Morris really liked Ana Forssell’s plan for her course. While most of the riders dove right in riding the bending lines, she made wide turns to the first few jumps, then put together a few bending lines. “She didn’t start too ambitious,” Morris said. “She jumped some simple, single fences first, then put it together. That’s a horseman’s decision.”
During the flatwork, Morris had criticized Foran for allowing himself to be boxed in behind other horses. He encouraged him to be more aggressive. When Foran was jumping his course, Morris gave him a quick lesson in aggressiveness. He walked back and forth in front of a red gate that Foran was jumping, forcing Foran to yell “Heads up!” on the approach and navigate around him. “Jump the jump!” Morris bellowed. “I’m not precious!”
A Water Finale
After they’d all jumped their courses, riders from both groups jumped a course devised by Morris that finished with an open water jump. The jump had a solid wall on the take-off side, a rail over the middle, and a PVC rail on the far edge of the water as a tape.
Morris encouraged riders to go to their stick at take-off if there was any doubt in the horse’s confidence. He praised Meg O’Mara’s application of that artificial aid. “She was impeccable in her intensity and timing there,” he said.
Morris wasn’t just concerned with if the horses jumped the water, but also in how they jumped it. Catherine Tyree’s horse wowed the crowd with lofty, soaring leaps over the water, and while Morris applauded the horse’s effort, he encouraged Tyree to keep her leg on to prevent the overjumping. He also didn’t allow riders to let their horses drift to the inside on the turn after the water.
Throughout the day, Morris delivered his trademark quips…
• “Impulsion at all costs, people. Impulsion is the mother of equitation.”
• “Don’t practice what’s comfortable. This is a comfort-driven society.”
• “Everything in riding is a paradox—you get a horse straight by turning.”
• “Don’t be obsessive about anything with a horse; that’s how you break them physically and mentally. There’s always tomorrow or next week.”
• “Discipline is out of fashion, but discipline is the basis of all safety and excellence.”
The Theory Behind It All
Dr. Deb Bennett, Ph.D., conducted the second of her three lectures about the physiology and anatomy that go into a horse’s motion. Lesson 1 was about straightness of the body and how that affects the horse’s soundness. “If you let a horse go crooked and are blithefully unaware of it, you will make him lame,” Bennett said. “A side effect of a crooked horse is subtle offness.”
In this session, Bennett addressed the mental straightness of a horse, using her theory of a birdie, which represents the horse’s point of focus. She maintains that the horse must have his “birdie” within himself to be calm and to learn. “To the extent that the body and the birdie are separate, the horse will exhibit signs of distress and undesirable behaviors,” Bennett said. “You want to have a horse that is 100 percent OK on the inside at all times.”
After Bennett’s presentation, the riders watched top farrier Dean Pearson give a presentation based on the old adage of “no hoof, no horse.” Pearson gave a quick lesson on the anatomy of the foot and the mechanics of an out-of-balance foot. He gave all the riders a notebook filled with diagrams, photos and X-ray images.
Pearson emphasized to the riders that they are responsible for their horse’s soundness and the health of his feet. He told them about an Olympic event rider he shod for for many years, who would insist on holding the horse for each shoeing, in order to be informed about his horse’s feet. He encouraged the riders to do the same.
Pearson showed the riders a case of thrush on a demo horse. They all then watched him pull the horse’s shoe off. Pearson emphasized that, as riders, they need to be able to pull off a sprung shoe in an emergency. He gifted them with a canvas bag full of all the tools they’d need to pull a shoe, donated by various manufacturers.
After the demonstration, Pearson followed the riders back to the barn, where he and his assistant helped each of them pull a shoe of their horse. (Pearson replaced the shoe, though he told the riders an old-time horseman would be able to put the shoe back on following the existing nail holes.)
Saturday’s sessions involve intensive flatwork without stirrups, and then the riders will jump again on Sunday.
See stories and photos from all sessions of the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session.