Jimmy Wofford Clinic: Day 1 by Dr. Nahmi Jones
I usually think of gymnastics as simple, straight forward exercises. A couple of innocent standards set up as a chute. The instructor sneaks the rails up. The next thing you know, you are jumping a challenging question without realizing what's been built up.
For the Jimmy Wofford clinic at Eventful Acres last weekend things were a little different. Rod Hisken's huge jumping arena was full of freshly painted white rails and standards, laid out everywhere like an albino logging disaster.
As I rode in I thought: "Uh oh Simon, you and I are going to have to do a lot of thinking today. There's nothing simple about what Jimmy has in store for us today."
I knew that at least Simon would get the benefit of the doubt from the 3xOlympian from his comments at our early morning lecture/ introduction. Jimmy's amazing enthusiasm for our sport and our equine partners was summed up in his response to a question about selecting a young event prospect. "I'm automatically going to like it if its a horse".
Jimmy's message for day one, in fact the message for the whole weekend was to teach us to be intelligent passengers.
The goal of his gymnastic exercises was to allow the horse to jump in a way that simulated his natural balanced jumping style unencumbered by the rider.
Through the wide and low oxer/ bounce line Simon had to reach out to stretch and compress his body horizontally. Though the double bounce/ hogsback line he got to reach up vertically to stretch through his bascule.
I was encouraged to ride with a longer rein. Did I lose Simon out the front door this way? You betcha. Jimmy's solution to keep a steady rhythm, to take my lower leg off to prevent driving.
I struggled to keep my position over fences by stabilizing my body with only my upper leg and without using my hands as a crutch. I was thrilled to find Simon responding to my efforts to find the happy balance between a lighter hand and a lighter leg, by jumping with more freedom through his neck and back in a happy relaxed rhythm.