it was a guide for my dressage focused lessons and schooling rides. I’ll take the other two in turn when the weather begins to turn warmer and the cross country schooling opportunities become more plentiful.