Tag Archives: Eventing/H.T.

European Youth Eventing Masters

Strzegom is starting a brand-new project in the European equestrian events calendar – European Youth Eventing Masters. The first edition will be played out during Strzegom October Festival, from the 8th until the 11th of October in Morawa.

European Youth Eventing Masters is a show for every youth age category – Ponies, Juniors, and Young Riders. The athletes will compete in CCIOP2*-L (ponies), CCIO2*-L (juniors), and CCIO3*-L (Young Riders).

The rivalry is designed similarly to Nations Cup classes – each competition will include teams of 3-4 riders.

“Our goal is to give young riders a chance to compete individually and as a team, apart from championship events. We hope that the riders will find the show interesting, because we would like to host it in Strzegom during the coming years,” explains Marcin Konarski, chair of the Organising Committee.

Contact:
www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl
press@strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Japanese Rider Wins the 4* Class in Strzegom

Yoshiaki Oiwa with the 12-year-old Tullyoran Cruise JRA was the best rider in the CCI4*-L class, the most difficult one at LOTTO Strzegom Horse Trials.

Oiwa was victorious after a clear round in the showjumping, beating the leader after two trials – Jonelle Price from New Zealand, who had one knockdown. Tim Price, the current number two in the FEI rankings, did not keep his lead after dressage and even a clear jumping round didn’t compensate for the time penalties he got in the cross-country trial. The Kiwi rider finished fourth, and his wife Jonelle was second with Grappa Nera and third with McClaren.

The only Polish combination in the class – Paulina Maciejewska with Jangcy L – finished sixth.

The win in the CCI3*-L class belonged to German rider Julia Mestern with Monarts Masterpiece. Second place went to her teammate Malin Hansen-Hotopp with Quidditch K, and Merel Blom from the Netherlands was third on Crossborder Radar Love.

The best athlete of the CCI2*-L was Merel Blom with Corminta vom Gwick. The next two places on the podium were taken by German riders: Andreas Dibowski with Calahari before Katarina Tietz with Chapeau Claque 49.

The 2* and 3* short format classes ended with cross country trials. Dirk Schrade won the three-star class riding Casino 80, second place went to Arthur Duffort from France with Gredington Mailthyme, and Sonja Buck with Carla Bruni finished third. Greta Busacker from Germany was the best in the Young Riders category with Coco Maurice 2 and Julia Gillmaier from Poland took home the third place, riding Red Sunrise 2.

Dirk Schrade was first and third in the CCI2*-S class with Cold Red Rum and La Duma. Second place went to Ingrid Klimke riding Cascamara. The best Junior rider was Greta Busacker aboard Scrabble 15.

The podium of the CCIP2*-L class for ponies was dominated by German athletes. Jule Krueger was the best with Steendiek’s Max Edition, Pita Schmid with Sietlands Catrina was second, and third place went to Linn Zepke with Betty Boo 14.

More than 217 horses from 17 countries competed in 11 classes at this year’s LOTTO Strzegom Horse Trials.

Online results: http://results.strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Contact:
www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl
press@strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Germany Wins the Nations Cup in Strzegom, Poland on the Podium

Photo credit: Leszek Wójcik.

German riders were victorious in the second leg of the FEI Nations Cup in eventing, winning both the team and individual classification. Poland finished on the third place.

The win for the German team was guaranteed after the cross-country trial, leaving the previous leaders – Netherlands – in the second position. Ingrid Klimke with SAP Asha P had the best result in the team, and Andreas Dibowski with FRH Corrida, Beeke Jankowski with Tiberius 20, and Heike Jahncke with Mighty Spring were competing alongside her. The current European champion also won the class individually. She took the lead with the 16-year-old gelding SAP Hale Bob OLD after dressage, and even a knockdown in the jumping and points for time in the cross-country did not take away her best position.

Dutch riders Merel Blom with Ceda N.O.P, Jordy Wilken with Burry Spirit, Raf Kooremans with Dimitri N.O.P, and Laura Hoogeven with Wicro Quibus were in the lead after two trials, but eventually ended up on the second position. The best result in the team and third place individually belonged to Merel Blom.

