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Fine Tuning Horse Jumping: Hunter-Jumper Expert Steven Weiss and Former Olympics’ Equestrian Jim Wofford on the Horse-and-Rider Takeoff

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Fine Tuning Horse Jumping with Jim Wofford and Steven WeissFind out the secret to a better jump from a former Olympics equestrian and a hunter-jumper expert. Jumping experts Jim Wofford and Steven Weiss help you have a perfect jump every time so you're prepared for your next show jumping or eventing course.

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Have you ever watched an equestrian like Jim Wofford or Steven Weiss in action as they dominated a show jumping or eventing course, wishing you knew the secret to their seamless, horse-jumping performance?

MyHorse Daily Managing Editor

MyHorse Daily Managing Editor

Long before Elizabeth Taylor sailed The Pie over the horse jumps of the Grand National in “National Velvet,” horse and rider teams were tackling fences for a very practical reason: because they were in the way.

Did you ever wonder what sparked the equestrian sports of show jumping and eventing? As it turns out, those first hunter-jumper teams needed to be able to get from Point A to Point B in a hurry, and due to the Enclosures Act of England in the eighteenth century, newly erected fences–the first horse jumps—blocked their paths.

Jim Wofford

Jim Wofford | Photo by Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore

It seems galloping across open fields after foxes can be harder when it requires horses jumping. Soon the fox hunters were looking for mounts who excelled at horse jumps.

According to the Olympic website, show jumping really took off after an Italian equestrian name Federico Caprilli revolutionized the horse jumping seat. Before him, riders would lean back and pull the reins when going over a horse jump, which was of course awkward and uncomfortable for the horse. Caprilli’s solution was the more natural “forward seat” position, and he created a saddle for it. This technique is now universally used, especially after Caprilli demonstrated it at the 1906 Olympics.

Sadly, the equestrian known as “the father of modern riding” would die in a freak accident the next year when his horse slipped on an icy street and fell. However, he left behind a legacy that changed horse jumping forever.

Perfect Your Timing Over Fences

Fine Tuning Horse JumpingDo you need help finding your spot when jumping a course? In this guide, jumping experts Jim Wofford and Steven Weiss will help you find the right pace and timing for your next jumping round.

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Now that going over horse jumps was becoming fun for both horse and rider, the horses became more willing, and the sport grew in popularity.

In 1912, equestrian events were first featured at the Olympics (female equestrian teams, however, didn’t make an appearance until the 1956 Olympics). In 1964, eventing had its first female equestrian competitor: Helena du Pont for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics.
Today, Olympic Equestrian competitions are very different, with men and women competing against each other on equal terms, including show jumping and eventing.

And the sport itself has become refined.
According to the London 2012 website the jumping course requires “nerves of steel” as horse and rider teams navigate a course of 12 to 14 jumps. There are team and individual events, and if there’s a tie at the end of the five rounds, there’s a “jump off” to determine the winner.
The same website also provides this handy show-jumping jargon buster:

  • Clear round: A round without any faults
  • Fault: Penalty points awarded for making a mistake: for instance, knocking down a jump or exceeding the allotted time
  • Jump-off: If one or more riders are tied for first place after the final scheduled round, there may be an extra round of competition, known as a jump-off
  • Refusal: When a horse stops at a jump, incurring faults
  • Triple combination: Three fences in close proximity, with just a few steps between them

Now that you know the history, and what to look for, aren’t your curious about how those equestrians make clearing the fences in eventing and show jumping look so easy?

For that we turn to a couple of masters. The first one was born into the role.
James C. (Jim) Wofford was born and raised on a horse farm in Milford, Kansas, into a family of equestrian competitors.

His father, Col. John W. Wofford, was on the 1932 Olympic Show Jumping team, his oldest brother J.E.B., was on the 1952 Olympic Bronze medal 3-Day Event team, his sister-in law, Dawn Palethorpe Wofford, was on the British Olympic Show Jumping team in 1960, and his middle brother, Warren, was 1st reserve to both the U.S. Show Jumping and Eventing teams at the Olympics in 1956.

Jim soon forged his own path as an equestrian. He was on the 1968, 1972, and 1980 Olympic teams, winning two Team Silver medals, and one individual Silver medal. He also competed in the 1970 and 1978 World championships, winning Bronze individual and team medals. He won the U.S. National championships five times, on five different horses, and won or placed at many competitions abroad between 1959 and 1986.

Are You Chipping into Your Fences? We've Got You Covered

Fine Tuning Horse JumpingIs it hard for you to see the right distance to a jump? Let horse jumping experts Jim Wofford and Steven Weiss help you find your rhythm. Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

Please provide your name and email address to download this free guide.

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Jim has had at least one student on every U.S. Olympic, World Championship, and Pan-American team since 1978. In short, the man knows what he’s talking about.

So the next time you watch a horse and rider sail sailing over fences in a horse jumping event, whether it’s show jumping or eventing, stop and appreciate just how precise their timing has to be.

That timing, Jim says, is all about the rider’s ability to predict the distance to the next horse jump.

Hunter-jumper trainer Steven Weiss knows that all too well.

Steven started his hunter-jumper career riding as a Junior at legendary trainer George Morris’s Hunterdon stables in New Jersey. Under George’s tutelage, he finished second in the AHSA Hunter Seat Equitation Medal Finals. He went on to run Ri-Arm Farm, a large commercial training business, with Mark Leone for 18 years.

Then he became a private hunter-jumper and overall equestrian trainer for Staysail Farm in North Salem, New York, where he coached rider Katie Dinan to multiple successes.

Now, he and trainer Frank Madden combined their clientele and staff to join forces at Old Salem Farm in North Salem, New York, where they are running a show and horse training business.

Find the Right Take-Off Point with Jim Wofford and Steven Weiss

Fine Tuning Horse JumpingDoes it seem like you always get a long spot to the jump? Claim your complimentary copy of our special free report, Fine Tuning Horse Jumping and find the right spot. Click the button below and we'll send you a download link to your copy of this FREE guide and we'll also notify you by email whenever we post new tips!

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A free lesson with Jim and Steven

Regarding timing and takeoff when horse jumping, the pair say that timing isn’t everything—although it can help your horse jump better:

Jim Wofford: “Before we talk about timing, however, let’s define our terms. ‘Timing’ refers to a rider’s ability to predict– and influence–the remaining increments of stride before an obstacle. While elite riders develop their ability to regulate their horses’ strides so as to consistently arrive at the ideal spots for their takeoffs in front of the obstacles, the rest of us are not so accurate.

Steven Weiss: “In any jumping discipline, one of the most elusive skills for riders to master is “seeing the distance”—guiding the horse to the correct takeoff spot in front of the jump. Only the most experienced upper-level riders—and a few uncommonly talented riders—can see their distances from 10 or more strides away. For everybody else, the secret to finding good distances consistently is not practicing until your horse’s legs give out. It is a combination of two basic skills: staying on the correct track—not cutting your corners or bulging out on the turns—and maintaining a medium pace.”

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Amy Herdy
Amy Herdy
MyHorse Daily Managing Editor

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