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Posts Tagged ‘George Morris’

WEGFLO-horseandriderbooks

The Opening Ceremonies for the FEI World Equestrian Games at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Mill Spring, North Carolina, are set to begin this evening, Tuesday, September 11, at 6:00 pm EST. The World Equestrian Games, or WEG, are held every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle. And here’s the thing…they are a REALLY BIG DEAL. Why? Because WEG combines eight World-Championship-caliber equestrian events in one place with competitions spanning 13 days: dressage, show jumping, eventing, reining, driving, endurance, para-dressage, and vaulting. We’re talking the VERY BEST equestrians in the world, and the top horses in all these disciplines, here, in the United States, for two weeks.

The importance of WEG to the equestrian industry, and the significance of it being held here in the US this year, rather than in Europe, makes it a little surprising that of all the press suddenly devoted to the Carolinas and a certain imposing Madame Hurricane, little has been mentioned of this major event and how Florence will likely impact it. The athletes from participating countries and their horses have already arrived and are preparing for competition to begin (with dressage, reining, and endurance on Wednesday, September 12), but hundreds of thousands of individuals planning to attend all or part of the competition as spectators have yet to head out by road, air, or rail. It’s like this big communal breath is held as we wait to see where Flo will track and how mean she plans to be. Mill Spring, North Carolina, is on the western side of the state, and the National Weather Service has a station on site at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, keeping close watch on the hurricane as she develops. All efforts are being made to keep the riders, their horses, and their support teams, safe, whatever the days ahead bring in terms of weather. Of course, the rest of us still have to ask if it makes any sense at all to fly toward a hurricane, when millions under mandatory evacuation order along the coastline are trying to get away?

With that pressing question set momentarily aside, we at TSB have been truly excited in the months leading up to WEG to not only attend, but to have the opportunity to support our many wonderful, talented authors who are judging, competing, performing, speaking, and signing books during the event, including: Anne Gribbons, Ingrid Klimke, Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester, Phillip Dutton, Doug Payne, Emma Ford, Dan James, George Morris, Yvonne Barteau, Tik Maynard, and Dr. Bob Grisel.

Global Forum NA 14

TSB author and FEI 5* judge Anne Gribbons is President of the Ground Jury for the dressage competition at WEG 2018. Photo by Sharon Packer.

To find most of our books and related book signings at WEG, visit The Chronicle of the Horse (Booth C3-4 in the World Equine Expo Area). Book signings will be arranged as competitors’ schedules allow.

In addition, those visiting with children can find TSB children’s books to explore and enjoy in the BrookeUSA activity area, as well as for sale in the BrookeUSA Shop (Booth B8). 50% of the proceeds from the sales of these books will go to support the mission of BrookeUSA and its sister charity, Brooke, the official charity of the WEG. Brooke is the world’s largest international working equine welfare charity dedicated to improving the lives of horses, donkeys, mules and the people who depend on those animals in the developing world.

Credit Brooke

TSB author and dressage competitor Charlotte Dujardin is a Brooke Ambassador. Her autobiography THE GIRL ON THE DANCING HORSE will be available at The Chronicle of the Horse Shop at WEG. Photo courtesy of Brooke.

TSB author and former Chef d’Equipe of the US Show Jumping Team George H. Morris will be speaking on two occasions on the WEG grounds:

Saturday, September 15, at 10:00 am, at the Equus Theatre.

Saturday, September 22, at 12:00 pm, on the Coca-Cola® Stage.

George Morris will be signing copies of his book UNRELENTING following each talk, with 50% of the proceeds going to support Brooke.

Fans can also meet George at a special celebration of the George Morris Collection and book signing at Dover Saddlery in Mill Spring on Tuesday, September 18, from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm.

George laughing_1961_11736 copy

TSB author George Morris will speak on two occasions at WEG, as well as participate in a meet-and-greet at Dover Saddlery in Mill Spring. Photo by Tyler Gourley Pictures.

And be sure to stop by the GetSound® Booth (B7-6) to meet Dr. Bob Grisel and hear about his new App to help diagnose lameness in horses, as well as get a copy of his amazing new book EQUINE LAMENESS FOR THE LAYMAN.

