Wofford now lives on his Fox Covert Farm in Upperville, Virginia, with his wife, Gail W. Wofford ex-MFH, of almost 40 years.
Wofford was born into an equestrian family. His father Col. John W. Wofford, who died when James was 10, rode for the United States Show Jumping Team in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Col. Wofford went on to coach eventers and show jumpers at the 1956 Helsinki Olympic Games. This was the first Olympics where civilians were permitted to participate in eventing, and nineteen-year-old Jeb Wofford—Col. Wofford’s son and James’ brother—won a bronze medal. Col. Wofford was also the founder and first president of the United States Equestrian Team.
The second brother to James, Warren Wofford, remains the only USET rider to qualify in both show jumping and eventing. He chose show jumping, but only went as an alternate to the 1956 Stockholm Games. However, Warren did meet his future wife, Dawn Penelope Wofford, who competed on the British Show Jumping Team in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games.
Wofford’s cousin is both a trainer and rider of flat and steeplechase races. Several members of his family have also been Masters of the Foxhounds.
Wofford began his riding career at and early age, riding his first pony, Merrylegs, on his parents’ Rim Rock Farm in Milford, Kansas. He attended Culver Military Academy through his high school years, a school well-known for its equestrian program based on US Cavalry training. He later went to graduate from the University of Colorado School of Business in 1969.
Wofford has had an incredibly successful riding career, joining the USA Eventing Team in 1965 and remaining a member until 1985. During this time, he trained under the likes of Bert de Nemethy and Jack Le Goff, two of the most respected trainers of USET horses.
Wofford competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games on his famous horse Kilkenny, wining team silver both times, and was also named to the 1980 Olympic Games in Rome. He also competed on the US Eventing Team at the 1970 World Championships at Punchestown, Ireland, winning an individual bronze with Kilkenny, and at the 1980 World Championship with Carawich, winning a team bronze.
Wofford’s records also include five wins—each on a different horse—at five US National Championships, a team gold medal at the 1967 Pan Am Games, and two wins at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day (1981 with Carawich and 1986 with The Optimist—remarkably coming out of retirement to ride the horse for student and fellow Olympian, Karen O'Connor). He also competed very successfully abroad from 1959-1986. In all, Wofford competed at the advanced level over 20 years. During this time, he also raced as a steeplechase jockey, and fox hunted for over 20 years.
Wofford retired as a competitor in 1986. He continues to ride, along with his wife, two daughters, and three grandsons.Perhaps even more impressive than his riding career is his career as a coach. Wofford began focusing on coaching after his retirement, and has produced riders on nearly every USET Eventing team. He has had at least one student on every US Olympic, World Championship, or Pan Am team since 1978. Today he is sought after as a clinician.
Notable record of his achievements as a coach include:
2004 Athens Olympics: Kimberly Severson and John Williams were both former students. Severson went on to win the individual silver. The team won bronze. Also coached the Canadian team.
2003 Pan Am Games, as coach for the silver medal-wining Canadian team.
2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, where he coached the Canadian team. The gold medal US team also had former students Kim Severson, David O'Connor and John Williams.
2000 Sydney Olympics, where all four US team members—David O'Connor, Karen O'Connor, Nina Fout and Linden Wiesman—had trained with Wofford. David O’Connor went on to win the individual god medal, the team won bronze.
Wofford was named United States Olympic Committee development coach of the year in 1998 and 1999.
James Wofford has written two books, Gymnastics: Systematic Training for Jumping Horses and Training the Three-Day Event Horse and Rider. He has also served on may equestrian committees, including:
AHSA (now USEF) as president
USET: the first vice-president
USCTA (now USEA) secretary
Member of the FEI Eventing Committee for two terms, including two years as vice-chairman
Wofford has also been inducted into the US Eventing Hall of Fame and the Culver Academies Horsemanship Hall of Fame.