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Posts Tagged ‘show jumping’

RidingfortheTeam-Sport-Photos-FB

“To win for the USA.” Many young athletes grow up with a goal of reaching the Olympics and the glories of their sport’s highest levels. It is no different for equestrians, whether they ride English, Western, vault, or drive a carriage. From playing with plastic ponies and taking their first riding lessons, to finding success in the arena, thousands of horse lovers hope they can one day represent the United States in international competition.

RIDING FOR THE TEAM, the new book from the United States Equestrian Team Foundation and edited by Nancy Jaffer, chronicles the lives of those who dreamed about competing for their country and “made it,” sharing inspirational stories from the FEI’s eight equestrian disciplines: show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, vaulting, reining, endurance, and para-dressage.

Readers are immersed in the fascinating histories of the medal-winning riders, drivers, and vaulters who have dominated American equestrian sport over the past 28 years, such as McLain Ward, Karen O’Connor, Debbie McDonald, and Tim McQuay. Get the inside scoop on legendary horses who have become household names, including Flexible, Biko, Verdades, and Gunners Special Nite.

Riding for the TeamOffering exclusive insights, this book gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of top-level equestrian sport. Athletes tell their stories and those of their horses during the years they honed their talent and dedicated their lives to representing their country in the Olympics, World Equestrian Games, World Championships, and Pan American Games. Beautifully illustrated with breathtaking photographs from prestigious competitions held around the world, RIDING FOR THE TEAM not only provides a dazzling record of American equestrian accomplishment, it promises to inspire the next generation of champions.

RIDING FOR THE TEAM is 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 videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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InspireMe-horseandriderbooks

Photo by Venkat Narayanan

“Being coached” and “being a coach” are two of the topics examined in Eric Smiley’s new book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM. “The aim of this book is twofold,” Eric says. “Firstly, to improve the relationship between coach (in all its guises) and rider and horse; in other words, help the rider learn how to learn, as well as guide those who help others in an instructional capacity make the way they communicate clearer. Secondly, to give those who do not have regular tutelage techniques and practical exercises to help develop riding and training skills.”

We at TSB know Eric best as a riding coach, clinician, instructor, and mentor, but we got to wondering about Eric’s own experiences as a student. Did he have a coach who influenced him in profound ways? How had he learned his craft through the years? Who did he credit for his equestrian successes? Eric was kind enough to share answers to these questions and more:

Being asked to share the story of my “best coach” has ended up becoming a reflection on who I have become and why. Trying to separate horse from person has become impossible. Surely in true horsemen and women the two become inseparable as we live our lives for and because of “the horse.”

Some of our greatest experiences in life are horse-related. Some of our moral dilemmas that have shaped us as people have their origins in equine situations. So for me to separate horse from person or to identify an individual coach is impossible.
 
Sport coaches are defined as follows:

Sport coaches assist athletes in developing to their full potential. They are responsible for training athletes in a sport by analyzing their performances, instructing in relevant skills, and by providing encouragement. But they are also responsible for the guidance of the athlete in life and their chosen sport.
 
WhyWeNeedtoBeInspired-horseandriderbooksAs a child I used to watch my father come home from a stressful and exhausting day as a consultant thoracic surgeon. None of his surgeries were normal—all were life-threatening and in the midst of the Northern Ireland troubles. I would watch him go to the stables on his way from the car to our house. He would spend some time in the company of his beloved hunter “Bob.” By the time he arrived in the house and joined our family, a semblance of peace had returned to his overstressed mind.
 
Non-commissioned officers in the army have a tendency to be direct and explicit when getting things done. There is little ambiguity or doubt in the minds of those who are at the receiving end of the order. I used to watch Ben Jones ride his army remount horse “Custer.” At the time he had been promoted from Sergeant  to Captain to Chief Instructor at Melton Mowbray. He had previously been an Olympic Rider. I was doing a six-week riding course there. Ben Jones was direct with us and his horses. Always fair, but clear what was required. I watched him school Custer on the flat and over jumps, the clarity of where responsibility lay was clear for all to see. I was left with a certainty of “be clear and fair, but make it happen.”
 
