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Karen Robertson on Carlos at the Rose City Opener National Hunter Derby, Bend, Oregon (photo courtesy of Barbara Dudley).

TSB author Karen Robertson mulls over her upcoming date with The One and Only.

I started considered riding in a George Morris clinic in recent years. I know, I know… most of you are probably wondering why on earth I’d throw myself into the fire like that. And you’re right – I’m kind of freaking out about it. I’ve been freaking out for months! I haven’t ridden without stirrups enough and I’m not someone who rides five horses a day with a perfect position. George is sure to tell me my stirrup isn’t the correct angle on the ball of my foot, my leg isn’t strong enough, my hand isn’t educated enough, and that I sit “like a soup sandwich.” If I’m really lucky, he might even run behind me with a longe whip while I struggle to jump the water.

All that makes my heart race. Over the past five months I haven’t gone a day without thinking about the clinic. It truly scares me to put myself on a horse in front of George. He has laid eyes on every great hunter or jumper rider in the world for over six decades…and now he’s going to lay eyes on me.

Gulp.

I’m doing this for two reasons: My riding has in the last decade or so (I’m 39) begun resembling correct fundamentals to the extent that I think I can hold my own in this particular clinic that has a 1.00 meter group. And secondly, I helped George pen UNRELENTING, his no-holds-barred autobiography published last year. Working on UNRELENTING with George was like getting a whole new education on my best-loved sport. Just by being in George’s orbit, my ambition caught fire to work harder, be bolder, and take more risks. I’ve watched a dozen clinics first-hand over the past five years, and I know what he expects from riders. Now it’s my turn. And in one week, my friend and I will drive seven hours north with our horses to Potcreek Meadow Farm in Washington to ride with George.

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Karen and George working on UNRELENTING in September 2015 (photo courtesy of Barbara Dudley).

Hang on, I had to put my head between my knees and breath deeply for a second there. Whew. Okay. I’m back.

What will it be like for me to ride with George? To feel those eyes that have an unmatched ability to instantly size up a rider and horse and then, in every pair’s case, fit a specific but well-worn key of wisdom into the right lock to help them reach their potential? What will it feel like to hear his deep, satisfied cry of “Thaaaaat’s it!” if I deliver what he commands?

I can only imagine how it will feel, but I hope that I have enough calm in my mind that I can absorb and enjoy the experience. No matter how well I ride each clinic day or what mistakes I ride through, the bottom line is that I will be riding with him: the timid boy too afraid to be off the lead line who became The Godfather of Hunt Seat Equitation and Chef d’Equipe of the Olympic Show Jumping Team; the reproach-impervious master who walks the fiery line between motivator and intimidator; the same coach who fifty years ago inspired a wily crew of American women to reach beyond their wildest dreams on the international show jumping stage and end the decades-long reign of European men.

George is also my dear friend. When I first met him in 2013, it took only hours for us to form a kinship that transcended the book and the horse world. With a kind of glee, we recognized in each other the same kind of professional ambition flanked by a sometimes reckless need for letting ourselves go and being wild. We grew close over the three years, and he listened kindly and gave me advice when I had hardship in my life. George shared his thoughts and feelings with me unreservedly, and I had the honor to hear hundreds of hours of stories from his life…only some of which made the book but which all fit together to help me understand how he wanted to tell his story. I was struck with awe and amusement in the moments I looked in at myself – sitting across from him at lunch or next to him as he drove the car or by his bedside interviewing him – when I wondered, “How did I get here? How is this my life? This is absolutely unbelievable that I get to be here.” It made me want to cry and laugh and collapse in wonder.

Riding with George will be a whole new relationship paradigm for us, and I will ride onto that grass field with no expectations for special treatment. I know he will measure me in a new way: as a rider and horsewoman rather than a writer and a friend. I’m a little afraid that he might lose respect for me if I’m not a sharp enough rider, but I hope so completely that this experience will bring us even closer.

