Greetings from Lake Gladstone. As if George Morris hasn’t already been throwing a few challenges at the riders participating in this week of intensive training sessions, Mother Nature had to weigh in. Both groups had to deal with rain, thunderstorm sirens, and flashing strobe lights as well as challenging fences and distances, however these riders are used to dealing with pressure situations and rose to the occasion gallantly.
The morning started off with a thunderstorm, so the first group warmed up in the indoor arena. Riders and horses worked through lengthening, shortening, transitions and lateral work under the watchful eyes of Morris and his special guest, eventer Boyd Martin, who was auditing the session for the day. (Check out my interview with him here.)
Morris asked the riders to perform leg yielding, calling it the first lesson to mobilize the haunch from the outside leg, then while the riders were carrying out the request, proceeded to get into a brief discussion with Boyd about the origin of and philosophy behind leg yielding.
Bless her heart, Mother Nature decide to give us a bit of a respite and quit her hissy fit for a bit, so we all followed George and Boyd in their golf cart up the hill to the outdoor for some gymnastic and jumping work.
Morris had set up a grid as well as a few other fences he wanted the riders to get some practice over. Just in case this sounds a bit random, never you worry. Nothing this man does is random. Everything is planned and though out in meticulous detail. The training thus far has been about prepping the riders for the demands of the technical courses they’ll face in the ring, and to do that they need extremely adjustable horses. Today’s exercises were more of the same – lengthening, shortening, turning right and left and designed to leave the riders with supple, rideable mounts.
Chase Does the Grid
The Great One Does the Grid (Group 2)
It was at some point during the gymnastic element that the Sesame Street angle came into play. I think it was Meg’s horse that got a bit sticky in the grid and George admonished her to be a stronger rider, and to get the job done. “There are no options,” he told her, going on to say that over, under or through, she was to get the horse to the other side of the fence. Apologies to those without kids, or who are too young to remember, but this put me in mind of a classic Sesame Street skit. The skit was done by the incomparable Grover and was designed to teach kids about prepositions. You want an interesting experience? Try hearing George Morris and Grover in your head at the same time…
After the gymnastic, the group went to work on some individual elements and a combination. “I don’t often do courses in total,” Morris explained, saying he prefers to concentrate on lines and elements of courses. The riders started out over a wall set on the centerline in the top third of the ring, the rolled back to a long approach to a gate that was also set on the center line. Following the gate they galloped across the short side of the barn end of the ring and back down the long side to an offset combination of a triple bar to a vertical, set at 51′, or a long 3 strides. Before starting the exercise, Morris had them jump the wall, roll back, gallop towards the gate and then stop before it to install a set of brakes, as his goal was to get the horses jumping it from the base.
Here’s how that looked when Lisa did it.
George really likes Lisa’s horse. He told Boyd, “I had the ride of my life on that horse. One of the rides of my life.” He later remarked to Lisa, “That’s a great jumper. I shouldn’t have gotten off that horse. I should have come out of retirement for that horse.”
The riders ended with the water, which seemed fitting, given that we were all soaked to the skin, having sat through several deluges and thunder-storm sirens. (Gladstone abuts a golf course. The siren alerts golfers to the incoming electrical storm. Not a good idea to be holding metal rods aloft when lightening’s about.)
Morris had the groups warm up over the liverpool, asking the horses to go back and forth over it to get them thinking WATER and getting the riders thinking IMPULSION. (Pop Quiz: What aids produce impulsion? Answer: Cluck, whip, and spurs, according to George.) He then had them come over the liverpool going down the long side to the water, which he’d set against the wall to give the horses less exit options. After the water the riders were to come around the top of the ring and turn back on the wall, which he asked them to jump either in a figure eight patter, or with several circles in the direction going away from their natural drift. The idea here was to reinstall suppleness and rideability after the excitement of the water.
And there was excitement at the water. Some horses channeled the Space Shuttle and rocketed up rather than over (there’s those prepositions again!) and others adopted a Hell No, We Won’t Go stance worthy of a Vietnam dissenter. Katie’s horse opted to take this route. Katie rode him brilliantly over the liverpool he’d objected to the previous day, but he would not go near the water for love or money. In a replay from Day 2, Mike Desiderio stepped in to offer assistance. “Over, under, or through,” said George, and still the gelding held his ground. Given the horse’s state of mind and the fact that the arena was threatening to float away, George decided compromise was in order in this particular case and had the non-mounted participants construct a simulated water from some planks and tarps. Mike got the gelding over Option B, then Katie hopped on and did the same, ending the day on an up note.
Friday’s forecast is similar. Those with Arks will be well served to bring them. No doubt the water jump will look somewhat like Lake Erie.
Oh, and if you were wondering about that Grover skit, here you go. Enjoy!
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