If you were to find yourself at my house this time each year you might hear me singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
“Hang on.” you might say. “The holidays are over.”
Yep, I know it, and thank heavens, because they are exhausting! However, the days right after New Year’s is an even better time of the year if you are a Hunter/Jumper rider, as this is the Season of George. Or should that be The Sessions of George? Yep, that’s it, the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Sessions! Yippee!! It’s that time of the year where, thanks to the generosity of the of the folks at the USHJA and Adequan, the USEF Network live streams the Sessions and we all get to “take” a clinic with The Master. Sadly, I was only able to watch the first two sessions with George, and not the flatwork session with Anne Kursinksi (thank heaven for Video on Demand!) so I can only share what I saw from George.
So, at 8:00 AM on the morning of January 2nd, 2013, my computer was set to USEF Network and I sat, coffee in hand, listening to the dulcet tones of George H. Morris. You know that when you listen to George, you want to keep a pen and paper handy. Firstly, because you want to take notes – the man has forgotten most of what the rest of the world knows about horses. Secondly, because the man says some great stuff! Sure enough, as he was introducing the class and the content, he let loose with the first of many “comments.” While describing cavaletti as the “bridge to jumping” he turned and said to the audience, “We didn’t have a bridge. We went right to telephone poles and cement at 4’6“. Gulp.
George started the sessions with a purposeful warmup. He demanded that the participants have their mounts march with impulsion at the walk. George admits he’s obsessive about forward, that the horse goes from the leg into the reins. He made sure that each horse was walking ‘relentlessly forward” while he tweaked riders positions. The most common element of position that George commented on was the hands. “Posture starts with your hands!” George want hands well over the withers, close together, and with thumbs the highest point. According to George, the contact with the horse’s mouth should be “straight, steady, definite, and supple.” If I had a dime for every time George said, “Don’t saw the bit! Close your hands!” I’d be able to buy myself a plane ticket to Wellington.
Impulsion was another word that was used frequently over the course of the day. As the riders practiced transitions from walk to trot, trot to halt, and walk to canter, George urged them to do so with impulsion, and with an eye to being active, but not fast. “You’re too fast,” he counseled one rider, “You’re confusing impulsion with speed.” Riders were asked to keep their mounts paces active and regular, and to make sure the horse stayed in front of the leg even in the downward transitions. George recalled Canada’s Ian Millar, a former Morris student, saying “the horse should carry himself and carry me.”
Perhaps the most used term of the session was “Inside hand to outside rein!” Again, if I had a dime for every time that phrase was uttered, I’d be able to pay for a hotel room in Wellington! George bemoaned the common habit of bending the horse with the inside rein only, telling students that the bend was correctly obtained from the inside leg at the girth and demonstrating that as he rode one of the participant’s horses by giving with the inside rein. Over and over he’d tell the riders that the inside leg was to create impulsion or bend, and the outside rein was to regulate impulsion. At one point, as the riders were practicing turning, shortening and lengthening the gallop, Morris seemed to grow impatient and yelled, “People! Keep your horse on the outside rein!”
All in all, Day One was a positive day. There were a few of the pithy comments George is known for — it wouldn’t be George without them. Frankly, I’d go out on a limb and say Morris may even have been a kinder and gentler George than we’ve seen in years past. This year’s crop of students seemed quite sharp and attentive, which may have contribute to the perceived softening in Mr. Morris’ demeanor.
Lest I give you with the impression that the lion has lost his teeth, let me leave you with a few of my favorites comments from Day One:
To rider Ana Forssell, as he galloped past on her horse: “You’re very beautiful. I hope you have a brain, my dear. I hope you have a brain.“
“Weight your heels, Claudia! Your like a ballet dancer on top of your horse!”
Here’s Day 1 in 120 seconds
Looking forward to more video of George on Day Two, and I can’t wait to go and try some of the exercises on my Sainted Mare!
Watch the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Sessions live or on demand on the USEF Network from Jan 2-6 here –> http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2013GeorgeMorris/
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