Don't Go, George!

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I can't say that the announcement that George Morris plans to retire as show jumping chef d'equipe is a surprise. After all, he's been at it for decades, and at age 70, well, he's earned the right to slow down a bit and?take some time for himself.?I?think trying to handle the show jumping team would be a huge, stressful job on its own, let alone when you're running your own business as well. We need more of George's attention to detail, and his constant?quest for perfection. We need it in our?lives, in and out of the barn.?I remember a phone call from George way back when I was Assistant Editor at The Chronicle of the Horse. We had?recently started the?Between Rounds columns (something I'm proud to say continues on today), and we were thrilled that George had agreed to be one of our columnists.??Then-editor John Strassburger was away on assignment, so a call from George complaining about his column was sent to my desk. I was nervous. This was, after all, George Morris. Gulp. The man who wrote the textbook on hunter/jumper equitation. I wasn't sure I was qualified to even say hello. As it turned out, it wasn't our editing that had upset him. It was the choice of?the photo we ran with the column. It?was incorrect, he said. Plain and simple. And, if I'm remembering?correctly, I believe the problem?was a slight angle in the rider's arms. "Do you see a straight line from bit to elbow'" he asked. No,?I?said in agreement?(secretly thinking?I'd give anything to ride half as well as the rider in the photo). Well, he said, this photo?is?a reflection of him and?unacceptable.?I told him we would take care of it in the form of a correction or editor's note, and he was fine with that. He just wanted?it made clear that he didn't approve the photo. This wasn't an ego-trip call by any stretch. He didn't want readers to misunderstand and have them?not be riding correctly because of that photo. That's my point here: He cared. We don't always see that anymore. Since George's official retirement is two years off, we have time to?find a new chef d'equipe. I wouldn't want to be on that committee.?George is unique.?When I see?current photos of him riding in Practical Horseman, I am in awe. Sheer perfection in the saddle.?He asks nothing of others that he doesn't ask of himself. Of course,?George isn't?going to ride off into the sunset. Juniors, especially, should continue to benefit from his wisdom through clinics and judging, but what he's done for our U.S. show jumpers?is nothing short of amazing. If you see him, take a moment to say, "Thank you, George."? There have been a lot of great jumper trainers in American history, but I can't think of any that gave as much time, energy and dedication to U.S. riders. He has my respect and my admiration.