The cross-country trial made the Polish team go up into the third position: Mateusz Kiempa with Lassban Radovix, Joanna Pawlak with Fantastuc Frieda, Jan Kamiński with Senior, and Michał Hycki with Moonshine. The best result among them belonged to Mateusz Kiempa, as he finished fourth in the individual classification. He was in the second place after dressage and jumping, but points for time on the cross-country course made him miss the podium.

„I’m happy with my performance, but I think that we should firstly look at the team score – everyone did very well, and I think we should all be pleased about it,” said Kiempa after the prizegiving ceremony.

Saturday was also cross-country day for the long format classes. The new best result in the CCI4*-L is that of Jonelle Price with Grappa Nera. The rider from New Zealand went clear in the XC and took the lead away from her husband Tim Price. The current number one in the CCI3*-L class is Julia Mestern from Germany with Monarts Masterpiece, and the leader in the CCI2*-L is Dutch rider Merel Blom with Corminta vom Gwick.

Saturday’s cross-country was the last trial of the CCI1* Intro, where the winner was Sophie Leube (GER) with Skyjacker 3.

More than 270 horses from 11 countries compete in 11 classes during LOTTO Strzegom Horse Trials.

Nations Cup classification:

  • Germany – 105,90
  • Netherlands – 108,30
  • Poland – 136,80

Online results: http://results.strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Contact:
www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl
press@strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Kiwis in the Lead in the 4* Class at Strzegom Horse Trials

Tim Price and Wesko. Photo by Mariusz Chmieliński.

The first dressage tests were played out at the eventing competition at LOTTO Strzegom Horse Trials.

The most difficult class – CCI4*-L – was dominated by riders from New Zealand. Tim Price is first and second with Wesko and Spartaco, and the next two positions belong to his wife – Jonelle Price riding Grappa Nera and McClaren.

„I was really pleased with both horses. Grappa Nera is only 9 years old, so she’s quite unestablished in some of the work on this level, but every time she’s getting better and better. McClaren is a new ride for me this season; he’s got so much talent. I don’t think we’re quite there, where I know he can get to, but he’s doing some lovely work” – said Jonelle Price after her dressage test.

The current leader of the 3* long class is Dutch rider Mara Van de Ven with Lexington van de Vinkenhof, and the best athlete of the CCI2*-L is her teammate – Merel Blom riding Corminta vom Gwick. In the CCIP2*-L, Matti Garlichs has taken the lead with Andante. The first position in the Intro class belongs to Sophie Leube from Germany with Skyjacker 3.

On Friday we will see dressage and jumping trials, including the Nations Cup competition. Saturday and Sunday will be cross-country and jumping days. 270 pairs representing 17 countries from all around the world compete at the show.

You can watch the livestream of the action at our website: https://strzegomhorsetrials.pl/pl/.

Online results: http://results.strzegomhorsetrials.pl.

Michael Jung Is a Double Winner in Strzegom

Photo credit: Leszek Wójcik.

Michael Jung with the 12-year-old fischerChipmunk FRH was the winner of the CCI4*-S class, the highest-ranked one of Strzegom Summer Tour. Polish rider was victorious in the two-star class.

The German multi-medalist was the favourite in the class since the beginning, performing flawlessly throughout all three trials. He got an impressive 19,4 in the dressage, then he finished the cross-country clear as the only one inside the time. A faultless showjumping round only confirmed that the pair is in amazing shape.

Dutch rider Raf Kooremans with Dimitri N.O.P. finished second after a clear jumping trial. Third place went to Lea Siegl (AUT) with Fighting Line.

Mateusz Kiempa riding Libertina, who was second after dressage, gained penalty points after going over the time in the cross-country. He also had one knockdown during the jumping, which made him finish at the 23rd place.

Paweł Spisak riding Banderas, fourth after the XC, can’t count the jumping as a successful one. Four knockdowns and points for time meant that the pair was placed 27th.

More than 300 horses from 18 countries competed in the show. Athletes faced each other in four short-format classes and a 2* class for ponies.

