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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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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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EC DVDs HERE

 

TSB is thrilled to announce the release of seven fabulous new DVD programs in conjunction with the amazing online riding and horsemanship education portal EquestrianCoach.com. These DVDs feature the best in riding and horsemanship instruction from legendary horsemen George Morris and Bernie Traurig, and USEF “R”-rated hunter and hunter seat equitation judge Cynthia Hankins.

George Morris

George Morris

What’s new from George Morris?

Teaching and Training the American Way (CLICK TO ORDER)

Spend an hour with former Chef d’Equipe of the US Show Jumping Team George Morris and demonstration riders Cynthia Hankins and Darragh Kenny as they illustrate the most fundamental aspects of the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System, a system endorsed and taught by George and advocated by the USHJA Trainer Certification Program. Includes a bonus video, “The Roots of Forward Riding in America,” where George introduces the American style of riding and its evolution.

Dressage for Jumpers (CLICK TO ORDER)

Join George as he demonstrates his favorite dressage exercises as they apply to jumping sports. In this schooling session, George uses his system of training on the flat and over fences to produce a relaxed, supple, and attentive equine partner.

Bernie Traurig

Bernie Traurig

And what do we get from Bernie Traurig?

The American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System–The Complete Series (CLICK HERE TO ORDER)

Acclaimed rider, coach, and clinician Bernie Traurig presents a unique DVD series explaining the building blocks of the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System, a system endorsed and taught by George Morris and advocated by the USHJA Trainer Certification Program. In Developing Perfect Position; Fundamentals of Flatwork; and The Controls of the Horse, Bernie shares step-by-step exercises, on the flat and over fences, that are proven to bring success. Available as a complete series or individually—the complete series includes a special introductory DVD on the history of the sport.

Cynthia Hankins

Cynthia Hankins

What about Cynthia Hankins?

Form Follows Function with Cynthia Hankins (CLICK TO ORDER)

First on the flat and then over fences, USEF “R”-rated judge Cynthia Hankins discloses the common position faults she encounters and presents the correct, classical form of the American Hunter/Jumper Forward Riding System, endorsed and taught by George Morris and advocated by the USHJA Trainer Certification Program.

About EquestrianCoach.com

EquestrianCoach.com is a phenomenal online portal to a broad selection of extremely well demonstrated equestrian tips, techniques, and sport-specific know-how. The subscription-based site was created to make quality education accessible and affordable to every equestrian, regardless of their background, their level, or their geographic location. It rounds up the most talented equestrians on the planet, captures their expertise, and delivers it directly to you on your computer or mobile device in high definition. CHECK IT OUT HERE

TSB is excited to team up with EquestrianCoach.com to bring you excellent instruction from the world's top equestrians!

TSB is excited to team up with EquestrianCoach.com to bring you excellent instruction from the world’s top equestrians!

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