“Now, Eric , what’s your question?” Mrs. Sivewright would ask at the beginning of every riding lesson. After an embarrassing first lesson (no one had told me to be prepared), I made sure I had a question ready to ask at subsequent sessions. This sparked my curiosity forevermore. This was at the beginning of my formative nine months at the Talland School of Equitation as I embarked on my chosen career with horses. My curiosity has continued to make me look and listen to any coaching of any sport that I can and then think about how they are going about fulfilling the definition I shared above and what I can learn about about their method and delivery.
 
Two Brains, One Aim“Enterprise” was not an easy horse. Maybe that was why he was cheap and not really wanted by his previous owner! He was, however, very talented but very misunderstood. I was asked if I would like a lesson with Dr. Reiner Klimke on one of his rare visits to Ireland. What a revelation that turned out to be. Day One was disastrous. Enterprise was SO spooky as to not go anywhere near corners , doors, mirrors, spectators, or Dr. Klimke. Day Two was unbelievably wonderful. With quiet, skillful instruction, Dr. Klimke got into the mind of Enterprise and assured him that it was okay. The work was beyond the expectation of anyone present, especially me. I learned to seek excellence and to be creative in doing so.
 
The joy of living in Ireland is the people one meets and gets to know. While being part of a team setting up a coaching structure in Ireland, I got to know someone called Liam Moggan. At the time he was one of the lecturers at the Sport Coach Development Department of Limerick University. I listened, watched, and was in awe of his unerring positivity and communication skills, and his humanity. It was impossible not to come away from every encounter enriched as a person.
 
As you read this you will begin to see that I have not talked much about many riding instructors that have influenced me. At the ripe old age of (??) I believe that most people today will have had more lessons by the age of twenty than I have had in my whole life. Yes, I have been in clinics, and I have learned from those instructors. But my interest has been largely self-taught. I loved the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. It poses the “nature/nurture” question of talent, but it also gives a method of achievement. Much resonated with how I saw coaching and had been plying my trade for many years. It gives one huge encouragement in what your doing when you read such a well accepted book, saying much the same.
 
However, none of all this really has much meaning or practical use unless we are inspired in some way to make it happen. Inspiration comes from many sources. I would implore you to watch a TED talk given by Dame Ellen MacArthur in 2015 (CLICK HERE).

I’m not making any political statement by recommending it, but listening to her it is impossible not to be inspired.

Eric Smiley’s book TWO BRAINS, ONE AIM is available now 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 videos, 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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HorsemanTikMaynard-horseandriderbooks

Tik Maynard spent several months learning from Bruce Logan in Loving, Texas.

In his new memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN, TSB author Tik Maynard tells a story about how he submitted his first query letter to a publisher:

I spent weeks writing, editing, and re-editing my query letter to them. I finally took a deep breath, and hit send.

Opened a vein.

I did not hear back from them.

Not for four-and-a-half years.

In 2016 we reached out to Tik, having read a piece he wrote for Practical Horseman Magazine. We were impressed by his writing and inquired as to whether he was interested in writing a book. Needless to say we were pretty horrified to discover that he had actually submitted a concept to us years before, and somehow we had not responded in any way, shape, or form! Explanation as to how this faux pas might have occurred aside, we were thrilled to eventually sync up, and the result, we at TSB feel, is something pretty special.

IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN chronicles Tik’s experiences—good and bad—as a working student in the horse industry. This unglamorous “apprenticeship” position is never a walk in the park, and Tik had his share of frustrating and demoralizing episodes. But they were balanced by a steady progression in knowledge and understanding of what it takes to train, ride, and care for horses. Readers find themselves transfixed, following along as one year becomes three, what began as a casual adventure gradually transforms, and a life’s purpose comes sharply into focus.