Michael Jung dominated not only the 4* class. He brought three horses to the show and placed at the podium with each of them. With the 8-year-old fischerWild Wave he was the best in the CCI3*, in spite of one knockdown in the jumping. He was third in the same class with Go For S. Second place went to Lea Siegl (AUT) with van Helsing P. A clear round in the XC and jumping made her come up from the 14th place after dressage.

The highest-ranked Polish pair of the class was Julia Gillmaier and Quinton 14. The athlete was 17th after dressage, finished the cross-country a few seconds late and went clear in the showjumping, which made her take the 8th place.

As many as 85 horses competed in the two-star class. The winner was Mateusz Kiempa riding Pitagoras. The Polish rider was fourth after dressage and secured his win with clear showjumping and XC rounds. The next two places went to German riders: Sonja Buck with Carla Bruni R and Vanessa Bölting riding Ready To Go W.

The winner of the CCIP2*-L class was Matti Garlichs from Germany with Andante D. Kato De Smidt (NED) was second with Orchid’s Tigersun, and Emilia Vogel (GER) took home the third place with Tina. The only Polish pair in the class – Julia Witkowska with Chester – finished 9th.

The one-star Intro class belonged to Levi Cordes (GER) with Calesco 3. Second place went to his teammate Carlo Klippel with Carismo 22, and Sterre van Houte (NED) riding Guapo 29 was third.

On-line results: http://eventing.strzegomhorsetrials.pl/results/2020/sst/.

Contact:
www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl
press@strzegomhorsetrials.pl

The Eventing Season in Poland Is Gaining Momentum

Photo by Mariusz Chmieliński.

Strzegom, Poland, July 14: More than 300 horses, five international classes, and top athletes – the second edition of Strzegom Summer Tour starts on Thursday.

Strzegom Summer Tour, organized by Stragona Equestrian Center, opened the international eventing season in Poland after the unexpected break. The second part of the rivalry, with double the entries, starts on Thursday, the 16th of July.

Riders from 18 countries with over 300 horses will compete at Strzegom’s arenas. The event will include four short-format classes from the 1* to 4* level, as well as a 2* class for ponies.

Strzegom will welcome eventers from the top of the world rankings. The list is opened by German multi-medalist Michael Jung, the current Olympic champion, and the first rider that held the titles of European, world, and Olympic champion simultaneously. Other names include Tim Lips (NED) – Olympic team bronze medalist, Yoshiaki Oiwa (JPN) – gold medalist of the Asian Games, Andreas Dibowski (GER) – Olympic team bronze medalist, his teammates Sandra Auffarth – Olympic bronze medalist, world champion, and two-time silver medalist of the European Championships, Julia Krajewski – Olympic silver medalist, and Swedish rider Sara Algotsson-Ostholt – Olympic silver medalist.

We will also see the leading Polish riders, including the whole podium of last year’s national championships: Paweł Spisak, Mateusz Kiempa, and Joanna Pawlak.

The show will start on Thursday. The first two days will include dressage tests. The cross-country and jumping trials will happen on Saturday and Sunday. Due to sanitary restrictions, the event will be played out without audiences. However, fans will have the chance to cheer on their favourite athletes thanks to live coverage, to be transmitted online at the event’s website: www.eventing.strzegomhorsetrials.pl and Facebook.

The livestream will cover Saturday and Sunday’s jumping and cross-country trials.

Timetable: https://www.eventing.strzegomhorsetrials.pl/images/2020/02/Timetable_-_07.07.pdf

Entries: https://www.eventing.strzegomhorsetrials.pl/images/2020/02/Timetable_-_07.07.pdf

Contact:
www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl
press@strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Nicolai Aldinger Wins 4-Star Class in Strzegom

Nicolai Aldinger with Newell. Photo by: Leszek Wójcik.

Nicolai Aldinger was victorious in the CCI4*-S, the most difficult class of Strzegom Summer Tour with the 12-year old Newell. Polish riders in the Top 3 in all other classes.

The German was not the favourite in the 4-star class. He was fourth after the dressage, and two knockdowns in the showjumping brought him down into the sixth. A clear round in the cross-country – and the only one inside the time – made him the winner of the class. The next two places went to riders from the Netherlands: Jordy Wilken with Burry Spirit was second, and Raf Kooremans with Dimitri N.O.P – third. Mateusz Kiempa with Lassban Radovix, the leader after showjumping, and the only one with a clear parcour, went over the time in the XC and finished fourth.

