BY: PRACTICAL HORSEMAN
A young rider shares her first-hand experience taking part in this year's 2018 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session.
As George Morris once said, “It’s not riding, it’s horsemanship.” This sentiment was on display throughout the 2018 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session, an intensive three-day program for young riders that I attended this January. Throughout the week we learned all aspects of horse care, from proper grooming and blanketing to taking a horse’s temperature and pulse. These skills are the building blocks of the relationship between horse and rider that make one successful in the ring.
In addition to our mounted sessions, we had classes on veterinary care, sport psychology and several other topics designed to make us the best horsepeople we could be. For example, Janus Marquis, the U.S. show jumping team’s equine physiotherapist, taught us how important it is to understand the anatomy of your horse when taking care of him and talking to your veterinarian.
Starting each day at 5:15 a.m., I was greeted by my 8-year-old Belgian Warmblood, Express Blue GP Du Bois Madame (a.k.a. “Blue”), as I walked into the barn. This quiet moment with him every morning helped me calm my nerves and focus on what was to come. This year’s instructors were some of the best riders in the world: Anne Kursinski, Kent Farrington, McLain Ward and Beezie Madden. Suffice it to say, I had a couple fan-girl moments while being taught by riders I had idolized since I was a little girl. Luckily, the first session was on the flat with Anne. As a former student of hers, I felt like I knew what to expect. She emphasized the connection with the horse’s mouth. In order to maintain a direct line from it through to the elbows, she shortened each rider’s reins by tying a knot in them. This ensured that our hands maintained even pressure on the horse’s mouth. At one point, she also took away everyone’s stirrups to strengthen our seats. Both of these exercises attuned you to the horse, re-emphasizing how you are a partner, not a passive participant.