We recently caught up with Tik—who is not only on the road teaching clinics and promoting the release of his book, but is also expecting a baby with wife Sinead Halpin in the fall. With such a big year ahead, we thought it best to ask him some of life’s most important questions.

 

TikMaynard-horseandriderbooks

Exploring the world of eventing on his horse Sapphire.

 

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

TM: First, lets hope its a big island with lots of grass and fresh water for the horse.

As for breed, I like all horses, so probably something useful for whatever type of island I’m on. Like maybe a heavy horse so I can pull logs to make a boat? Or a Thoroughbred if it was a big island and I had to get around a lot.

As for a book: The Grapes of Wrath.  

 

TSB: If you could do one thing with horses that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

TM: Compete in Road to the Horse.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

TM: That we can laugh at jokes and laugh at ourselves.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

TM: I’m kind of weird; I like all horses. But wait, is soundness a quality? I would want a really healthy, sound horse. I have a lot of patience with horses, but rehabbing horses can stretch it.

 

TikMaynard2-horseandriderbooks

Tik laughing with his wife (and best friend) Sinead.

 

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

TM: Right at this moment, that something will happen to my wife or my kid during the next few months. If that is too serious for this Q-and-A, then total baldness.

 

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

TM: My walnut desk, made in the United States, and the merlot-red leather chair that I bought at the same time. It easily cost three times what I would have spent on desk—I could probably have gotten one at a garage sale—but I love it so much. My father-in-law paid for it, and I will always remember him when I sit at it to write.

 

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

TM: Well, I love singing, and I always say that singing should be judged based on enthusiasm rather than skill. But secretly I have always wished that when I sang all my notes didn’t sound the same to other people.

 

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

TM: Everything I like gets eaten, and it’s all the stuff I don’t like that is in my refrigerator all the time—like the blue cheese somebody bought for us at Christmas. Or the deli meats that my wife bought before she went away for five days to teach a clinic. I don’t eat most meats, so I usually end up giving them to Zeppo, our perfect, black-and-white dog. 

Growing up with two brothers, I learned quick to eat the good stuff right away. I love chocolate milk, for example, but that never lasts.

 

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

TM: Having just the right number of projects in my life. Too many and I get stressed, too few and I feel unproductive.

Also of course, the right kinds of projects. I loved writing this book, but at the same time I was working on my Green Card application, which was not a fun thing to do on a rainy afternoon.  (And yes, I just got my Green Card! I’m from Vancouver, BC, originally.)

 

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

TM: Most of the famous people I admire probably aren’t great conversationalists.  Legends from the horse world, like Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Reiner Klimke, well… I guess I would rather watch them ride, or ride with them, than sit down for a chat with them. 

And writers are often known for being better at writing than speaking. I love Steinbeck—I could read his books all day!—but I don’t know if I would want to meet with him. It might take away from how cool he is in my mind.  

I guess if I were to have a conversation with somebody famous, I would probably choose somebody good at talking, somebody funny…. Maybe Ellen Degeneres?

 

TikMaynard3-horseandriderbooks

Tik (on the bike) with his brother Telf, father Canadian show jumper Rick Maynard, and Honey.

 

TSB: What’s your motto?

TM: “What’s a motto?”

“Nothing. What’s a motto with you?”

LOL. That (obviously) is Pumbaa, Simba, and Timon.

I don’t really have a motto, but what I’m most excited about right now is Sinead and I are having a son—due in September—and I’m really looking forward to watching kids’ movies. The Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles. And my favorite: The Sound of Music! I could watch The Sound Of Music over and over.

 

TSB: You didn’t answer the question.

TM: Okay, if you really push me for a motto it would be something in between two mottos that I like. “Do your best,” is the first, and “Give yourself permission to not be perfect, so you can be great,” is the second.

Which brings us full circle, because in the middle are the horsemen.  