We plan to post updates about competition results, author events and signings, and other news here, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—so watch this space! Of course, all of this is pending a crazy-plane-ride toward a hurricane…

See you in Tryon…maybe?

 

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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FutureIsthePast-horseandriderbooks

In 2017 and together with Kenilworth Press in the UK, TSB released the book SPORT HORSE SOUNDNESS AND PERFORMANCE by Dr. Cecilia Lönnell. George Morris was an enthusiastic supporter of the premise of Dr. Lönnell’s book, and so wrote a detailed foreword that makes many points that are of great value to all of those within the horse industry who are striving to do better by the horses we ride, train, and love. Here, in its entirety, is George’s foreword:

I’ve known Cecilia Lönnell for a long time, having shown extensively in Sweden and taught many, many clinics there over the years. I’m very fond of her and fond of that country. To be asked to participate in a book that also features such an illustrious young group of equestrian superstars is a great honor.

What Cecilia has done here is she’s gone back to the past and at the same time shown how knowledge from solid experience is supported by modern equine veterinary research. Nothing here is new, and that, with horses, is always better. I never in my life spent in equestrian sport pretended to reinvent the wheel. I was a copier. I copied Bert de Némethy. I copied Gordon Wright as a teacher. I copied Bill Steinkraus. To this day my whole day is spent trying to understand old, classic principles. Be it teaching, be it riding, be it training, be it care of the horse – that is all I try to do, every day of my life. Gordon Wright used to say, “Nothing is new, we just do it better and quicker than we used to.” And that’s what we get from the best horsemen – it isn’t new, it just might be better and quicker.

Here, Cecilia has encapsulated all the points it takes to produce a horse – be it a pleasure horse or an Olympic horse, it doesn’t matter. The points laid out on these pages are about what is best for the horse. Often in competitive riding, in all disciplines, we go off on tangents that are contrary to the best interests of the horse. Artificial devices, artificial footing – this is not what’s best for the horse.

 

When you talk about horses and you talk about horse sport as Cecilia is, your first consideration is the management of the horse. If you buy a Hickstead or an Azur and send him to a third-rate boarding house, in about two seconds, you’re going to have a third-rate horse. The most important thing is what the great old Virginia horsewoman and trainer of Conrad Homfeld and Joe Fargis Frances Rowe used to call “beautiful care”: how the barn is set up, the bedding of the stall, the feed programme, the vet, the equine dentist, the farrier, the quality of the grooming – it all should be  beautiful care. Many of the riders quoted in this book are more hands-on in terms of stable management than I ever was, but our mission is the same: to give our horses  beautiful care.

The greatest horsemen in the world – and I’m not necessarily talking about riding here – are the English. They always have been. Now I’m not saying the French, the Germans, the Swedes, the Dutch aren’t good horsemen – they’re all great and each is different – but I’ve traveled just about every country in the world and as far as the care and management of the horse, the greatest horsemen in the world are the English. That’s why all the continental riders get English grooms to take care of their horses – horse care is in their blood. Being an American from the Northeast part of the country, I grew up with an offshoot of English horsemanship, and the whole thing is based on  natural: turning horses out, riding through the country. Carl Hester revolutionized dressage because he approached it from a technical, scientific point of view, but allowed his English horsemanship to take it to a different level. We all know he is, yes, a very talented rider, but what really “woke up” the dressage world is that he hacks his horses out, turns his horses out, shows that dressage horses should not be circus animals confined in stalls. He, and many other contributors to this book, assert that this should be the standard.

Bert de Némethy, who was a Hungarian trained in Germany, managed the US equestrian team beautifully during his tenure, and he always had us work our horses on different surfaces – something that Beezie Madden notes as key in this book and is also supported by scientists. We would base at Aachen and Bert would have us ride gymnastics on the turf fields (which are now some of the warm-up rings) but often we also rode in the old dressage ring where the footing was quite deep. I would cheat with my hot horses that were above the bit – I would get them on the bit by tiring them out in that deep sand. But we rode on the roads, we rode on the turf, we rode in sand. Today too many horses are always worked on the same artificial “perfect” footing, as some call it.

