A Legendary Horseman: Jimmy Wofford

Renowned horseman James "Jimmy" Wofford has passed away at the age of 78.

Renowned horseman James “Jimmy” Wofford passed away at the age of 78 on February 2, 2023. Wofford was a stalwart in the equestrian community throughout his life as a rider, coach, mentor and friend to many. He spent his life with horses and is known as one of the best eventing trainers in the world.

Wofford jumping into the Head of the Lake aboard Carawich at the 1978 World Eventing Championships in Lexington, Kentucky.
© Karl Leck

Wofford represented the United States at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games aboard Kilkenny, winning team silver both times and one individual silver. He was also named for the 1980 Games (which did not occur). He competed on the U.S. Eventing Team at the 1970 and 1978 World Championships, earning bronze medals at both. Wofford’s accomplishments also include five wins at the U.S. National Championships, a team gold medal at the 1967 Pan American Games and two wins at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

In addition to Wofford’s eventing achievements, he was an active competitor in steeplechase races, rode in many horse shows and fox hunted for more than 30 years.

Following his retirement as a competitor, Wofford continued his career as a highly respected coach and clinician. He produced numerous riders for the USET Eventing Team. His students went on to represent the U.S. at the Olympics, World Championships and Pan American Games.

“I know we have lost the physical form of Jimmy, but we have not lost the things that matter. His unbelievable love of the horse and respect of the horse, his desire to educate good horseman and horses, his ability to express that, his willingness to share and give his time and energy to the pursuit of horses and horsemanship,” shared international eventer Sharon White, a longtime student of Wofford’s.

“We are all unbelievably lucky to have had him in our lives, to have known him, and he will always live on and be with us with what he has left behind for us. And I look forward to the day when I get to see him again, and he promised me the first thing he would do would to be let me have a go on Carawich, and I very much look forward to that!”

Additionally, Wofford was named U.S. Olympic Committee Developmental Coach of the Year in both 1998 and 1999. He coached the Canadian Team for the 2002 World Championships, the 2003 Pan American Games (where Canada won a team silver medal) and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

He also served on several committees. These included the AHSA (now USEF) as president, the USET as vice-president and the USCTA (now USEA) as secretary, and was a member of the FEI Eventing Committee.

© Hunter Messineo

A respected author, Wofford wrote a number of books, including Gymnastics: Systematic Training for Jumping Horses, Training the Three-Day Event Horse and Rider101 Eventing Tips, Take a Good Look Around, Modern Gymnastics, and Cross-Country with Jim Wofford. His most recent book was a memoir, Still Horse Crazy After All These Years.

Wofford lived with his wife of more than 45 years, Gail W Wofford, on a farm in Upperville, Virginia. They have two daughters, Mrs. Timothy L. (Hillary) Jones and Mrs. Charles K. (Jennifer) Ince, and several grandchildren.

Wofford was a friend and columnist of Practical Horseman for decades. “Jim debuted his column in Practical Horseman magazine, ‘Cross-Country with Jim Wofford,’ in the May 2006 issue. It was one of our most popular columns both in print and online. Over the 16 years of writing it, Jim shared his immense knowledge of riding theory and training exercises,” said Sandra Oliynyk, Practical Horseman’s content director. “I was always amazed at his ability to explain things from a horse’s point of view—how cross-country terrain would affect the horse or how to break down jumping over a ditch for a young horse. He also shared his insights about the state of eventing and the industry. He was never afraid to call things just as he saw them. And every so often, we’d get a taste of his sly sense of humor.”

You can read all of Wofford’s Practical Horseman articles here.

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