For almost a year, I've been trying to get Jimmy to come service those of us on Southern Maryland with a gymnastics clinic at Katchi's home at Baywood Farm. And today was the big day - I have to admit that I had an extra bounce in my step last night setting the jumps precisely to the specifications ordered by THE POTENTIAL NEW US EVENTING TEAM COACH! Wow - what timing to be the host of Jim's first clinic after the big announcement! My bounce was a little less by the end of the night - 40 standards and 30 poles later, we were ready to go (let me tell you, the next time I want to whine about trailer-in fees to attend a clinic like this - I might give the host a bottle of vodka with my check!). The weather forecast was calling for just 30% chance of drizzle through the morning. After being up at 5AM to ride, fight traffic to DC to sit at my office job all day, fight traffic back to the barn to set all the jumps, home just after 10 pm, one last weather check - all systems go for Wofford Wednesday!
Tuesday night ring set up - measure, measure, measure again (and Jimmy still asked if I used a tape measure and had to move some a few poles!)
5 AM - phone ringing. Hello? Yes, the clinic is still on (didn't you read the email yesterday?!). What's that you say about rain, ice, and snow? Hold on, let me open the blinds.... WHAT THE *!#@!& IS THIS? What the @#(&!% happened? SNOW? On Wofford Wednesday?! NNNNNNOOOOOO!!!!
Total panic, chaos, frantic phone calls, and massive reorganization ensued until 8:30 AM when Jimmy gave me a kiss on the cheek and all was well with the world again! 4 riders succumbed to the elements, but Jim and Baywood graciously agreed to refund their money in full. More bagels and cream cheese for the 8 riders and handful of auditors who braved the elements!
I know anyone who is reading this post probably only wants to know two things 1) what does Jimmy's bid for Eventing Coach mean for the "rest" of us and 2) what lines did we do today. I will answer both!
Coach for the rest of us?
I couldn't help it. I asked the question. I'm so excited about the prospect of Jim as Team Coach, but what about the rest of us? Jim's answer was fair, heartfelt, honest, and realistic. The details of the job are uncertain. The position is far from guaranteed as his. Should he be selected, he will put his heart and soul into the job. His availability for clinics and lessons for "the rest of us" will be reduced - at least for the first year. I chose to grab onto the "for the first year" part. If I can only manage to not mess myself up too terribly in one year - yea right! I'm surprised Katchi didn't laugh out loud!
Wofford's Wednesday Lines.
If you have Jim's Gymnastics book - today's lines were slight modifications of Exercises 12, 13 & 14 - condensed to fit within the indoor arena's dimensions. Jim's objective today was to lengthen and compress our horses. All this was done over very small fences - oxers up to 4' wide, but only 18" tall, and 2' tall bounces. Jim wanted us to take advantage of the winter non-competition season to return to the basics of teaching the horses to look after themselves. So, most of these exercises were done with a soft to loose rein, letting the horse find his way and answer his own questions.
I'll let some videos say the rest. Here are a few clips from the first group.
(THURSDAY ADDITION: I should have noted yesterday, in case you don't recognize them from other videos on my blog, the big chestnut in some of these clips is Atticus with my student Kerry - I always find it so interesting to hear comments from top instructors like Jim Wofford to my own students and it's a great sense of accomplishment for me when they do well and receive comments consistent with my own assessment of them!)
Second video has clips of Katchi. I was really proud of him today! Jim commented that he looks good this year - better! No barfing over fences! Not to say that all problems are solved, but this was a great day of confirmation that we are moving in the right direction. I especially like the last line coming towards the video - it's been probably over 6 months since I've gone through double bounces and I love SO much to lean my upper body at the jumps! In the first set of bounces, Jim says - stay tall! Oh, oops! I know that - I'm constantly yelling at my students to stay tall! So, within the same line, I go from rowing the boat, over the hogs back, to oh so nice and still and tall over the second set of bounces! It's fun to see such a dramatic change all in one line of fences!
(THURSDAY ADDITION: Power out at my house last night and still today, so couldn't finish posting this video. Now here are some clips of me and Katchi in the second group).
Measuring lesson: measure the distance from the hogsback's middle rail - oops!
One new thing I learned from Jim today was really interesting - one of the horses in the second group was ENORMOUS! He hasn't quite figured out what to do with his giant body yet, and sometimes he wanted to twist over the fences. Jim said that to fix this, some people make the distances really short, and while that does work sometimes - with some horses, it actually increases the problem as they twist more to fit into the tight space. He said by shortening them the problem can be made worse and often actually solidifies the technique permanently for the horse. Jim prefers to do the opposite - stretch the horse out long (aka, short wide oxers - back to the 18" tall, 3-4' wide), because by stretching the horse, you stretch them straight. Then you can teach them to compress straight. Sounds a bit like a rubber band to me - stretch it out and it goes straight. Huh. Sure makes sense!
I especially enjoyed watching the other riders in this clinic, because the quality of riding was outstanding and the horses were each so different! It really gave Jim an opportunity to perfect very precise details that made huge differences in the horses! It was absolutely fascinating to watch!
It currently looks a bit like a blizzard outside my window. Maybe the weather Gods will pay me back with a No-Work Thursday! Thanks so much to everyone for coming out to ride today - and to the auditors who played jump crew too! We were so lucky to have Jim brave the elements and the DC beltway to give us a winter tune-up. Our horses thank him too!