“Are you interested in riding in the George Morris clinic?”
My immediate reaction when my trainer asked me this was, “Hell yes!” quickly followed by some doubt, a little self-loathing, and eventually—hope. Of course my first question to her was, “Do you think I should?”
There are a whole slew of images that come to mind when I think of people who have ridden with George Morris. Skinny, up-and-coming young adults in the equitation and hunter rings, Reed Kessler, Olympians, his annual Horsemastership Training Sessions. Definitely not an adult amateur quickly reaching her 30s who can hardly afford to show more than twice a year and could definitely stand to lose a few a lot of pounds.
Riding with George feels more like something that should be earned, or come with a strict set of prerequisites, and yet there the registration form was just waiting to be filled out and mailed. Which I did—with equal parts of enthusiasm and horror.
Let’s just say that enrolling in this opportunity is huge for me. One of those bucket list things that I can’t wait to brag about—that time I got to ride with George Morris! (cue fangirl squeals) I know quite a few people who will probably roll their eyes at this sentiment. Maybe they think that the hype of GHM and this opportunity is wasted on an amateur like myself. Someone who doesn’t even show regularly and is probably going to have to start worrying about popping out a kid in the near future.
I am choosing to see this opportunity for what it is. A once-in-a-lifetime experience and, oddly enough, a call to action for amateurs like myself.
Just because we are amateurs doesn’t mean that our impact on the industry is small. In fact, when you think about it there are more amateurs in our sport than there are professionals. It is our passion and our supply and demand that keeps the horse industry flowing for professionals like my amazing trainer, Krissan Barber, and GHM.
What kind of trends are we demanding of our sport? What kinds of issues fuel our demands—is it the need to win or to conform? Are we conforming to standards that are ethical or deeply embedded in classical training?
When you think of the implications it makes you wonder how great of an impact we could have. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally help out the youths at my barn while we hack together. Cringing internally when they don’t school transitions doesn’t do a whole lot of good compared to providing some specific feedback during a time they are typically left to fend for themselves.
Educated amateur riders have the opportunity to do a lot more good for our sport, versus harm. In an industry that I sometimes feel is saturated with trainers, it is the educated amateur who knows when they have stumbled upon a gem of a trainer. It is our money that supports and promotes effective trainers who pay back into the system by turning out better riders.
I am by no means the most educated amateur. I still struggle with smooth right lead changes. I’m typically always realizing what I should have done three strides too late. However, I am always seeking the opportunity to be better and that opportunity just happened to come knocking in the form of a George Morris clinic.
I’m only two weeks into preparations for the clinic and already it has transformed my work ethic. There isn’t anything more terrifying than realizing you only have 33 more rides left on your horse until George Morris is staring you down. Two weeks in and I’m suddenly left with questions like: Can anyone actually do one hour of no-stirrup work? Why did I think I could ride in this clinic?
I have doubts (pages of them), but if there is one thing that keeps me motivated it’s knowing that the knowledge GHM imparts will not be wasted on an amateur like me.
Tiffany Elmer, 30 and from Texas, balances her work as a teacher with riding her homebred horse, Capone. She’s been riding since she was 11—through high school, college, dating, marriage and her career—and has competed in the hunters, equitation, jumpers and a bit of eventing. Capone is her “forever” horse. “I bred for a paint eventer mare, and got a lovely chestnut hunter gelding!” she said. “We currently are working on cleaning up our 3’6” hunter rounds with an end goal of international derbies.
“Capone’s favorite hobbies include asphyxiation—he likes to roll his tongue, put his head in the air, and suck on it. I always have to leave a sign up at shows or people will call me thinking he’s choking (weird, right?). And he also likes to torment the elderly gentleman in the gelding pasture,” Elmer said.