Wellington, Fla., January 21, 2008 -- What do you get when you combine eight talented young riders with a group of legendary horsemen and -women? George Morris, chef d'equipe of the US show-jumping team, hopes it will help grow our next American equestrian team members.
The 2008 George Morris Horsemastership Training Session, held at The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's South Grounds, kicked off this evening with a reception for the riders, their families, clinicians and sponsors at the Equestrian Club by Tavern on the Green. George addressed the riders to prepare them for the week ahead.
The riders will attend daily mounted riding sessions with George, including flat work, gymnastics and courses--not to forget the full sessions without stirrups! In addition, there will be daily lectures by respected horsemen and -women on topics ranging from Melanie Smith Taylor's "The Importance of Being a Thinking Rider" to veterinary issues, conformation, nutrition and course design.
Sessions are open to the public at no charge, thanks to the program's sponsors: Bates Saddles, Purina Mills, U.S. Equestrian Federation, U.S. Hunter Jumper Association, U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation, Practical Horseman magazine, Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament and Equestrian Sport Productions. Click here for the full schedule of events.
Rather than try to summarize the Master, I think it will be more interesting to give you George's opening remarks in his own words. Stay tuned for a report tomorrow, when I hope to bring you some of George's training tips and techniques for working on the flat--maybe even an exercise or two that you can work on at home.
And now for George's comments:
- "Years ago, horsemastership was different from horsemanship. We talked about horsemanship years ago, and we talked about horsemastership. Horsemastership is a level above horsemanship. It encompasses the whole game, which is the horse. Anything you talk about in a riding clinic and anything you talk about in a lesson--a beginner's first time on a lead rope--you tell them to look up...it's for the horse. You tell him to get his heels down...it's for the horse. It helps the horse; it accommodates the horse.
"This horsemastership concept is very, very old, and we used to talk about it in sessions with Bert de N?methy and even way before that. Margaret Cabell Self and Emerson Burr--they were horsemen who promoted horsemastership.
"I want to make you very, very aware of the other people in this program because I want to particularly emphasize that this isn't one of my clinics. I give lots and lots of clinics. Most of you in this session I have taught once, twice, a million times. This is very different than that. I want you to be very aware of the people you are going to be working with.
"Melanie Smith Taylor, firstly, is a great person. We go back a long time. We were both lucky, I think, to have found each other way back. I was very lucky to find her as a person and as a student. She, herself, really exemplifies a horsewoman. That, to me, is why she had such great success. Technically she was very, very good, but there are others as good. She had enormous success because she is so devoted to the horse. And then of course she had a very fierce competitive edge, because when she went to the first fence--it's not like I often see today--she went to the first fence like Frank Chapot would go to the first fence: like she wanted to win the class. LISTEN to every little pearl of wisdom she has to tell you about the horse. And when she talks about competition, listen again, because she knows how to do that.
"We have Dr. Tim Ober, who is a great guy. Tim is a newer friend of mine. He's the Olympic vet for us. I put him in this position over the last years. He's done a great job. He's been to Olympic Games and World Championships. He's very organized; very disciplined; a very good horseman. [To Dr. Ober] We're very lucky to have you with us this week. I appreciate all your efforts.
"And I appreciate all your efforts. I appreciate the trainers who have let their kids come. I know I was in that situation years ago. I appreciate the parents. I appreciated my parents and my grandmother who paid for it. I appreciate all of you people who have sacrificed for this week because it is a long week during a horse show.
- "Laurie Pitts. We go back many years. Laurie is like Melanie; she's a horsewoman. You're lucky to be with her because she knows details of the horse. It's all about details, people. You're going to think I'm meticulous and difficult and a detail person--and I am. Because that's how you get to the next level. That's how you get to this level. You don't get to this level by generalities. Laurie Pitts, backward and forward, is going to help you and improve the base you already have in horse management. What's the most important thing after you buy a horse is not the riding of the horse; it's the management of the horse. That's where we let ourselves down. There are a lot of sloppy managers in the world, not just in this country but other countries, too.
"We are very lucky to have one of my oldest friends--we rode jumpers together, we go back more than 50 years. We called him 'Good Hands.' We called Dr. Danny Marks 'Good Hands' because he had done dressage, and no one had done dressage in those days. They'd never heard of it. He's a vet of the highest class. He's been to many Olympic Games for Bert de N?methy and myself and Frank Chapot, and he's another giant horseman. He has a great slideshow that will help you buy jumpers. When you look at horses, you don't look at them just jumping a fence; you look at them in other lights besides jumping a fence. I'm just so lucky to be in this horsemastership course myself because I get to do all these other things.
"Susan Harris is another wonderful old friend of mine. We go back a long time. She's a horsewoman. She's forgotten more than most of us have ever known, and she's written it down. She wrote one of the classics of horse management books, and she's rewritten all the Pony Club manuals, which I'm rereading myself. But she's not just an armchair author; she's a hands-on horsewoman. I'm very lucky to have Susan here this year.
"Last, but definitely not least, is our Hong Kong Olympic course builder, Steve Stephens. It will be a great experience to be with Steve, especially just a few months before he's building the [show-jumping courses for the] Olympic Games.
"I feel very lucky to be with these people. You can see how lucky we are this week to be rubbing shoulders with all of these people.
"Knowledge is power, people. If you don't know that knowledge is power, you're stupid. This is where it's at. Everybody has talent. Everybody can jump a fence. Everybody can win over fences. Ribbons are a dime a dozen. There's always another horse show. This isn't a horse show. This is purposely stopping the horse show. The whole point of this is, 'don't go to the horse show.'
"The best part of my career in this horse business--and I'm a horse show addict just like the rest of you. I've been to more horse shows than all of you. But the best part of my career in the horse business wasn't at the horse shows. Those days with Bert; those days with Gordon Wright over crossrails. Those days going cross-country up in Golden Bridge. Those were the best days of my life in the horse business. If you like this horse business for horse shows and ribbons, you're going to have a sorry life. You're not going to have a very exciting end. You have to like this business for the sport and the art.
"See you tomorrow."
Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore is the managing editor of Practical Horseman magazine.