Strzegom Summer Tour was the first international eventing show in Poland after the break. They were also the first 4-star show in Europe. The event hosted over 140 horses, competing for 13 countries. The athletes competed in four short format classes.

The Top 3 in the 3-star class belonged to women. The winner was Merel Blom from the Netherlands with Ceda N.O.P. They took the lead after dressage. One knockdown in the showjumping trial and points for time in the XC were not enough to take her victory away. Second place went to Heike Jahncke from Germany riding Coco Spring. She went up from 18th place after dressage thanks to clear showjumping and cross-country. Paulina Maciejewska with Jangcy L had a similar situation – being placed as 25th after dressage, she went up to the third place after a flawless jumping and XC.

The two-star class was the most popular one, with 64 competing horses. The winner was Mateusz Kiempa riding Libertina. He took the leading position after dressage, kept it in the jumping, and even points for time on the cross-country course were not a threat to his win. Kai Steffen-Meier (GER) with Charming Ciaco was second, and Marta Dziak-Gierlicz (POL) came third.

The best rider in the one-star Intro class was Lara de Liedekerke-Meier from Belgium with Oda. Jakub Wiraszka (POL), a rider from Stragona Equestrian Centre, took the second place with Corrnero. The pair was 15th after dressage, but a clear jumping and XC rounds made him jump up into second. Third place went to Julia Stiefele (GER) with Belong to Me.

The next edition of Strzegom Summer Tour will be played out from the 16th until the 19th of July.

On-line results: https://zawodykonne.com/zawody/apc/26.

Contact:
www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl
press@strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Riders Come Back to Strzegom

Photo by Mariusz Chmieliński.

Strzegom, Poland, June 30: After weeks of uncertainty, Strzegom is starting the season of international eventing shows. The first competition will be Strzegom Summer Tour, which will be played out during two shows – on the first and third week of July.

Athletes from 13 countries will compete in international classes of various difficulty levels: CCI1*, CCI2*, CCI3*, and CCI4* this weekend with almost 140 horses.

Eventing, also called the equestrian triathlon, is one of the most difficult equestrian disciplines, where the horse and rider have to compete in three trials: dressage, cross-country, and jumping.

The show will start on Friday, when the athletes will present themselves in dressage tests. Saturday is jumping day, and the final exciting trials of XC and prizegiving ceremonies will take place on Sunday.

Due to sanitary restrictions, the event will take place without audiences and media. However, there will be a live streaming available for eventing fans on the official website of the show and Facebook: www.eventing.strzegomhorsetrials.pl.

Live video:

Saturday, 04.07.2020
12.00-18.00 – Showjumping

Sunday, 05.07.2020
09.00-15.00 – Cross-country

CCI Entries: http://www.eventing.strzegomhorsetrials.pl/images/2020/01/Entries_-_CCI_-_29.06.pdf

Programme: http://www.eventing.strzegomhorsetrials.pl/images/2020/01/Timetable_SST_-1st_week_-_26.06.pdf

Contact:
www.strzegomhorsetrials.pl
press@strzegomhorsetrials.pl

Boyd Martin Brings Training to You with New Virtual Clinic

Boyd Martin and Long Island T.

Middleburg, Va. – June 17, 2020 – Rutledge Farm is thrilled to announce a new online training opportunity. Despite restrictions in place due to the recent COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, Rutledge Farm is pleased to offer a socially distanced solution to training with the world’s leading equestrians. To kick off this new series, enjoy a personalized training experience with Olympian and eventing champion Boyd Martin from the comfort of your home no matter where you are in the world.

Registration is open now for riders of all levels, from beginner novice to advanced, and video submissions will be accepted through June 24. As feedback, Martin will be providing personalized recordings as he reviews training and competition footage to offer training advice that will give an added edge the next time you head to compete.

Aleco Bravo-Greenberg, owner of Rutledge Farm, said, “It is a challenging time in our world right now, but we wanted to find a way to continue offering training opportunities for those that can’t access them. I am looking forward to bringing back Boyd Martin as a clinician in a new and unique way, as well as the opportunity to make our clinics available to an even broader audience.”