This is scary, to take this risk. But sometimes you say yes to scary and the rewards are better than any ordinary day ever could be.

When I asked my childhood show jumping heroes during interviews for UNRELENTING what it was like to have George take them to the ring when the stakes were high, they all said that their trust in George and his belief that they could win made them feel like they could jump anything – A house! The moon! Besides the incredible learning opportunities, and taking to heart the critical comments (of which there are bound to be many), what I really want to feel in the clinic is just one moment where his voice lifts me up and I feel invincible.

 

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Karen and Carlos at HITS Coachella Desert Circuit, January 2016 (photo by Jose Ruiz).

Karen Robertson will return with a follow-up post after her clinic with George Morris.

 

UNRELENTING by George Morris with Karen Robertson, is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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GHM-magic

As we watch the Olympic Team Jumping Qualification and the jubilation in the Brazilian camp as members rack up clear rounds in search of a place on the podium in front of their home crowd, we are no doubt a little sad to acknowledge that in Rio, George Morris is focused on the success of someone other than our own American riders. It is, of course, the way of the equestrian world for the most talented coaches to cross international borders on a regular basis, and so we cannot be surprised that George was eventually tempted to help the country he admits is one of his “absolute favorite places” go for gold.

But if the Brazilians do keep it up and George is, in fact, making magic in Rio, one can’t help but wonder if he’s had to apply the same kind of tough love that has not only been his clinic calling card for decades, but also helped guide the US to their success in countless World Equestrian Games, World Championships, and Olympics of years past.

“In 2005, George Morris took over the role of Chef d’Equipe of the U.S. Show Jumping Team,” writes Olympic silver and gold medalist Chris Kappler in his foreword to UNRELENTING, George’s bestselling autobiography, which was released earlier this year. “Shortly after, I received a call from a member of one of his first Nations Cup teams. ‘How did you do this?’ the rider asked. ‘Chris, how did you work for George for twenty years?’ As the new Chef, George was pushing limits…Commanding specific attitudes, turnout, and professionalism, he expected an extraordinary commitment…I have experienced first-hand the zealous pursuit of excellence for which George is famous. ‘If you can take my pressure cooker,’ George would always say, ‘the Olympics will seem like nothing.’”

“I always had childhood dreams of going to the Olympics someday,” adds five-time Olympian Anne Kursinksi in UNRELENTING. “With George’s encouragement…I made it…Horsemanship and what it took to have an Olympic level horse was George’s passion, and it was contagious! George had vision and made it all happen; he took us all with him. It was an amazing time. George helped you figure out how to be your absolute best. For him, there is no other way to be in life.”

Excellence. Passion. Vision. Absolute best. This is where the magic begins, and I can’t begrudge another from wanting to sample from the fountain of success. Ultimately, George’s willingness to share his wealth of knowledge helps improve the level of horsemanship and elevate the level of competition, worldwide. I, for one, can’t wait to see the results.

TSB wishes all riders and horses in the Olympic Equestrian Jumping Competition the best of luck. Have fun, ride safe, and enjoy the remarkable partnership that helped you reach the pinnacle of the sport!

UNRELENTING by George H. Morris is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

ORDER NOW and SAVE with our OLYMPIC FEVER SALE! Click here.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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GHM-interview

George Morris’s hugely anticipated autobiography UNRELENTING The Real Story: Horses, Bright Lights, and My Pursuit of Excellence has been officially out for about a month and is a red-hot bestseller. Morris knew that the release of the book, within which he reveals the private side he’s long kept hidden, would stir the big ol’ pot that is the equestrian world. “For an intensely private person like me, it wasn’t an easy choice to publish such intimate details of my life,” he says. “If there are people that can’t handle the truth, well…”

In this recent interview, he shared a little about what he thinks his new book means for his legacy as the Godfather of American equestrianism.

Q: While you’ve written many articles and several books on horsemanship and equitation over the years, UNRELENTING is the first time you “get personal” and share the “Real George Morris” with the world. What did you find fun about the book-writing process this time around?

