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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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GHM-magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GHM-interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

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

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

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

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

 

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

CLICK HERE for more information

 

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Do you have your copy of UNRELENTING, the George Morris autobiography, yet? This is the book everyone is talking about…and it’s only just been officially released in stores.

“Enlightening and inspiring. And insight into [Morris’s] human failings—his struggles and doubts and worries—made for a much more complete picture of him than has ever been painted. … An unprecedented look into the life of a legend.”—The Chronicle of the Horse

“A sensational, behind-the-scenes history…a surprising, refreshing and sometimes harrowing examination of the man with high standards but a desperate need for ‘wild nights.’” — Horse Nation

“Deliberately no-holds-barred…what lies between the pages of UNRELENTING is very, very good reading. [George Morris] reveals both the vulnerability and strength that made him into the icon he is today. It is perhaps his bravest move yet.” —Street to Stable

“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. Even readers who are less familiar with horses may enjoy the glimpse into life with the rich and famous.” —Library Journal

“People will be talking about this book, so I wouldn’t pass up your chance to get your own copy.” —The Plaid Horse

 

You CAN get your own copy, and have it signed by George Morris himself and his ghostwriter Karen Robertson Terry at two upcoming UNRELENTING book release events:

 

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Saturday, March 12, 2016, Beginning at Noon

The Absolute Horse, 2221 NE 3rd Street, Bend, Oregon

Come enjoy a short talk by Karen Robertson Terry, Bend resident and George’s right-hand-woman in the writing of UNRELENTING, in conjunction with the unveiling of the painting of one of George’s great horses The Jones Boy by artist Kimry Jelen. Enjoy light refreshments as you browse the store and visit with Karen. Copies of UNRELENTING will be available for purchase and signing.

GHMWEF-Signing

Sunday, March 27, 2016, 11:30 am to 3:00 pm

Derby Field

The Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Florida

Catch the $86,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic and meet George Morris at this special WEF-sponsored event. Copies of UNRELENTING will be available for purchase and signing.

We’ll be announcing more events in honor of the release of George’s autobiography as they are confirmed—stay tuned! And if you can’t wait, you can order UNRELENTING 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 company located 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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