George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session 2015 – Day One

‘Tis the season of the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session. Five days of the Equestrian God himself teaching a clinic to hand-picked, outstanding riders on their gorgeous horses. It almost makes you wish you were one of them…that is, until he starts breaking out his infamously sharp tongue. It is no secret that good ‘ol George isn’t shy about telling his riders exactly how he feels.

Thanks to the USEF Network‘s live stream and on demand coverage of the clinic, you too can feel like you are right there in Wellington watching George chew up the twelve lucky riders and spit them back out as effective, disciplined equestrians.

After watching the on demand stream of day one, which consisted of the riders being split into two groups of six for two separate flat work sessions and a riding demonstration from the one and only Beezie Madden, I decided to compile my favorite Geroge-isms and share them with you. Some of them are comical, the majority of them are beneficial, and all of them are 100% George.


8:00AM Mounted Flat Work Session – Group 1:

“First things first are our tack and our equipment. You can see these horses are well presented, well turned out. That mane is too long. Get somebody to show you how to pull a mane. Little wider than your hand. It doesn’t matter if it is a Thoroughbred or a half-bred horse. Not this Shetland pony, Fellwell pony look, Sophie. Most of these manes are too long.”

“People, don’t mount with the whip in the right hand. Always mount with the whip in your left hand. Get off!”

“Don’t sit. Sink. A horse’s back is very fragile. They forget that.”

“Every 3 or 4 rides, swap your stirrups.”

“We are taught about a line from the bit to the elbow…above is acceptable, below is not.”

“We sit as close to the pommel as possible.”

“The purpose of posting trot is to rest the horses back. To be in balance, the upper body must be at least 30 degrees in front of the vertical.”

“What’s important about the canter, like the sitting trot, is that you can fix the seat. The seat and the saddle are one piece.”

“The horse is kept in a diagonal frame of straightness and balance. That is from your inside leg to outside rein.”

“As you go through a curve, that outside leg should be distinctive behind.”

“The inside hand is lighter than the outside hand. The outside hand regulates impulsion, the inside hand, direction and the flexion.”

“Over-flexed is when the highest point is the third vertebrae.”

“Put that whip over your knee, don’t put it over your hip. That is a very artificial equitation idea.”

“Sink into the saddle, stretch your spine, keep your horse in front of the inside leg, and close your outside hand in the downward transition. Sink, stretch, leg, hand.”

“Walk 3 or 4 steps, trot 8 steps.”

“As you take the horse backwards, raise your hands.”

“When going across the diagonal, meet the long side before the corner. That way you can ride the corner with a proper bend.”

“Shoulder fore is a very light shoulder in, instead of 30 degrees it is 15 degrees. Where we have the inside hind leg in between the two front feet. The horse isn’t tracking right, he is tracking right inside the two front feet. The outside left leg is way back to keep that hindquarters straight, not from swinging out.”

“Now put your horse in a slight shoulder out. The horse here is bent to the left, pay particular attention to the left leg. The right leg is back, and if the right leg isn’t back, the horse will swing the hindquarters in.”

“This lateral work will quickly collect the horse on his hind legs.”

“If the horse defecates, Spencer, LEG.”

“The horse is straight with the hindquarters on the track…the forehand is a little narrower than the hind…so you keep the front end slightly to the inside.”

“Forget the flexion to the canter because you over-bend the horse…now ask for canter from the inside leg.”

“Cross the diagonal and we keep the horse in counter canter. Now the question is here, does the horse listen to the outside left leg as we go to the left? The left leg here is the outside leg but because it is towards the center of the arena we will have a problem because they’ll spook at that corner, they’ll spook at that wall, they’ll spook at that booth. They won’t listen to our left leg, they’ll listen to the external environment. No earplugs, not gadgets. They listen to our legs, they listen to our seat, they listen to our hands. Not earplugs and all this business that you people like. They listen to our AIDS.”

“When the horse over-flexes, lift your hands. Elevate his poll, elevate his neck.”

“It has become a fashion, this neck bending in the canter, there should be slight flexion ONLY in the canter.”

“This horse of Sydney’s…he has lots of little tricks to her legs and seat, which is swishing his tail, bucking, kicking, what I can garbage. There are other four letter words for that garbage. One begins with S, one begins with C, but we don’t say them.”

“Where is Charlie? Charlie you’re a good legger-upper.”

“Keep pushing. One, two, three, keep pushing. Get me up there because I got very fat. Yes, I got very fat. To get me on a horse, Charlie has to be pretty strong.”

“You see as I turn the horse, I keep the base of that neck stiff. Two thirds of the base of that horse’s neck is stiff and straight. Just the front of the neck is bent.”

“The horse is not straight. The horse is all crooked.”

“Just be quiet you people, because he is very fresh and he is a pony type. Very cute dogs.”

“Always think leg-hand. Never hand.”