Click here for a list of video guidelines and to submit your footage for review.

Be Not Afraid: Jim Wofford

Jim Wofford and Kilkenny on their way to clinching team silver and individual sixth place at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. (Photo copyright Werner Ernst)

An interview with James Cunningham Wofford is not something to be taken lightly. Any attempt at leading the conversation fails miserably, because you are talking with a man with the most exceptional communications skills and extraordinary stories to tell. There’s a sense of riding the tide of equestrian history as the double-Olympian and world-famous American coach recalls sporting highlights, great horses, and magical moments from his stellar career.

But it’s a bit like sitting on a runaway train, and even when you get to the end it feels like you’ve only half-halted. Because you just know that there are many more tales to be told and lots more wisdom to be shared by this raconteur par excellence.

I begin by asking him if he always had Olympic ambitions, and he admits it was “in my cross-hairs from a very early age.” Not surprising really considering his father, Col John W. Wofford, who later became first President of the United States Equestrian Team (USET), competed in Jumping at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles (USA) and his older brother, Jeb, helped claim bronze for Team USA in Eventing at the Helsinki (FIN) Games in 1952. Another brother, Warren, went to the top of the sport in both Jumping and Eventing and was reserve for the US Eventing team at the Olympic Games in Stockholm (SWE) in 1956. That’s quite some pedigree just there.

When Jim was growing up, Jeb and his Helsinki team-mates Champ Hough – father of American Jumping star Lauren Hough – and Wally Staley were his childhood heroes. “Then along came Mike Plumb and Michael Page – I looked up to them for years so when I joined them on the US team that was a real thrill!” Jim says.

Did he ever have any doubts about his ability to make it to the top in sport? “I had terrific doubts, and at first I didn’t have a suitable horse. I was riding around on a 15.3hh roan Appaloosa. However, Warren lived in England, and in spring 1967 he went to Ireland looking for horses and saw Kilkenny who was for sale because he’d been to the Olympics, the World Championships, and Badminton and they reckoned he was pretty much done.

Kilkenny

“Warren called my mother and said what a cool schoolmaster the horse would be, so they sent him to me and suddenly I was the hottest kid on the block! We had an unusual partnership; we really shot to the top, from him being thought to be over the hill with all his mileage and me having never been anywhere of any repute – they put us together and it just worked. So we won the National Championships at my first try, and now I’m standing on the podium with Mike Page and Mike Plumb!”

Kilkenny had previously been ridden by Irishman Tommy Brennan who, following a stellar Jumping and Eventing career, became a world-renowned horse agent and cross-country course designer. Did Jim have a preference for what discipline he would compete in with the horse? “I was intrigued by showjumping, but I was a moth to a flame when it came to Eventing!” he says.

Kilkenny had already enjoyed a successful career in both disciplines. “In late summer ’64 he went to Tokyo (Olympic Games where he finished individually 16th in Eventing), in ’65 he went showjumping with Tommy, and in ’66 he was back on the Irish gold medal Eventing team at the World Championships in Burghley,” Jim explains.

I ask him to describe Kilkenny: “He was a 17hh dark bay gelding by Water Serpent with a mealy nose, a tiny star on his forehead, and the look of eagles. When he trotted by you in hand, he had all four feet off the ground!”

He had seen every sort of situation which was handy for me because I’d seen none of them. So I could just drop my hands and tell him to get on with the job which he was happy to do!”

That US National Championships victory was in 1967, and the following year they competed at Badminton (GBR) in preparation for, arguably, the most memorable Eventing Olympic Games of all time in Mexico in 1968.

In the heyday of the “classic format,” the toughness and versatility of horse and rider were fully tested. Dressage was followed by Speed and Endurance day which consisted of two sessions of Roads and Tracks interspersed by a steeplechase phase, and then a vet check before heading out on the cross-country course. The final day’s showjumping decided the result.

Mexico

Talking about selection for Mexico, Jim says, “Plumb and Page would never be left off the team if their horse was sound, and Kevin Freeman was such a marvellous horseman, maybe the best rider of all of us. So there was really one slot left, and fortunately I filled that.” However, the Americans were steeped in good fortune when drawn early to go on Speed and Endurance day, because an afternoon deluge created monstrous conditions that nearly claimed the life of Kilkenny’s former rider.

