Monday, December 7, 2015

Auditing George Morris

Thanks to the wonderful L. Williams I knew that George Morris was going to be giving a clinic here in California... after sussing out costs & where it was, I knew I had to attend to watch! I stole several of my students from school and we made the 2.5 hour drive to Penryn, CA which was a really good time.

Now, George Morris. Famous for many things: the author of Hunter Seat Equitation, chef d'equipe, rider in the 1960 Olympics, and master of the acerbic quote. This man is fastidious and careful. He has a methodology that he wholeheartedly believes in. He is intimidating. He is also very good.

I got a TON out of watching and listening. In no real order, here are my transcribed notes from the day:
  • Soften on the horse's mouth while making final turn to approach the fence in order to better see a distance
  • Teach your students about tack - why this bit, why this saddle, why this bridle, why these stirrup irons
  • Always (always always) lengthen stirrups after jumping
  • Stay with the horse in a light seat unless the horse is squirrely or untrustworthy before fences.
  • An exercise: 8-10 strides canter, walk, 8-10 strides counter canter, etc. Then reduce to 6-8 strides. 
  • Teach the half turn and the half turn in reverse - 1/2 turn in reverse can be developed into a turn on the forehand in motion to get the horse obedient to the outside leg
  • Boldness combats stiffness
  • An exercise: poles on the ground | <-- 4 short strides --> | (8 ft short bounce) | <-- 4 short strides --> |
    This can be trotted and cantered through - the horse doesn't change canter from rail to over the poles, is simply a collected canter
  • An exercise: from the halt, facing a fence squarely, leg go and gallop to fence (for developing an eye) "Letting go takes courage."
  • Stiffness affects timing
  • Keep your elbows close to your hips
  • Inside leg always more than outside leg, you need more inside leg in shortenings than in lengthenings
  • Mobilize haunches in/out -- in a greener horse it will resemble a leg yield with little body bend
  • An 'ordinary trot' is quiet and rhythmic
  • The hind legs must come under in downward transition to prevent falling on forehand
  • Ask 'shorter' in every stride of counter canter
  • True straightness is almost a shoulder fore
  • "You can't know it on talent" -- referring to the hours and the tuning-fork quality of the rider to develop correct gaits
  • "I don't care if you're strong - you have to get it done. But I don't want to smell any frustration. Keep your cool."
What's going to change in my teaching? The biggest and most fundamental thing GM emphasized was repetition of very basic, very quiet things. Keep your foot in the correct place of the stirrup. Keep rechecking your upper body (rein length, angle of upper body for your current task, etc). Be fanatic about these tiny things that take very little talent and many repetitions to learn. There's no excuse for sloppiness in these small things.

And I agree - I'm guilty of letting some of these things slide because I've already said them 100 times, dammit, or perhaps I'm focused on something else. But seeing how GM layers and knowing his end goal sort of drove home that I cannot allow these little things to just sort of be 'ok'.

Did my kids get this much out of it? I honestly don't know. I know that seeing the next levels of riding, that seeing impeccable turnout, that seeing the quality of ring, that seeing the inside of such a gorgeous barn, these were all excellent learning experiences. I'm excited to see how listening to a master teach for six hours will impact these kids.