After management of the horse, the next most important consideration is selection of a horse for his rider and for his “job.” And this is just as applicable to a school horse as it is to Big Star. The school horse is just as valuable as Big Star. Actually, everyone knows there’s nothing as valuable as a top school horse! Selecting the right horse for a particular rider and a particular job depends on a mix of experience and instinct – some people, even laymen who maybe aren’t so experienced, they have an eye for a horse, whether the best fit for an amateur hunter rider, a top dressage rider, a four-star eventer, whatever. The great thing about this book is that Cecilia has included this kind of information, and it is dispensed by individuals who are current, they are champions, people know them. They’re not people like myself, out of the dark ages. Their advice is all very relevant, and they are all saying the same thing.

Next you get to my pet peeve: the way people ride their horses. The United States historically has always been very weak in dressage. It is an afterthought. In the early days we had Thoroughbred horses that were so courageous and so special that we fudged dressage. Now we’ve finally caught up, and England has caught up, but “fudging dressage” is still haunting the world, because I go all over the world and people are faking it everywhere. Faking it and tying horses down is crippling horses. There was a great about-face five  or six years ago because of Rollkur. Overflexing horses is very damaging to the horse, and luckily, it has taken a swing for the better. However, it is not good enough, especially in the jumpers – event horses and dressage horses have to more or less stay to the correct line because they are judged, but jumpers, they just strap them down, tie them down, put this on them, that on them, and away they go. The sport community – jumpers, eventers, dressage riders, and I mean in every country – must address how we work the horse, that whatever the discipline, it should be according to classical principles. The dressage work for sport horses has been a weak link, probably throughout history. And it still is a weak link. And I will speak up about it. It’s not rocket science. There are books hundreds of years old that tell you how to work a horse!

ARHORS

Like this one!

In addition to not fudging dressage, great riders don’t overjump. The two cripplers of a horse are footing and jumping. Knowing this, all the great riders don’t overjump. We work a horse every day for condition, for discipline, for rideability. A friend of mine, Peder Fredricson (a Swede), he works the horse beautifully, so I will pick him out. He works a horse without auxiliary reins, he’s had a vast background in correct dressage, and I watched him at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where his quality of work was rewarded as he won individual silver. I am closely aligned to Beezie Madden – I know she’s not an overjumper. Laura Kraut is definitely not an overjumper. John Whitaker, my idol of all the people I’ve ever seen, since I started riding – he’s my idol of idols – he hacks out, he walks on roads, he doesn’t overjump his horses. I was a driller when I was young. I drilled horses and was a culprit of overjumping. That’s how I know that overjumping is the kiss of the death. At best a horse gets stale, at worst he gets sore or lame.

These three important points – management, selection, and how we ride – are the topics Cecilia has pulled together in this book under the auspices of the superstars and scientists of today, giving old information credibility. And in some ways it’s all old news…but it’s forgotten news. Lots of young people today, they’re so competition-oriented, they forgot the whole point. Horse show horse show horse show. Ranking ranking ranking. I wouldn’t still be doing this sport the way I still do it, teaching and riding, if that was all it was. That is very, very limited. These “desperate housewives” and “weekend warriors,” as I call them, have not yet been influenced to understand the point. And that is the point of this book. When I was under the tutelage of Bert de Némethy, we were a very classy group of young guys – we could afford to live well. But we learned from him and our other trainers in those days, the point was the daily work, the dressage, the beautiful care. The horse show was just an occasional test that showed us where we were in relation to the other people; then we went home and took care of our horses, schooled our horses. But a lot of people at horse shows today, all over the world – it’s not just one country – they’ve lost the plot of what this is about. It’s not just about rankings, points, and selection for championships – that’s the icing on the cake.

Cecilia has done a great service to the sport: What she has gathered here is so correct, all going back to the past, but couched in modern perspective. People say about me, “Oh, he’s old fashioned. The sport has passed him.” Well, the greatest compliment I can get as a horseman is that I’m old-fashioned. The sport has not passed me; there’s nothing different about working a horse the classical way, about caring for him as suits his nature. The future is the past.

–George H. Morris

 

SportHorseSoundnessFinal-horseandriderbooksSPORT HORSE SOUNDNESS AND PERFORMANCE is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE. 

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

And if you are interested in more from George Morris, UNRELENTING, his bestselling autobiography, is also available.

CLICK HERE to read more George. 

