Although some say he’s older than the dirt in his horse’s hooves, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that George Morris has lost a step. At today’s morning session of the Gladstone Program Lisa Goldman’s horse made that error, and soon found out how big a mistake he’d made.
I won’t be so indelicate as to mention Morris’ exact age, as it clearly doesn’t matter. George hopped up on the grey gelding and worked him for a bit to get him more attuned to the aids. Things went well, until Morris went to school the gelding over a liverpool and things unraveled. The grey wanted to do things his way, George disagreed. The gelding stated his case more strongly. George countered. The discussion escalated and the big gelding decided he’d had enough of this sandbox and was picking up his toys and heading home.
The horse’s home is currently the stables at the USET’s Hamilton Farm, and the quickest way for him to get to his stall was through the Rotunda, so that’s where he went, with George on top of him. He didn’t bolt, he just moved inexorably in the direction of the stables and that was all there was to it. Before any in the audience had a chance to blink, much less pick our chins up out of our laps, the sounds of hoofbeats on the terrazzo flooring were audible out in the ring. More hoofbeats were heard, and since Morris’ headset was still on, we heard the occassional “Whoa” or “Steady.” We held our collective breaths until Morris and the horse reappeared, unharmed.
Morris was clearly unfazed by the whole incident. Jim Wolf, USEF executive director of sport programs, was less sanguine. Wolf had run down from his office to tear a strip out of whoever had the effrontery to bring a horse into the Rotunda. When he saw the offender was Morris, Wolf readjusted, smiled and simply said, “Hi, George!”
George and the horse left the stables and came back into the ring for a bit, until the grey again decided he’d had enough fun for the day and attempted another escape. Back they went for Tour #2 of the Rotunda. Again, it’s not that the grey bolted to the barn either time. To me it seemed as if they were having a “discussion” about what to do and in which direction to do it, and that discussion happened to move into the barn.
The only person on the grounds unaffected by the whole incident was George Morris. Everyone else, spectators and staffers alike, had experienced collective heart failure, as we could all imagine the 1000 different ways this could have gone wrong. Not George. Nope, he galloped back into the ring, giving the crowd a play-by-play so we all knew what he was doing, schooled the horse some more, then debriefed the riders and wandered off to walk the horse before handing him back off to his original rider.
I saw the hand-off, and the look on the gelding’s face as he saw his rider was priceless. It clearly said, “Mom, thank heavens it’s you! I swear I won’t ever do that again. Promise!”
There are some things you just don’t get away with. Mucking about with George Morris is one of them.
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