June 24, 2014--The first day of the George H. Morris Gladstone Program Training Session, organized by Diane Carney at Rush and Caroline Weeden's Annali-Brookwood Farm, was packed with learning opportunities for the ten hand selected riders and large group of auditors. The "Gladstone Program" is an intensive week of training and education for exceptionally dedicated and talented show jumping riders who are serious about their interest and desire to pursue a path that will prepare them for international competition. The training session runs through the week until June 28th.
Riders began the day by completing their work in the barn with manager Laurie Pitts of Goochlalnd, VA, and then moved to the indoor arena for a session dedicated to flatwork fundamentals with the legendary George H. Morris.
Morris began by saying, "I want to thank Rush and Carl (Weeden) for this outstanding facility. It's perfect and perfect for the horses. I also want to thank Diane Carney for her tireless hours and efforts. She gives 110%. These people appreciate quality."
Morris continued to talk about standards saying, "My interpretation of fun is excellence. Excellence starts in the barn."
He then put the riders through a series of flatwork exercises emphasizing the importance of the inside hind leg of the horse when working on straightness. Morris demonstrated flexion and straightness on Stephen Foran's horse and also on K C Van Aarem's horse.
Olympian Anne Kursinski, re-emphasizing Morris's theories on straightness and engaging the horse's hind end, treated the lucky riders and auditors to a flatwork demonstration on Kathleen O. Hope's Vision EH. Kursinski also discussed how our horses are a reflection of the rider.
"Be an athlete like the horse," said Kursinski. "Train for a marathon or something to understand your horse and be one with the horse."
"That's why these programs are so great, you get the stable work and the riding. All the great riders, McLain and Beezie, know their horses inside out," remarked Kursinski. "I'm a firm believer that it's the journey not the destination and I've been to a lot of great destinations."
She told a story about how they would always admire Michael Matz's horses when the grooms hand walked them because the horses manes were perfect, the bandages were perfect and the coolers were immaculate and they were real winners.
"This is another thing I learned from George, set yourself up to be a winner - the stable management and how the horses are turned out are key. The horses get it also, they feel like winners and that's very important."
The other key Kursinski stressed was proper flatwork. "George never let us jump," said Kursinski. "The horses were always fresh and jumped great. We kept the horses fit and muscled with proper flatwork. Young riders these days concentrate too much on going from horse show to horse show, and they really need to concentrate on flatwork."
The riders then moved from the ring to the beautiful lounge for the unmounted learning part of the afternoon. Riders learned "How to Talk to the Media" presented by Brenda Mueller for Phelps Media and Chicago Equestrian. An overview of what to do at a press conference and how to answer the media's questions was explained to riders. Then the fun began as the riders participated in a mock press conference where they had to field loaded questions from other team members posing as journalists. The experience gave riders a first hand glimpse of what might be asked during a press conference and how to answer the difficult questions.
The group also had a discussion regarding social media and the proper use of it. Riders discussed how it could affect future sponsors and opportunities if used incorrectly.
As the day continued, riders fed their horses and moved to the outdoor arena to set gymnastics for Tuesday's session. Riders then went back to the barn to finish taking care of their horses for the day.