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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There’s nothing quite like the amazing array of George-Morris-memes that float around the internet. They are funny and harsh and thoughtful and on point…some of them are probably even true. Here are a few you may not have seen yet that George Morris actually DID say—ponder them, perhaps allow them to help improve your horsemanship. You never know…one day, he might be watching!

Number 21:

ClassGHM

 

Number 20:

AUTO

 

Number 19:

GEORGECLINIC2

 

Number 18:

GHM-HELP

 

Number 17:

precision

 

Number 16:

SITTINGPRETTY

 

Number 15:

GHM-aids

 

Number 14:

GHM-MonMot

 

Number 13: 

GHM-win

 

Number 12: 

ghmdisciplines-insta

 

Number 11:

GHMFEEL

 

Number 10:

Night Owl in Aachen - 1960

 

Number 9:

GHMinspire

 

Number 8:

GHMKICKINPANTS

 

Number 7: 

GHMYOUNGPEOPLE

Number 6:

GHMolympics

 

Number 5: 

STANDARD

 

Number 4: 

hands

 

Number 3: 

Notnatural

 

Number 2:

keepreviewing copy

 

Number 1:

LOFTYDREAM

 

UNRELENTING FINALGeorge Morris has been willing to do whatever it takes to give aspiring riders the right stuff to reach the top, and he has done it for over half a century. Those interested in the real story of his life can get the behind-the-scenes account in his autobiography UNRELENTING, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

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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In his bestselling book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, famed rider, trainer, and coach Denny Emerson details seven areas of choice each of us face during our evolution as equestrians, and how our decisions in those areas transform us from “wannabes” to “gonnabes”…or don’t. He also shares experiences drawn from his lifetime working with horses—competing, learning, and teaching—including this demonstration of one renowned coach’s genius:

JLG

The “genius” Jack Le Goff. Photo courtesy of Denny Emerson.

Sometimes there are coaches so gifted at manipulating the hearts and minds of their players that they transcend ordinary coaching to become legendary figures in their chosen sports.

In my lifetime there have been three of these coaches connected with the United States Equestrian Team: Bertalan de Nemethy and George Morris, both coaches of the USET Show Jumping Team, and Jack Le Goff, who arrived in the United States from his native France in 1970, hired to revive the flagging fortunes of US Eventing.

In July 1974, the US Eventing Squad chosen to compete at the Burghley World Championship Three-Day Event in September flew from New York to London to spend a couple of months leading up to the big event training at a facility in the south of England.

We were, as Stalin said to the Russian troops as they finally invaded German soil, “in the belly of the beast.” Through the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, the English Three-Day Team had crushed all opposition. As we began our tentative challenge to that English might, we were painfully aware that our English hosts were the reigning gold medalists from both the 1970 World Championships and the 1972 Olympic Games.

One quiet summer evening a wave of excitement swept the American camp. Richard Meade, the captain of the English team and the current Olympic goal medalist, was coming to try a horse that someone had brought in as a sales prospect.

All six of us trooped down to the show-jumping arena to watch Richard school this horse, and we were perched on the top rail like six birds on a wire. I looked down the country lane that passed by the schooling area, and who should be strolling toward us but our coach, Jack Le Goff, complete with fishing rod, reel, and high-topped waders.

I was sitting next to our team captain Mike Plumb, and I said something to him like, “Won’t Jack be interested to watch this?”

Mike replied, “He won’t even stop.”

Sure enough, Jack walked right on by, smiled, called out, “Hello, everybody. Hello, Richard,” but didn’t even pause.

Mike knew Jack better than I did, and he also understood Jack’s psychological insight into his riders. Later, I also understood what Jack had done, but I didn’t at the time.

Jack wasn’t going to validate Richard Meade in our minds by paying him the slightest attention. To acknowledge that this gold-medal winner had anything to show that was worth Jack’s time would not have been the way to persuade us that we had what it took to beat the world’s predominant three-day-event team.

Thirty-four years later I told this story to George Morris, another Olympic gold medal coach. “Jack is a genius,” said George, “and you know I don’t say that about many people.”

HowGoodRidersGetGood-horseandriderbooks

The medal ceremony at the 1974 World Championship Three-Day Event at the Burghley Horse Trials. Prince Philip presents the gold medals to the US Team (left to right): Mike Plumb on Good Mixture, Bruce Davidson on Irish Cap, Denny Emerson on Victor Dakin, Don Sachey on a borrowed Cajun as his Plain Sailing was injured. Photo courtesy of Denny Emerson.