GHM: Well, what was fun was Karen Terry, my ghostwriter. She was really the perfect person to help me with the book because she looks like a party girl but then she has this other side where she is very organized—amazingly organized. And very capable. That’s a little how I go through life, too: I have these two different sides. So that was fun.

Q: You say you have “two different sides.” I’d be willing to bet most people in the horse industry only know of the “one side” of George Morris—your publicly traded persona that hinges on your well-known roles as demanding coach, unabashed critic, and absolute perfectionist. What do you really think of this notorious side of yourself?

GHM: You know, I never think of my “George Morris” horse-world person because on a daily basis I’m interested in riding and teaching, and day after day I do it all over the world—that’s what I’m into. I have to sort of look from afar at this persona that’s “happened” because that’s not really what I think about when I get up every morning in Texas or Belgium or riding horses in Wellington.

Q: What made you think it was time to tell the world about the “other side” of yourself?

GHM: I have had a very interesting life because I was the least likely to succeed. My personal identity when I was a young child was very, very complicated—I was very insecure and very much a mess. I was the least likely rider at Ox Ridge Hunt Club to succeed. I was very, very timid and stiff. I was not a natural. Then I was also dealing with the sexual identity situation. So you know, I was really a pathetic creature who went very far. And now that the book is finished, if there are people that can’t handle the truth, well…I feel I’m laying it out there maybe to help people. In fact, I’ve already told a couple of young guys who are just coming out to read my book because it will be good for them. It is a very difficult situation for people at that age. I look at it this way: If my story, which is an egotistical, self-interest story, is boring, that’s all right. There are some titillating tidbits in there that people will like, anyway. But it’s going to maybe help people who don’t have the best ability to ride; it’s going to help people who had a very difficult childhood emotionally; it’s going to maybe help people who have struggled with their sexual identity. I figure, like always in my teaching, I am trying to help people. Not that I want to help people…not that I get up every morning and I’m Mother Teresa…but it seems to be my destiny, because I was the least likely to succeed and did, to try to help other people. So that’s the way I look at talking about my other side in this book.

Q: But the “George Morris Mystique” has developed over time and people know you for your desire for perfection. Do you feel like admission of your imperfection and humanity will harm your influence?

GHM: No, no, no, no, no, no. Because my body of life’s work is set. Something could scandalize it, which wouldn’t ruin it. Or something could embellish it, which wouldn’t embellish it much. You know, I’m going to be 78 next week, and what’s done is done. That’s the way I look at this book. Maybe I wouldn’t have written this when I was 60, let alone 40 or 20.

Q: While your relationships have never been secret, UNRELENTING is the most public “coming out” you’ve ever had. Is it because you feel the world is finally ready to deal more frankly with homosexuality?

GHM: Oh yes, there’s no question this is my most public coming out. I think the world being more accepting probably colored it but I’d say that if I was going to write this book, I was going to be very honest. Whether I’m right or wrong—I’m a very honest person. My family name is Frank, and that’s suited my grandfather and suited my family and myself; we’re very frank people. And if I’m going to write this book, I’m going to be frank, and it’s not that nobody in the world knew that I was gay—everybody in the world knew that I was gay. Its’ not like it is a big shock to people. I think that some of the specifics to certain people will be a shock. And, you know, I could write a really x-rated book. I could shock them a lot more. WAY more. So I decided if I was going to do this book about my life, well…this is my life.

Q: UNRELENTING progresses systematically through every decade of your existence, reliving the equestrian high life and world of competitive riding through the years. You reconstruct so many details from so many different pivotal moments—what do you hope sharing a history you know very intimately will provide readers?