“I went early and was first out of the box for us. We were on top of the ground so I had the fastest round of the day and I think Michael may have had the second-fastest. When you look back at the scores it’s two different competitions, but it could all have been completed in sunshine!” Jim recalls.

Despite knowing that a monsoon would descend around 13.00 hours as it did every day, the start-time was not adjusted and those that set out later in the competition met with a nightmare. “Once the heavy rain began the volcanic soil became a morass immediately. It was a golf course; there was a shell of grass over this powdery substance that turned to soup under wet conditions and we got the biggest monsoon of the five weeks we were up there!” Jim explains.

Tommy Brennan was only called into action at the last minute with the reserve Irish horse, March Hawk. Second-last to go, he faced inches of water on the steeplechase track where he took a fall on the flat, and by the time he headed out cross-country a stream that had to be crossed several times had become a dangerous flood in full spate. Only the top few inches of Fence 5 were visible and Fence 6 was almost fully submerged. Horse and rider were swept away and disappeared underwater, both in danger of drowning. But somehow, they struggled ashore and continued a little further before March Hawk decided he’d had more than enough.

Great Britain claimed team gold, USA silver, and West Germany bronze. Jim’s compatriot Michael Page (Foster) took individual bronze and Jim and Kilkenny slotted into sixth place.

Punchestown

The World Championship in Punchestown (IRL) two years later was another dramatic affair, but Kilkenny’s class saw Jim take individual bronze this time around.

Once again there was controversy on cross-country day with a big number of fallers late on the track. “The Irish knew they had to lead with their strength and that was the quality of their horses, so they designed a course that was maximum in every aspect – distance, speed, dimension of obstacles, number of obstacles. This was always going to be a big test, and that suited me because I had a horse purpose-built for it!” he points out.

“But no-one knew there was a bogey fence at the 29th. You came through the woods above the old sheep tank and you galloped on a trail and then there was a guard rail and the ground fell away precipitously, and six feet out there was an oxer rail stuffed with gorse. You were supposed to gallop and jump out over the oxer and take a 6ft 6ins drop – it’s what Americans call a ‘gut-check’, a test of courage, scope, and balance. But what the course designer didn’t take into account was a few fences before that there was a double-bank, and it rehearsed the horses to step on the gorse which they did again and again. As they built up the brush every time, they kept stuffing the fence with more green branches so it was even more inviting for the horses to step on it.

“Something like 27 horses got that far and 24 of them fell including Kilkenny, and including Richard Meade (GBR) who got the silver medal. But Mary Gordon-Watson’s (GBR who took individual gold) horse jumped it neat as a pin. Nowadays, if there were two falls like that the jump would be removed from the course and adjustments made in the scores. But in 1968 this was still a sport run by cavalry generals!” Jim says.

Munich

The Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 brought his partnership with this faithful steed to an end. The US side that also included Mike Plumb with Free and Easy, Kevin Freeman riding Good Mixture, and Bruce Davidson with Plain Sailing claimed team silver, but for Jim and Kilkenny it wasn’t their finest hour.

“I rode according to orders instead of the way I should have, and we finished well down the list. But he didn’t get the ride he needed so that’s nothing to say about him. At our silver medal victory bash, I said that Kilkenny would retire now and come home. He was property of my mother, but my brother (Warren) who was a Master of Foxhounds in England was dropping heavy hints about what a wonderful Fieldmaster’s horse he would be, so I had to have a little palace revolution there to make sure he did come home!”

Kilkenny’s cross-country days were still not quite over, however, because he hunted another few seasons with Jim and his wife Gail back in the US, even though he wasn’t the ideal candidate because he was a bit over-keen. “He couldn’t bear to have another horse in front of him, and Gail was too brave with him!” Jim points out.

There was a lean period after Munich. “I was ‘on the bench’ and I knew part of it was because I’d ridden badly in Munich, but also because I didn’t have a horse of Olympic capability,” he says.