Emerson’s book HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

(And watch for his new book, coming Fall 2018!)

TSB also publishes George Morris’s autobiography UNRELENTING and Jack Le Goff’s HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST. You can buy them at a special package discount 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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KarenYesScary

Karen Robertson on Carlos at the George Morris clinic. Photo by Lisa Pleasance.

TSB author Karen Robertson shared her hopes and fears for her clinic date with The George in May (click here to read her first post). Now she’s back to tell us how it all went down.

To tell the story about what it was like for me riding with George Morris in late May, I need to start the week before the clinic, when I showed at Sonoma’s Spring Classic Show. It’s a gorgeous place and such a wonderful show, but Carlos and I had a really rough week…. It was the kind of show where the wires get crossed and each day ends with a frustrated feeling of not being strong enough or fast enough or smart enough to ride well enough in any key moment. Seven good jumps didn’t cut it when the eighth was a stop. I got in my head. I started trying different things to end the pattern of choking… a better night’s sleep, more caffeine, or more breakfast. I walked the show grounds with my ear buds in listening to badass music to get myself fired up before I got on for the next class. But at the end of the show, I drove away from Sonoma Horse Park without ever digging myself out of the rut and laying down a solidly good trip. The familiar, consistent feel I’d had all winter with Carlos had been shaken badly; my riding was full of doubt. Needless to say, it was not the kind of show you want to have just days before your first time riding in front of George Morris.

Or, maybe it was.

The eight-hour drive north from Bend, Oregon, to the clinic location went smoothly, but I was full of restless anticipation. After a quick hack in the indoor and settling the horses in for the night, waves of nerves gave me goose bumps as I watched the farm’s crew collecting piles of cut grass from the beautiful front field in preparation for the next day.

In the morning, I was washing Carlos’s legs in the wash stall at the front of the barn when I saw George pull up. I walked out for a quick hello, gave him a kiss on the cheek when he stepped out of the car, and then scurried back in again to get ready. It had been just over a year since I’d seen him last—at the Easter Wellington book signing—and saying hello settled me. I was ready to put the previous week behind me and try my best for him.

When I rode Carlos onto the field less than an hour later, George looked up at me from his perch on the golf cart, paused and said, “Oh, Karen…I didn’t recognize you with your hat on. You look pretty good.”

I nodded with a ghost of a smile as I walked by him. After all the waiting, having registered six months before, it had begun.

As soon as that familiar cadence of George’s teaching—like the lecture of a college professor weaved with pointed instruction—began on that first morning, I found my nerves had passed. I settled into a mindset that stayed with me throughout the clinic: total concentration on following his direction exactly…with a strong dose of hustle. After watching George coach so many other riders in past years, it was absolutely surreal to have his voice speaking to me. It raised my focus to a calm but primed state of being present. I tried to absorb the big picture concepts while also being alert to react quickly.

The first day I was most concerned with riding boldly and not allowing the klutzy moments that had plagued us the week before in Sonoma. Carlos felt great—a little fresh but not wild. He ogled the ditch behind an oxer when we flatted by it, but when it came time to jump it, he didn’t hesitate. I found myself breathing barely whispered “Thank you” and “Good boy” praises to him. Flatwork set us up to feel the difference in our horses and then apply that feel in jumping exercises. George immediately zeroed in on my jumping position, telling me I needed to close my hip angle and lean forward, taking weight off Carlos’s back. This was his major critique of my riding, but throughout the clinic he acknowledged my practicing the adjusted position and encouraged my work to improve.

Looking back now at those three clinic days, I’m so proud that I met the challenges. We jumped a progressively wider water jump and rode well through some difficult exercises that tested flexibility of stride length, straightness, and tight turns. By Day 2, after flatwork and jumping without stirrups, George had me leading the group in most of the jumping exercises, which was exciting because having audited so many clinics, I knew what it meant: he thought I would bring confidence to the rest of the group.

