Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Woff part 2

It's cold and windy outside. Izzy is feeling much better, so instead of love-y and snuggling, she was nutty this morning. Grrr. Instead of writing about how frustrating it was, I bring you part two of the Jimmy Wofford clinic.

In the morning lecture, we again followed a Q & A format. Here are some of the main points:

Horse Size
The optimum size for maximum athletic performance is 15.3-16.1 (you will all note that Izzy is 16.0). Optimal conformation is built uphill with a normal-to-long back, straight legs, and a good mind. There is an excellent article on conformation and durability by Col. Chamberlain.

The reason this conformation is desirable is that for most riders, it is far easier to put a long-backed horse together than it is to loosen a short backed horse. Lucinda Green would disagree, but she's hardly a normal rider. Bigger horses break down more easily and are more difficult to ride. There are more prone to health problems such as roaring. The short format event is even more intense than the old long formats. The last two minutes of XC are pretty much anaerobic exercise, and a well-conditioned smaller horse does better at it (at advanced levels).

As always, Jimmy loves his TBs. If a horse can't be a TB, he wants it to be at least half. He likes draft crosses, as long as the draft is several generations removed. With rare exceptions, half-draft horses are just too big and cumbersome to be really good at eventing. Again, here we're talking about Intermediate and up, I think. He doesn't care as much at the lower levels.

Helmet Zipline
During the showjumping for the prelim/training group, Jimmy had the riders do a combination while pretending to have a zipline attached to their heads. This was because horses jump in an arc, which is 180 degrees. They are only going forward for one of those degrees. The horse needs the rider's mechanics to be correct in order to perform at it's best. The zipline exercise gets the rider up and allows the horse to work underneath them.

The Galloping Seat
Apparently, there are nuts running around teaching people to straighten their legs when galloping. This is bunk. Bend your knees to absorb the impact on the movement. Horses do not run a flat line. They must make constant shallow arcs over the ground, so they go up and they come down. If your knees are straight, you force the horse to lift your entire weight with every stride.

Unorthodox Riders (I'm looking at you, P. Dutton)
Yes, they're out there and they ride at high levels. Yes, it is frustrating to be an instructor and have your students watch them. They get away with this because they have such an incredible sense of timing and balance and where the horse needs them to be.

Remind your students that they do not have those natural advantages. Direct them towards riders with excellent basics like William Fox Pitt and Pippa Funnell.

Remember, it's better for you to learn the hard way then be naturally good.

We did a long section on the different riding positions within the disciplines and how they related to the terrain. It was fascinating. It's also largely illustrated in my notebook, which means to actually explain it, I'd need to either become a paint whiz or use a scanner. Let me know if you care enough to see it all.

Basically, don't follow fads in positions; they are just exaggerations of reality. All you really need are a vertical stirrup leather (in relation to the ground) and a straight line from the elbow to the bit.

Posting at the Canter
This is a bad habit. To correct it, put a glove under your butt and keep it there. Or put your reins in your outside hand and your inside hand on the cantle under your butt. You will learn to relax your back and sit.

There are three things you need to know about riding dressage
1) Have a good position
2) Have a good position
3) Have a good position
That's all there is to it. ;-)

Distances to Fences
Don't worry about distances yet. Also, don't tell your students to not worry about distances. That's like saying, "Don't think about a white horse standing on a hill." Obviously, you have to think about it. Instead of stressing over distance, focus on rhythm. Use gymnastics with related distances to get both horse and rider used to the proper distance.

The horse will learn faster than the rider will. For the rider to start learning (when they're well along), have them ride a gymnastic with a specific distance, say three strides. Have them say, "Land. One, two, three" in rhythm with the horse. When riders start to understand distances, they always want to move up for the long stride. Teach them that a long three is the same as a short four, which is probably preferable.

And here's Jimmy favorite quote for the weekend: "And adventure is what happens after things start going wrong."


  1. AS always, his explanations are articulate, concise, and clear. It's pretty obvious that he is an excellent teacher who is well in tune with what he does so well and is able to communicate it to others.

  2. Haha. posting at the canter. I thought "por que? what is she talking about" then I remembered-- I see this daily in the hunters. I hope I'm not completely guilty, but more often than not our trainers prefer your butt to stay slightly out of the saddle ;)

  3. I don't think I could possibly love The Woff any more than I already do. He embodies so much excellence!
    Thanks for the detailed notes. And of course I care enough for you to scan your notebook. Pretty please? :-)
    And, agreed, the hunter half-seat thing is soooo not cool!

  4. This entry was very informative. Thanks for posting your notes!

  5. Gosh I love the Woff [:

    You should for sure scan your notebook! It would be lovely to see your drawings!


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