“What takes precedence over the training of the horse is the physical and mental nature of the horse.”

“Training a horse is like water on a stone. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.”

“Put the contact in the calf of the leg so you influence the hind of the horse. Sit on the horses back so you don’t crush his loins.”

“Discipline. Tough love. Tough love. It’s not all warm and fuzzy.”

“I don’t care what success they had. I don’t want to hear about success. I had success. I’m not interested in that.”

“Did I ever saw the horses face? You do it the whole time!”

“You go back. I saw you enough today.”

“No, no, no, no, no. No clapping. This is not a show. This is a riding lesson.”

 10:00AM Mounted Flat Work Session – Group 2:

“Inside leg. That is your first aid.”

“As you stop the horse, raise your hands a little. As you stop the horse, deepen your seat. As you stop the horse, stretch your spine. As you stop the horse, keep your inside leg.”

“Halt, trot 8 strides, halt, 8 strides trot. This transition perfects the reaction to the stopping aids. The half-halt.”

“We started off this group with lateral suppling, circles, corners, half circles. Left, right. To get the horse on all four legs even. That is called lateral schooling. Second we incorporated longitudinal schooling which most people call transitions. Backward, forward, forward backward. You always combine them.”

“Leg yielding is the first lesson of lightening the hindquarter.”

“What is my biggest secret on every horse I get on? Legs!”

“If you say “I know that. I’ve heard that for 30 years.” That’s good! I’ve heard it 70. I like to hear it again.”

“Impulsion has NOTHING to do with speed.”

“That’s a great fashion today, this excessively low hand. Which I don’t like.”

“Don’t compromise your back. As you touch that saddle, keep that back hollow.”

“Go forward. Most people walk like constipated cats.”

“Turn to the right on a 45 degree angle, go straight ahead, and back to the track. This is called a tangent. This will help you if I ask for a counter canter on the curve.”

“We teach the horse, he’s got to accept our hands.”

“Lucas, sit tall. Sit tall Lucas, you’re like a bug.”

“We exercise patience, patience, patience. It is called equestrian tact.”

“Always work a horse in two seats. At least two seats.”

“Stop see-sawing your horse’s mouth. Just the inside hand plays for a little flexion.”

“Take the half-halt not just backward, but upward, like you lift a box.”

“The most important part of take is give.”

“The secret of take is not past three counts. Take, two, three, ease off it. So the horse doesn’t hang on the hand and the rider doesn’t hang on the mouth.”

*Holds up bat.* “This. I can’t train a horse. I can ride a hunter with that. I can’t train a jumper with that. I can’t train leg yield, I can’t train flying change, I can’t train liverpools, I can’t jump Hickstead harbee. What is this?! This is what we used to call a twig. And we got them in Connecticut for free because there are lots of trees. Not like California where you can’t pick a twig.”

*Carly rubbing his boots with a rag once he mounts her horse* “People this isn’t something prissy. This is called respect for the horse. This is called respect for this ancient sport of kings called equestrian.”

“Your horse has to respect you, but he has to trust you.”

“That’s called the French crawl. Legs with no hands, hands with no legs.”

“Most of you have never seen me without a spur on my boot. Because the horse has to be light to the point where I think forward and he goes forward. This is the lesson of the legs; with both spurs, a touch, after the touch, perfectly passive quiet legs. Then, if I don’t feel sufficient impulsion, touch. Same thing with a whip, touch. The horse has to be self-active. I don’t carry the horse, the horse carries me.”

“What is my reaction when the horse escapes my hands, I just keep the contact.”

“What lowers this horse’s head is push, not pull.”

“What puts the horse to the bit? Legs, hands. Not hands. Legs, hands.”

“Watch how I sit the horse! Jen! Fix your seat.”

“Straight! Not this neck bending!”

“This is at the end, not the beginning. The decent of the neck, what they call “long and low”.”

“People, the beauty of light seat, the beauty of a soft seat, the beauty that a horse can come up in his back.”

“You girls know what I talk about cheating. Ooooh cheating! Awwww cheating!”

“First, always, in front of the legs.”

“I wouldn’t think of lowering my hands until he accepts my hands and my legs.”

“I’m old. I’m teaching you old riding.”

“My friend, you look younger. I basically hate you. I got to be kind of old and creaky on top of these horses.”

“The horse will reflect the rider. The horse, unfortunately, happens to be a mirror of the rider.”

“Good horsemen do it for the horse. Great horsemen get the horse to do it for them.”

“This is a good girl, you’re sharp. You watch like a hawk. Don’t say thank you, I’m hoping you’re sharp! You look sharp but you have to prove that you’re sharp.”

“If horses can’t take a certain amount of discipline they’re never going to be any good.”

“Never did I think about jumping horses without the basis of classical riding.”

Did I miss any? What is your favorite George-ism from day one? You can watch the love stream or the on demand coverage, here.


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