There were definitely also some clumsy moments! Carlos and I haven’t had much practice jumping a bank, and at first we had a stop when he didn’t want to jump down over the small jump set at the bigger end of the bank. After I went to the stick hard and got him off the bank, I had a fire-breathing dragon underneath me for the rest of the day. I also halted at the wrong post in the fence line after someone had already made the same mistake ahead of me…George was very annoyed—and I heard about it. Then when he had us doing rider stretches, reaching down to touch our toes without stirrups, I knocked my helmet loose and my tucked-up ponytail started to slip out. Hair disaster!

As expected, there were the steely, scathing moments of George’s rebuke directed at various riders and auditors when they did not show proper respect or effort. Comments on the degraded state of our country, our general lack of discipline and work ethic, were weaved throughout the lectures each day. One rider had a fall when her horse caught a heel on the edge of the ditch, and George walked over, pointed down at her as she lay prone in the grass, and barked, “You have to keep your leg on at a ditch or a water! You didn’t leg him!”

He was right, of course. But what a picture that rider saw as she looked up at George Morris from the ground.

George also had soft, encouraging moments for riders who struggled. And he had so many words of reward—for everyone—when something was well ridden. “Excellent flying change!” “This girl—she is an educated rider, she is precise!” “That’s it…very good!” “Yeeeeesssss, THAT’S the way to ride that bank!” “This, people, is an excellent student—she listens!”

Every time George gave a compliment to any one of us, it lifted all of us up like we had climbed another step in showing him we, as a generation of riders, were worthy of the opportunity to learn from him. There was a silent, invisible vibration among the riders in my group. Although the rules of the road require that the riders not talk to one another during the clinic or even visibly laugh at George’s jokes (I’ve seen that go badly more than once), we were in it together and rooting for one another. I could feel it.

GEORGE-FRAMED

Speaking of clumsy moments, I had one while serving as jump crew during the 1.20 meter session on Day 1. I raised the top rail two holes on the water jump and stepping back from it, tripped backward over the wing box right in front of the audience and sprawled on hands and heels in the grass. I jumped up trying to recover and blushed hard, incredibly embarrassed. George looked over and said gravely, “Oh Karen, be careful,” and then addressing the crowd, “Karen wrote my book! That’s why she’s blushing…she knows alllll my stories! She knows more about me than my own mother. She even knows the stories that didn’t make the book.”

And just like that, he had taken my flustered moment and made me into a momentary celebrity out of pure sweetness.

George did not disappoint. He never does, does he? I was freaking out about being good enough to be in his clinic and wanting so badly to keep up with the group and belong out there. Now, looking back, I think to myself, “Don’t be silly—of course I belonged out there.” But maybe that’s just the post-George Karen talking. Maybe he instilled a level of certainty in those three days that makes the pre-George Karen a little bit of a stranger.

One thing that solidified that theory was the horse show I had the week following the clinic at the Rose City Opener back down in Bend. Just three days after getting home from the clinic, we were back in the show ring…and it was the best show Carlos and I have had together. We were consistently solid over all five days. We didn’t have a moment of doubt at a single jump. We got great ribbons all week, won the Ariat Medal class, and were Reserve Champion of our Hunter Division. But it was the Derby that felt like a true application of what I had taken with me from riding with George. I had never made it to the second round of a National Hunter Derby in four tries. At Rose City, we not only made it to the second round, but in the end, we were fifth, besting some excellent professional riders.

In my pre-clinic blog post, I wrote that I had hoped for one moment during the clinic when George Morris’s voice would make me feel invincible. Instead of a single moment to take with me, his voice, carrying me through those three clinic days, created a subtle, stream-of-consciousness-George-presence in the background whenever I ride. He is just there with me. In the Derby he was telling me, “Karen, first and foremost: Get it done.”

 

Karen Robertson worked with George Morris on his bestselling autobiography UNRELENTING, which is available from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order. 

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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KarenJump.png

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.

K&GHM

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.

 

K&C2

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

Read Karen Robertson’s follow-up post, written after her clinic with George Morris, here.

 

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-perfection

In November, things changed for Kelsey Horn of Corvallis, Oregon. That’s when THE George Morris called The Chronicle of the Horse to wax ecstatic over a photo of Kelsey that appeared in the October 24 & 31 issue of the magazine. “It’s a picture of perfect form,” he said. (You can read everything George Morris said about the image and Kelsey’s position in the original article HERE.)