Carawich

All that would change however when he met Carawich. Jim insists he doesn’t believe in anthropomorphism – attributing human traits and emotions to non-humans – but then tells the story of how they first met.

He hadn’t won a competition above Preliminary level since 1972 when, at Badminton in the Spring of 1977, he experienced a moment of connection during the vet-check when a horse stopped and turned to look at him. “The hair stood up on the back of my neck – he picked me out of the crowd and stared at me. His groom tugged on the lead, but he didn’t listen – it took about 30 seconds but it seemed like an hour!” Jim recalls, with excitement still in his voice after all these years.

The horse wasn’t for sale at the time but came on the market a few months later. “He arrived in late December 1977 untried. I took out a loan on my life insurance policy to pay for him and it was the best investment I ever made!” says Jim.

“Carawich suited me as the rider I was after two Olympics and one World Championship. We went to Lexington World Championships (Kentucky, USA) in ’78 where we finished 10th and were on the bronze medal team, and then we were fifth at Badminton the following spring and then second at the alternate Olympics in Fontainebleau (FRA) in 1980. We were second in the Kentucky event that spring and won Kentucky the following year. He was quite some horse too!”

More great horses

An injury sustained at Luhmuehlen (GER) in 1981 put an end to Carawich’s career, but Jim still had more great horses to ride. There was Castlewellan who came his way when British rider Judy Bradwell, in recovery following a nasty accident, asked him if he knew of a suitable new US owner for the horse.

“I said don’t go away, and in about 30 minutes we had a deal! He came over that summer, again untried, and we won a big Intermediate event. Then in Spring ’84 we were well-placed at Kentucky and then we were non-riding reserves at the LA Olympic Games.”

Jim retired after that, but two years later came out of retirement for one more moment of glory. Offered the ride on The Optimist, normally competed by America’s Karen Lende (now O’Connor) who was riding in Australia that year, he jumped at the chance.

“He was a big bull of a horse, Irish-bred, 16.3hh and a bit big-eared and small-eyed, with massive shoulders like a bullock. He’d run away with everyone who got on him, but he had a wonderful attitude going down to jumps,” Jim recalls. It wouldn’t be all plain sailing, but again a moment of connection would turn everything around.

“For about a week or 10 days I thought I’d painted myself in a corner because we were not getting along at all,” he explains. However, he accidentally caught the horse unawares in the stable one day, and The Optimist didn’t have time to put on his normal sullen expression. Instead Jim got a fleeting glimpse of a bright, intelligent, focused horse. “I laughed and shook my finger at him and said, ‘It’s too late; I saw you!’” Jim says. “I suddenly realised he didn’t want to be told what to do; he already knew his job, so the next time I threw my leg over him I did it with that in mind and we got along famously. He won a couple of prep events and then he won Kentucky. And then I quickly retired again!” Jim says.

Talent

When asked to compare the talent of riders from his own era with those of today, he replies, “This stuff about ‘Oh we were better in the good old days’ – don’t you believe it! I lived through the good old days – these people today would beat us like a carpet!” he insists. There have been many changes in the sport, of course. “Riders are in a much more predictable situation these days. When they are pacing distances between cross-country obstacles, you know it’s a different sport.”

And the horses – are there big differences in them too? “In the classic format they had to be brave as a lion because we jumped some formidable stuff. We don’t test now for strength of character in the horse – today it’s a test of technique,” he points out.

For many years now he’s been a dedicated and hugely successful coach, and he enjoys training pupils at all levels. He’s looking forward to getting back to working with his students again very soon and seeing how “profitably” they’ve used this time during the pandemic shutdown. “Will they have improved their horses’ training, or will they have worn them out by endlessly practicing competitive details?” he wonders.

I ask what advice he has for riders concerned about returning to competition in the shadow of the virus still sweeping across the world, and he replies, “Event riders are already bio-mechanically engineered not to be afraid, so don’t be afraid! Know the risks and the safeguards, and go from there.”

Life, he concludes, is like the wording on a famous painting, “The Bullfinch” by English artist Snaffles – “glorious uncertainty” is what awaits us all on the landing side. And, for James Cunningham Wofford, that’s all part of the thrill of the ride.

By Louise Parkes

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