 

In the Middle Are the Horsemen-horseandriderbooksTik Maynard’s new book IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

In the Vancouver area? Check out Tik’s book launch party at the Southlands Riding Club clubhouse, Friday, June 22, beginning at 6:30 pm. All are welcome!

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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JLG-Genius

Before we published HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, I knew of Jack Le Goff. I knew of him the way any once-young-and-aspiring eventer would: through stories shared by the trainers I rode with through the years, as well as those very fine horsemen and women I’ve had the honor of working with during my tenure at TSB. He existed in my mind as a formidable individual, one who hesitated not in turning the screw in order to elicit improved performance. I knew he was a great coach, but his name caused the same quake-in-my-boots fear that George Morris’s always did…and it also raised the question that any rider with even a smidgeon of self-doubt will admit: Had I been born at the right time under the right star and found myself under his tutelage, would I have found the resolve and personal strength to flourish…to become truly accomplished in the saddle?

In HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST, we hear of plenty who did flourish with Le Goff as their guide and coach. But what helps is not that they succeeded where I admittedly think I would likely have failed (in that fantasy where I am an elite rider during the heyday of US eventing), but that Le Goff shares his strategies: how and when he chose to be hard or soft, why he’d settle on keeping or losing his temper, and what his reasoning was behind decisions he made concerning coaching and the teams he led. So now we see the path to the medal, but we don’t just hear about the fences cleared, we also know about the tears, the injuries, the heartbreak. The times riders tried, and failed, and tried again. And we come to understand the passion for the horse felt by all involved, perhaps most profoundly Le Goff’s own.

Larger lessons aside, there are also hundreds of fascinating facts and historical notes throughout the book. Here are 10 that stayed with me:

1 In the notoriously hard 9-month course at the Cadre Noir, “students rode eight horses a day for a total of eight hours or more.” Le Goff writes. “For the first three months, six of those eight hours were without stirrups, so the breeches were more often red with blood than any other color…. In the evening, we had to do book work, and we all spent that time sitting in buckets of water with a chemical in it to toughen the skin.”

2 At the Olympics in 1956, the Russian eventing team only had one helmet for three riders, and passed it from one to the other after each performance.

3 Britain’s Sheila Wilcox won Badminton three times and in 1957 at the age of 21 became European Champion, but was never allowed to compete in the Olympics because she was a woman.

4 American rider Kevin Freeman helped save a horse from drowning by holding his head up in a flooded river at the Olympics in Mexico in 1968.

5 Bruce Davidson didn’t know what a diagonal was when he first started riding with Le Goff. Two years later he competed in the Olympic Games.

image1

Tad Coffin with his copy of Le Goff’s autobiography.

6 You should walk a cross-country course as if that is the ONLY time you’ll be able to walk it. You should have total concentration and envision how you will ride it. A walk simply to get a first impression is a wasted walk.

7 Today, people learn to compete before they learn to ride, and that makes it difficult for them to be truly competitive and to progress to other levels.

8 There is no instant dressage like instant coffee. You can go out and buy a top-level horse if you have enough money, but the true rider should be able to “make” his or her own horse. In eventing, there are often “pilots” who “fly” or ride the horse, and mechanics who prepare him, train and condition him. But the true horseman does both.

9 Although he was a brilliant rider, Tad Coffin did not believe how good he was, so while Le Goff would intentionally infuriate some riders to get them to perform, he would instead look for ways to give Tad confidence.

10 The riding coach who is looking to be popular will not produce the desired results, and the rider who does not accept discipline “may be better suited to another pursuit,” Le Goff writes. “Crochet comes to mind!”

I’m certain you’ll find many other tidbits that motivate you or make you laugh or look at your riding differently in this book. Most importantly, by reading Le Goff’s book, you, too, will be able to share his stories and spread his philosophy. And through us all, the best of Jack Le Goff, the man George Morris called “a genius,” will live on.

 

 

HORSES CAME FIRST, SECOND, AND LAST is available from the Trafalgar Square Books online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

—Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

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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