GHM: Well that’s the bulk of the interest to the public, if they are horse people. Bill Steinkraus is the only real living person who would have the same length of intimate connection with this level of the sport since the 1940s. You know all the ones before that are dead or almost dead, and I’ve been in the trenches since the forties. I’m in the trenches tomorrow. And in the trenches at the highest point of the sport—have been since I was ten. So from a historical perspective I will stand behind this book. From the personal side, if there are criticisms and dart-throwers—fine. If they say this is a boring, egotistical diary of George Morris—fine. But from a historical perspective, if nothing else, this is a great book.

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CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Q: 2016 marks a year when you’ve altered your usual schedule of clinicing and are instead focusing on a few individual students, as well as coaching the Brazilian show jumping team. What inspired this change?

GHM: Since I retired as chef d’equipe, in fact my whole life, I’ve given just massive numbers of clinics every year. And I love clinics, and I’m excellent at clinics. But the last couple of years I did 43 or 44 and my instinct said, “Listen, you’ve just got to stop and go back to taking on a couple of private people, go to the horse shows, have horses in training for a consistent length of time.” And then I’ve got this Brazilian thing through the Olympics. No, I’m just taking a deep breath from clinics. I will always do clinics, whether I do 44 a year or whether I do 6 or whether I do 2. It’s just my instinct said to stop for a while and do something different because I was on the airplane every Thursday and coming back late every Sunday or Monday. And clinics make you teach a lot of people a little bit, and this way I’m teaching a few people a lot—so it’s different. It’s not that I don’t like clinics; it has nothing to do with that. Next year we might be having a conversation and maybe I’ll do the 44 clinics again. I don’t know.

Q: Do you see yourself receding from the front lines? Do you desire to find a quieter lifestyle in the years ahead?

GHM: Listen: I am interested in the horse world and chasing men. That’s all I’m interested in. That’s all I’ve ever been interested in.

 

UNRELENTING by George H. Morris with Karen Robertson Terry is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information

 

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Click image to read the entire Street to Stable Review.

Click image to read the entire Street to Stable Review.

 

The first reviews of George Morris’s highly anticipated autobiography UNRELENTING are coming in, and WOW are we excited!

“What lies between the pages of UNRELENTING is very, very good reading,” says Street to Stable Lifestyle. “As we know him, he is still the strongest personality in modern American show jumping. In UNRELENTING, he reveals both the vulnerability and strength that made him into the icon he is today. It is perhaps his bravest move yet.” (Read the full review HERE.)

“This compelling portrait of one of America’s most renowned horsemen will appeal to anyone who is entranced with the horse-show circuit and high-society culture,” says Library Journal. “Even readers who are less familiar with horses may enjoy the glimpse into life with the rich and famous.”

Now is your chance to get a copy of UNRELENTING before it is available in stores! Order from TSB (CLICK HERE) anytime before February 22, 2016, and you’ll not only get George’s autobiography first, you’ll save 15% on the cover price and get FREE SHIPPING in the US!

Watch the book trailer here:

 

And click the image below to order your copy of UNRELENTING by George H. Morris with Karen Robertson Terry.

OrderGeorgeTwitter-CLICK-HERE

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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UNRELENTING FINAL

 

Ever wonder…

 

What makes George Morris laugh?

What makes him cry?

How many dates he’s been on?

Whether he’s ever gotten high?

 

If he loved his mom?

If he ever poled a horse?

When he first fell in love?

If he’s ever gone off course?

 

We’ve waited so long for

George to share the whole story.

The truth, uncensored,

His lowest lows; his Olympic glory.

 

Stay tuned, get psyched,

In March it is coming!

Meet the real George Morris

In his new book: UNRELENTING.

 

Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com) is proud to announce the March 2016 publication of UNRELENTING: The Real Story—Horses, Bright Lights, and My Pursuit of Excellence by George H. Morris with Karen Robertson Terry. The hardcover autobiography is 560 pages and features over 250 photographs from George’s personal collection.

Follow UNRELENTING the Book on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram:

Facebook: CLICK HERE

Twitter: CLICK HERE

Instagram: CLICK HERE

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