George Morris presiding over Day 1 of the Gladstone Program. photo by Amy

George Morris presiding over Day 1 of the Gladstone Program. photo by Amy

Earlier this year 10 young show jumpers were privileged to ride with legendary coach and Olympian George Morris at the USET Foundation Headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey, at what was called the George H. Morris Gladstone Program.  The purpose of the program is to help identify, guide, and prepare serious young show jumpers for a role on future US teams.

On September 8th half of the riders who had ridden with George in May saddled horses for the Zoetis $1 Million at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, NY.  HJU was able to catch up with a few of the riders after the competition and they were kind enough to share a few impressions about the class,  thoughts about how their time with George prepared them for it, and where their paths will take them next.

Meg O’Mara rode Cequila in Gladstone and was aboard Aragon Rouet at the Million. You may recall that Aragon Rouet won the class in  2011 with German show jumper André Thieme in the driver’s seat.   Meg’s family bought him that day. (Please, how does one get adopted by the O’Mara family?? I am employed, play nicely with others, and happily cook, clean, and bake amazing brownies… )

Meg tells us that George prepped the Gladstone riders to tackle the water aggressively, though she did not need to do that with Cequila, who does not require a firm ride over water obstacles.  She did share that she kept those lessons from Gladstone very much in mind at the Million, as Aragon “is a bit spooky at the water.”  O’Mara also noted, “I also was constantly thinking about time and turning and galloping.” O’Mara did have time faults over the course (it was a very tight time allowed)  and she confessed “George would not have approved!”

photo by Noah

Meg O’Mara and Cequila at Gladstone. photo by Noah

Hmmm, riding a horse that won the class two years ago? No pressure, right? Meg was actually eligible for the Million last year, but missed it due to injury, so she was “super excited” to qualify again this year as it was her main priority to do the class on Aragon. As for the pressure? “I definitely felt pressure,” Meg said, “but I also knew that from the day we bought him I would have pressure on me and it has taught me how to handle situations like these! I am so lucky to have such a horse!” Meg and Aragon Rouet finished 14th in their first crack at the Zoetis $1 Million. Way to go, Meg!

Meg O'Mara and Aragon Rouet - photo by Elizabeth Skuba

Meg O’Mara and Aragon Rouet – photo by Elizabeth Skuba

As for the future, Meg plans to continue to do her best to grow with her horses as partners – this girl knows how lucky she is to have horses that help her gain confidence for the big classes.  We won’t see Meg at Indoors this year, as her horses are getting a well-deserved holiday, but she’ll be back in action at WEF.

“The one aspect I took away from the George Morris clinic was to make definite decisions,” shared Michael Desiderio. “This helped me in the Million because there were a lot of options.”  Michael rode Landini, a horse owned by his client Sharon Milchovich, in both the Gladstone Program and in the  Million.  In Michael’s opinion, the Million was the most challenging class the two have ever faced, and as a rider “you really needed to know your horse’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Michael goes wheels up. photo by Noah

Michael and Landini go wheels up at Gladstone. photo by Noah

Mike and Landini just contested the $200,000 American Gold Cup, and next he will be heading down to Virginia to the Arabian Sport Horse Nationals (did we mention he’s won the most National Championships of any competitor in Arabian breed show history?). After that he’ll be making his way south to Florida for the winter.  Mike and Landini finished just behind Meg in the placings at the Million, in the 15th slot.

Michael Desiderio and Landini at the Zoetis $1 Million. photo by Elizabeth Skuba

Michael Desiderio and Landini at the Zoetis $1 Million. photo by Elizabeth Skuba

Lisa Goldman rode the stunning grey Zacantos Z in the Gladstone Program, but brought her Centurion B from her home in Illinois to Saugerties.  When asked about what she took with her from her time in Gladstone, Lisa said she rides very much in the George Morris style, “going forward and trusting my horse across the jump.”  You could say Lisa is a huge fan of George Morris and a proponent of his American Forward Riding System, as she left Saugerties immediately after the Million to drive back home – an all night drive – to participate in another George Morris clinic over natural obstacles that began the next day!

Lisa and Zacantos Z at Gladstone. photo by Noah

Lisa and Zacantos Z at Gladstone. photo by Noah

Centurion B is an American-bred Belgian Warmblood bred by Allyn McCracken of Bannockburn Farm in Indiana. Lisa’s voice glows with pride when she talks about the horse she has had since he was two, and jumped his first jump with.  “We’ve learned the big jumps together,” she says.  According to Lisa, Centurion B “takes you to the jump, doesn’t take you past the distance, doesn’t fall behind the leg.”  Lisa and Centurion also have an endearing pre-class ritual – before every class Lisa reaches over and grabs his ear for good luck. They finished outside the top 20, but Lisa was clearly thrilled with her boy’s performance and noted that the rails they had were due to pilot error.

After Saugerties and then a two day stint at the George Morris clinic, Lisa headed home long enough to do laundry and then she was off to Kentucky for the Kentucky National Horse Show and the 2013 Young Jumper Championship Midwestern League Finals. She brought several 5 and 6 year-olds, as well as Zacantos Z, her mount from the Gladstone Program, who most recently took 3rd place in the $30,000 WeatherTech Grand Prix at the Showplace Fall Classic Championship.  After Kentucky, this road warrior will head off to Harrisburg, and then her plans are “up in the air until Ocala” in 2014.

Super stars!  Lisa Goldman and Centurion B. photo by Elizabeth Skuba

Super stars! Lisa Goldman and Centurion B. photo by Elizabeth Skuba

Horse Junkies thanks these gracious young riders for taking the time to chat with us, and wishes them all the best. We’re looking forward to seeing more of them in the future!

Thanks for reading!