Lessons from Mr. Morris

Did anyone catch the recent video of U.S. show jumping team chef d’equipe George Morris playing around on U.S. dressage rider Catherine Haddad-Staller’s exuberant chestnut gelding Winyamaro?  It was part of her blog entry for The Chronicle of the Horse yesterday (and quite a good read)!

In case you missed it, here’s the video:

Now, why would I bring this up in a blog that focuses on intercollegiate riding?  Why thank you for asking!  Here’s the explanation:

The legend himself, George Morris.

George Morris is known in the horse world for two things:  1) He’s among our most prominent equitation and horsemanship instructors, an expert in all things riding-related.  2) He’s an absolute stickler for hard work and doing things the right way every time – especially when it comes to the welfare of the horse.  (And if you count the rust-colored breeches he sports, he’s actually known for three things – but I digress.)  Morris, who will soon retire, has made a career out of working with horses and riders in the hunter and jumper disciplines and today he is most known for his work with the United States show jumping team (whom he just helped coach to a Pan American Games gold medal).

Keeping that in mind, when do you think the last time was that he sat on a Grand Prix dressage horse?

As you saw in the video, despite his lack of focused practice in the ideals of the haute e’cole, Mr. Morris only had a few hiccups on his way to executing two-tempis, one-tempis, piaffe, and passage.  (I would also argue that said hiccups were probably a result more of an unfamiliar horse than anything else.)  Given enough time with that horse, he could probably string together the entire Grand Prix test in no time.

And do you know why that is?

True horsemen understand all aspects of the sport, not just their own small corner of it.

George Morris is the epitome of a true horseman.  In fact, I think if Winyamaro had been a reining horse instead of a dressage horse, Mr. Morris could still have swung aboard and put on quite a feat of skill – because he understands how dressage and show jumping and equitation and reining are all connected.  It’s all just basic horsemanship – sitting  in balance and communicating clear instructions to the horse beneath you.  Mr. Morris is constantly looking at other disciplines, other methods of training horses and riders, and filing away all of that information, not just for the very occasion upon which he’s offered a ride on a Grand Prix horse, but for any training issue that comes up in his day-to-day work.

Now, from an academic standpoint, do you know what type of school approaches education the same way that George Morris approaches horsemanship?

If you guessed the liberal arts college, you’d be right!  Liberal arts colleges require their students to look at the bigger picture of their own academic interests, to see how those individual pieces connect to the larger whole so that they can make educated and informed decisions and influence change.  Just as it’s good to learn about other equestrian disciplines so that you can develop a better understanding of your own, the college that you select should encourage you to take the same approach to your schoolwork.

Want help finding that right fit school?  Let me know – I’m happy to help!

(Want a ride on a Grand Prix horse?  I can’t help you there – but keep practicing!)


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