Monday, August 24, 2009

Jim Wofford Part III: Black Labs, Fly Fishing, and the Civil War

What does Jim Wofford think is different with upper level riders today? And what's he up to when not being an eventing legend? Let's find out...

The one thing missing is they don’t practice their galloping and don’t get practice riding at speed. There’s an outcry about eventing being dangerous. If you don’t know what you’re doing--any sport is dangerous. They don’t understand those techniques as well as dressage or show jumping. My goodness, Bettina Hoy and Ingrid Klimke, they ride upper level dressage for fun. Everyone is aware that Mark Todd won two gold medals in eventing. But did you know that he was 15th in show jumping in 1988?

Below: Bettina Hoy. Photo by Emily Daily

That’s one of his least known, best performances. If you want to know why he’s the horseman of the century, that’s why. And he did it just to amuse himself. Bill Roycroft, the father of Wayne Roycroft (Wayne was Chef d’Equipe of the Australian eventing team and retired from the FEI committee), won Badminton on El Dorado, who was also 3rd at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The modern event riders don’t even understand what the silver backs in the sport are talking about when they tell them about galloping and jumping at speed. They think the eventing speeds are fast. It is not the speed that is making the eventing dangerous. It’s the going fast out of balance that is bringing danger into the sport.

Q. If you had decided to take a path other than as horseman, what would it have been?

A. Never entered my mind. I did try some other things. I was very active for about 30 years in the horse organizations. I had an administrative career. When I retired in ‘84 I tried a couple of jobs in the real world and it was not going to work. At that time, fortunately for me, eventing took off and after about three years I was making more per year doing clinics on the weekend than I was working five days a week. So I thought, this is crazy, and set up shop again at Fox Covert Farm.

Below: Jim Wofford fly fishing

Q. What about when you’re not with the horses? How do you spend your time?

A. I love to fly fish, and during the winter I do a great deal of duck hunting, usually with a Black Lab beside me. Like the one laying here with me, Nacho, listening to make sure I’ve got it right. We’ve just taken his daughter into the family; her name is Peaches. She’s locked in the garage right now because she’s a bandit.

I do a great deal of writing now. I write a monthly column for Practical Horseman. I enjoy that greatly. They give me enormous latitude in the topics. As long as it’s about horses they pretty much accept it. So that’s a great deal of fun. I’ve just floated two book proposals and the editor has agreed to look at both of them more carefully so I’ll be working on those. I’ve written sort of a book of reminiscences called Take a Good Look Around. I don’t have anything that’s autobiographical in nature. I like to write about things I’m interested in, and writing my autobiography really doesn’t interest me. I’m much more interested in writing about dogs and horses and fish and that sort of thing. That’s pretty much my life.

Q. What interests you about the Civil War Era?

A. I’m interested in all sorts of military history because of my father’s history as a career Army officer. There are two aspects:

I had several relations in the war. There were Woffords on both sides of the Civil war just as most family’s had who had been in the country 150 years. The farm we purchased near the village of Upperville was part of Battle of Upperville which took place on June 18, 1863. It doesn’t happen so much anymore but people used to stop and ask if they could run their metal detectors and find they would find belt buckles and buttons and things.

Below: The Battle of Upperville from Harper's Weekly.

The major characters of the civil war were so interesting, amazingly interesting human beings like Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. The WWI statesmen were so dry and dusty and uninteresting, unimaginative. WWII characters were again interesting and fascinating: Patton and Churchhill.

That’s where my reading goes. Shelby Foote wrote a three volume history of the Civil War. He was featured in the Robert Burns TV program on the civil war. He was from Mississippi and spoke with a soft southern drawl. That’s program is absolutely wonderful, I believe he got the Pulitzer for his trilogy on the Civil War.

Q. Is there anything else you wish I’d asked but didn’t, or anything else you want to add?

A. I’m 64 and semi-retired and what that means is I don’t teach on a daily basis, I’ve rented the stables out and it’s occupied by a hunter-jumper, but I’m doing more clinics than ever. I teach as much per week at other people’s local facilities as I used to per day. So I’m still at it. I don’t expect to ever totally retire and not want to fool with horses and riders. I think the economy is going to be so weak for so long we won’t be able to entirely retire. I’m living proof if you do what you love to do you’ll never work a day in your life.

1 comment:

  1. Horray! I found your blog! I think this is precious and I'll enjoy reading your posts and learning about horses/equestrian more! :)


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