Now, we all know George’s reputation for caustic remarks and criticism—there are reams of memes that feature his more memorable quotations—and many of us grew up reading his often scathing commentary in Practical Horseman’s “Jumping Clinic” column. But rare do we see him heap praise upon a rider (although there are a few he elevates to the realm of “great” in his 2016 autobiography UNRELENTING).

So what does it feel like to be the rarest of birds? The momentous event? To have, in a sense, won the riding lottery by perfecting a position that stopped George Morris in his tracks, miles away, via a photograph in a magazine?

As the publisher of George’s book UNRELENTING, we at TSB were dying to know what’s been going through Kelsey’s head since The Chronicle piece came out. We caught up with her through Inavale Farm in Philomath, Oregon, where she teaches, and learned a little more about her life, her horses, and her riding goals.

 

TSB: How does it feel to be singled out and praised by one of the leading judges of horsemanship and equitation in the world? I mean, it’s not every day George Morris tells someone she is doing something right!

KH: It feels amazing!!!!!!! I still can’t really believe it… I feel like a lucky winner. I am honored that George Morris even looked at my picture, let alone called COTH to compliment it.

 

Kelsey, four years old, on the Morgan Lady at Inavale Farm.

The roots of perfection! Kelsey, four years old, on the Morgan Lady at Inavale Farm. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Horn.

 

TSB: So how did you get here? When did you start riding and what are a few significant moments that brought you to the level of riding you currently pursue today?

KH: I started riding when I was two years old out at Inavale Farm in Philomath, Oregon. I basically grew up out there with my older sister, Kailin, and a group of other horse-crazy girls. Inavale was a Morgan show barn and with our trainer, Caroline, we traveled all over to shows. Caroline and her family also took us camping and to the beach with our horses, so we did a lot of outside riding. I showed some, but as a young girl I enjoyed exploring outside with my horse more than riding in the arena.

I have an amazing Morgan mare, Inavale Fairy Tale, who took me up to Preliminary in eventing and is now used in the lesson program at Inavale. Being able to ride to that level as a teenager on a horse I felt would do anything for me gave me a lot of confidence as a young rider that I have been able to carry over to other horses I’ve owned and competed.

My two-star horse, Smoke Alarm, was a high school graduation present from my parents that they bought for $950. Smokey was an incredible jumper with no eventing experience when I got him but a whole lot of presence. He loved to buck and could get very strong and excitable, but we worked it out. My first show on him was a one-day at Inavale. On my way to the dressage warm-up he spooked and bucked me off with an amazing buck-turn-spin move that I later succumbed to numerous times. I hit the ground before I knew what happened! Smokey took off bucking and ran through a row of Christmas trees, all the way to the top hill of the property. My mom and sister were walking behind me, and when they caught up with me I was fuming mad and shouting in Smokey’s direction, “MY SADDLE!!!” After he was caught I got back on and rode the test out of sheer determination. We jumped clear and against all odds finished on our dressage score of 29 percent, winning the Novice division. Later this horse took me to two, CCI * with roads and track and steeplechase plus a CCI**. We would have kept going if it weren’t for a career-ending tendon injury in 2008. Smokey gave me the taste of the upper levels that inspired me to make it my goal to become a four-star rider. 

Since then I’ve been blessed to be the head trainer at Inavale, as well as develop some brilliant young horses. I have extremely supportive clients, and I’ve been lucky to get the ride on Pinnacle Syndicate’s six-year-old Thoroughbred, Tomlong Ratatouille. I also have a partnership with Caroline Ajootian and Gayle Atkins, and together we own four-year-old, Swingtown (the horse from the picture George spotted). Thanks to my owners, both of those horses have given me multiple wins, particularly in the Young Event Horse series. Most recently Swingtown and I won the West Coast Four-Year-Old YEH Championships in Woodside, California. I also have a three other young horses that I own, all of which, plus Swingtown, were bred by Gayle Atkins. 

I am so fortunate to have such amazing people surrounding me, as well as lovely horses to ride. They are all a huge part of how I got to where I am now. 

 

Kelsey at 18 going Prelim on her Morgan mare Inavale Fairy Tale in 2005.

Kelsey at 18 going Prelim on her Morgan mare Inavale Fairy Tale in 2005. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Horn.

