WEG 2010 Diary: Jim Wofford, Part 5

Top eventing trainer Jim Wofford gives you a peek at what was happening behind the scenes on cross country day at the World Equestrian Games.

Jim Wofford | © Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore

October 3, 2010 –There is so much going on I can’t remember it all. Plus, when I notice something, I write it down on little scraps of paper and stuff them in my pocket. Problem is, I am so excited and disorganized that I can’t find the paper scraps latter on, and if I do…I can’t read my own handwriting.

I learned a long time ago not to handle the scores and placings in my blogs. You guys have already read about that, and may have even been watching it live. You read this to see what was going on behind the scenes. And the scene at daybreak yesterday, cross-country day, was chaotic. Technicians, sound men and camera operators were racing around the compound before sunrise, looking for one more item before their shuttle left for the far reaches of the course. The PTB, in their infinite wisdom, had changed the traffic system.and the passes required.for golf cart shuttles. But they forgot to tell anybody. You can imagine the confrontations that were going on, when cameramen were told they could not get through the checkpoint they had been using for rehearsals. I have been worried about losing my voice all week, as I have had to do a fair amount of talking. But the FEI TV producer sounded like a frog in a bucket last night, from screaming over the phone at assistant PTB’s, trying to get stuff through the checkpoints. This sort of stuff goes on every time they put on one of these extravaganzas, but they never seem to learn to think stuff through.

Speaking of checkpoints, every time you enter the park at the security checkpoints, they check your photo pass, and look into your briefcases and backpacks. Our staff at the USET has done a fabulous job getting all the arrangements made for the WEG, but their hours are brutal and they are starting to fray around the edges. Jim Wolf, our USET High Performance Manager, came through early yesterday. They checked his stuff, and then asked “any other bags?” Wolf replied “only the ones under my eyes.” They laughed, patted him on the back, and waved him through.

I braced myself for the day with more coffee before I had to go into the broadcast studio. I was a little worried about staying sharp for the whole day. Once the cross-country started, Tim Ryan (only the best and most experienced sportscaster in the business) and I would be in the booth all day. I should not have worried. Once the first horse started exactly at 10:04, I never looked at the clock again until after 3:00 in the afternoon. What a day!

First of all, you have to tip your hat to Michael Etherington-Smith. He built a course that will be the benchmark for the sport for the next twenty-five years. It was huge, hard, technical, artistic.and safe. Good courses produce good riding, and we got an eyeful of good riding today.

Michael Jung and William Fox-Pitt are going to get a lot of press and they deserve it. They both turned in fabulous rounds. However, my favorite round of the day was Piggy French and Jakata. That round could have been set to music, it was so rhythmical. Jakata never blinked at anything, and Piggy was in the right place in the saddle from beginning to end. I am going to write more, but I have to hot-foot it back to the KHP. The sun is rising, the stables are buzzing, and we have one more day to go.

I snuck into the main arena last night and walked the show jumping course. It is typically Richard Jefferies. Richard has designed the show jumping at Rolex for over ten years now, and his courses are like Mike E-S’s.they are flowing and beautiful, they do not walk “trappy,” they are big without being over-powering. Richard’s courses take a lot of jumping, and that will be true this afternoon. I think the Liverpool is hard because it is big, and quite square, and I think you should watch the last line, the one in front of the main grandstand, carefully. The gold medal will be won.or lost.there. The team and individual scores are incredibly close, and we can expect some changes before it is over. It will take what I call “Sunday afternoon nerve” to wait all day, and then walk into that arena and turn in a clean round. And the teams and individual riders that can do that will deserve their gold medals.

Read Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 6

Jim Wofford has represented the U.S. in eventing at three Olympics and two World Championships; he has won the U.S. National Championship five times on five different horses. As a coach, he has had at least one student on every U.S. Olympic, World Championship and Pan American team since 1978. He is a regular columnist for Practical Horseman magazine.

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