Each time I approach a new article written by George Morris I hope it’s the one that I can agree with. So far, each time, I’m disappointed. That’s partially because I can’t abide by someone who takes foundational principals and tweaks them with his own definition; such as George Morris’ definition of base of support (see my July 8, 2009 post “What Do You Base Your Support On?”) , and I extremely dislike short cuts that replace good horsemanship traditions (see my July 15, 2009 post “Evolution of the Crest Release” ). But I’ve come to a third conclusion with new Practical Horseman Magazines series “Classical Riding with George Morris”. Sometimes it’s not just what George Morris says that annoys me , it’s what he doesn’t say and what he mis-states that drives me nuts.
Mr. Morris opens part 1 (October 2010 Practical Horseman Magazine) stating that “our philosophy in the United States has been to teach our horses self sufficiency. We’ve taught them to go as if they don’t have riders.” Self sufficiency. Is this George Morris’ new term for “self carriage”? The definition of self sufficient is “able to supply one’s own or its own needs without external assistance” (dictionary.com). In view of that the only self sufficient horses I know of are the wild horses and they are fast disappearing.
So does George Morris mean “self sufficient” as in the cutting horse who knows his job and does his work while the rider tries not to interfere? Or does he mean not interfered with in the way that Captain Littauer taught that horses should be stabilized? Or does he mean the way that the military horse must be allowed natural balance as opposed to having to be ridden in collection for various legendary airs above ground for battle?
The photos that accompany the article don’t give the reader a clue. In each picture George Morris rides the horse with its face at or behind the vertical and always “tracking up”; not a self sufficient picture.
In the third paragraph of opening George Morris says “The horse’s habit stems from being ridden correctly, so he jumps correctly regardless of the distance to the fence.” And then “Without the rider, the horse can not be correct.” So does that make the self sufficiency of the horse dependent upon the rider? Has he never seen a horse free jump?
George Morris knows what he means. I understand what he’s saying. But does the average rider understand this, or do they just accept it as truth because it comes from George Morris?
When discussing one of the pictures George Morris states “It’s not the German school where the grip is in the knee, or the English school where the leg is out of contact with the horse.” If only George Morris, the teacher, would have used this statement to teach instead of leaving it hanging as an inaccuracy. Although it’s accurate to say that Ludger Beerbaum rides with more knee grip than the members of the American show jumping team, one only had to watch Michael Jung (Germany) win the individual Gold in eventing at WEG to see that this statement is inaccurate. And what of the English, who beat us both in Dressage and Eventing at WEG? The BHS (British Horse Society) manual of Equitation teaches (pg 25) “The knee joint should not be forced into the saddle but should be relaxed so that the lower leg hangs down, lying softly on the horse’s side.” Both the proof in competition and in the curriculum proves that George Morris statement is incorrect.
Perhaps George Morris has difficulty expressing what he means. Personally I believe that George Morris’ greatest strength is not teaching, nor writing but is in his amazing ability as a coach. He proved that at the last Olympics and I’m anxious to see what he produces at WEG.
Speaking of WEG and coaches, its a sad thing to watch the US eventing team go down the drain while the Canadian team becomes the cream. And while I’d never begrudge the British a gold, I think they should have the benefit of Mark Phillips’ expertise, instead of exporting him to the U.S. Why is our Gold Medalist coaching the Canadians while Mark Phillips is coaching the U.S.? It’s time for Mark Phillips to go back to the U.K. and for one of our own to step in to the position of Chef d’Equipe of U.S. Eventing. How embarrassing that the U.S. team can’t even medal when they had home court advantage. If this was football, Phillips would have been gone in 2008. And what are we doing with team members who have run outs and refusals – again? It appears that our eventing team could use some of the discipline that is apparent with George Morris’s Show Jumping team. I’d say it’s time to bring David O’Connor home to his own team, even if Karen has to step down. Or better yet, why isn’t the coach of coaches, Jim Wofford, coaching US eventing? It’s time to wake up! We shouldn’t be attending world class competitions just to say we went to the dance. What has changed? Why do we no longer go to win?
The U.S. team still can’t medal as a team in dressage. And by the way congratulations to Stephen Peters who won bronze in both Individual Special and Individual Grand Prix. What about the rest of the team? And the U.A.E. has the Gold in endurance (we didn’t medal in endurance either)
The shining light for the U.S. is our gold medal reining team, with members also winning gold and silver in the individuals. My personal favorite is Shawn Flarida and and the gorgeous Palomino, RC Fancy Step.Their video is at the top of this page. The guys and horses on our reining team were awesome. They were thrilled to be at WEG, were team players and had their best game on. Maybe the newcomers to the world class game have some lessons to teach the old timers.
George Morris is in his best element this week as Chef d’Equip of the U.S. Show Jumping team. Here’s hoping that he can be the coach who elevates us from losers to winners at WEG, at least in the “English” venues. Mario Deslauriers and McLain Ward are off to a good start.