 

TSB: Well, George had kind words for your horse Swingtown, too. He said she jumps “like a good hunter.” Can you tell us a little more about this horse, how you brought her along to win the Young Event Horse Championship, and what kind of goals you have in mind for both of you?

KH: Swingtown almost was a hunter…she was owned by Gayle who hired me to get her under saddle and put 90 days on her. At the end of that time period I rode her in a schooling show and she won. She was scheduled to go up to Portland and be sold as a hunter, but Gayle and Caroline put their heads together and poof! That’s how the Swingtown Partners were formed. 

Swingtown is a very special mare with a lot of natural talent. She believes she is a rock star…no question in her mind. I make sure not to drill her too much, so we hack out in the fields a lot, gallop on the beach, and on sunny afternoons, she is out in the pasture. She lives a good life. 

My goal for her is to compete in the YEH Five-Year-Old series and aim for the FEI World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion D’Angers in France for the seven-year-old two-star championships in 2019. It’s a big goal, but how cool would it be if it happened! After that Rolex, and then we’ll see….

 

Kelsey on Swingtown at the Inavale Derby in 2015. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Horn.

Kelsey on Swingtown at the Inavale Derby in 2015. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Horn.

 

TSB: Were you ever a student of the “George Morris style”?

KH: Yes, I am a big fan of his style. When I got the chance to audit George’s clinic last year, I  thought it was very entertaining and educational. I learned a lot and hung on to his every word. I took notes on my phone to make sure I could remember! I was impressed by the detail and amount of time he spent teaching the flatwork. As an eventer, I feel that flatwork is extremely important to success in jumping. I also love that George is a stickler for classical riding. I’m a fan of traditional riding and want to learn more from George Morris. 

 

TSB: What do you like most  about eventing?

KH: Like most eventers, my favorite phase is cross-country, but I love eventing for more then just that. It’s an incredible sport that requires a horse with many talents. The variety keeps it interesting. But I do have to say that the thrill of cross-country jumping never ever gets old. 

 

TSB: What do you like most about having horses in your life?

KH: I love that horses teach us so many life lessons. Some so simple as how to fall and get back up. I love the challenges they bring and their routine-oriented minds. I like routine as well, and they keep me grounded to that. Plus they smell good, they’re beautiful, and they have cute fuzzy noses!

 

Kelsey coaching student Kaylee Leonard. Photo by Travis Leonard.

Kelsey coaching student Kaylee Leonard. Photo by Travis Leonard.

 

TSB: You’re an instructor, as well as a rider, competitor, and trainer. What is it you like best about teaching? What challenges you the most? What’s one thing you tell all your students?

KH: Teaching is a wonderful way to learn and I love being able to share what I love with others. What a wonderful feeling it is to help a student struggle through a challenge and earn success. The biggest challenge I have is caring too much! I want all of my students to be happy. Teaching suits me because I am passionate about riding and training horses, plus I’m a rather bossy person. So shouting orders suits me 😉

When my students are heading into the ring or out of the start box I always tell them one last thing, “Leg on and stretch up!” It is basic, but when it really comes down to it, you can’t  go wrong if you put your legs on and stretch up for balance. If they can remember it, they’ll get to the finish. 

 

Future perfect positions to the left and to the right! Kelsey with her students in 2015.

Future perfect positions to the left and to the right! Kelsey with her students in 2015.

 

TSB: Now that you’ve had him publicly name your “perfect” position, would you ride in a George Morris clinic?

KH: Yes! I plan to ride in a clinic with him as soon as I have a horse that is ready. I wanted to this year, but it didn’t work out, so I’ll shoot for next year. I will try really hard to keep the perfect position over every fence, but just in case I slip up, I plan to wear waterproof mascara…

 

TSB: Before you go, what is your favorite “Georgism”?

KH: I found a lot that made me laugh out loud, but this one is my favorite, “Good attitude is most important, good talent is second.”

I like this quote because it keeps you humble. Plus, a huge part of one individual’s success comes from a positive attitude. 

 

We wish Kelsey at Pinnacle Equine Training @PinnacleEquineTraining and her team at Inavale Farm @inavalefarm a wonderful, rewarding 2017 and beyond.

George Morris’s bestselling autobiography UNRELENTING is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to buy it on sale for the holidays!

 

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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