Sunday, May. 26, 2024

George Morris Day 2: The Importance Of Position

On Day 2 of his clinic, George Morris stressed the fundamental importance of keeping a light, forward seat as the riders worked their horses over trot fences, combinations, liverpools and more.


“I’m trying to teach you to be horse trainers,” George Morris told his students on Day 2 of his 2015 George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Program, held in Wellington, Fla. “Horse showing is the easy part; training horses is difficult. Educate your horse. Educate your horse to accept your leg instead of being all seat-happy. Set him up for success.”

The 12 clinic participants were eager to begin jumping with Morris on Day 2, which was all about putting the aids they learned on the flat the day before to use over fences.

In a series of schooling exercises from cavaletti work to trot fences, combinations and more, Morris stressed correct position and aids over all else.

Listening to Morris’ instruction, both rider and auditor alike couldn’t help but ponder the word ‘aid,’ and evaluate the true meaning of the simple yet essential term. The rider should do everything possible to aid their horse, whether it’s in a shoulder-in, over a single fence, or around a 12-fence course. The correct use of a basic aid, such as an inside leg or outside rein, can not only communicate what the rider wants, but also educate the horse on how to perform that task smartly and effectively.

Position, as Morris explains, is one of the most vital aids you have in your arsenal—and the most frequently overlooked.

“I feel position is very important for function,” said Morris. “Sit down and straight but not backward; keep a light seat; don’t over-exaggerate.”

Forward And Light

The sessions began with flatwork and focused on flying lead changes, which came in handy when the riders were asked to jump an airy, vertical fence on a tight figure-8 later in the lesson.

“This exercise has to be done exclusively from the leg,” said Morris. “The horse has to come from behind, just like everything in riding. Very few riders nowadays ride from the leg anymore. You’ll see that most hunter/jumper horses are leg-ridden very little; people slap on the draw reins and off they go, doing nothing constructive for the horse.”

Morris hopped on Hannah Von Heidegger’s horse Faustino without stirrups to give the riders a demonstration of flying changes. “I always prefer to work without stirrups,” he said.

Next, the group moved on to trot cavalettis to a small vertical, turn left and trot a slightly larger box before halting at the arena’s fence.


“[Trotting over cavalettis and small fences] prepares you for the bigger jumps; the horse is aware of where his feet are and he’s careful,” said Morris. “Trotting larger fences is difficult, but it’s good for the horse’s jump.”

When Cody Wooten, riding Adessa, and Mitch Endicott, riding Excellent, leaned a little too far back in their approach to the trot fence, Morris explained that, instead of tilting back and forcing your seat down into the saddle as you anticipate the jump, it’s more effective and healthier for the horse if the rider sits forward and light in the saddle.

“You were all taught this years ago, people!” Morris addressed the class of riders. “The fashion, and I don’t know why, is to sit back before the fence. You’ve forgotten why it’s important to have a forward seat and not lean back and sit on your tailbone. It’s logical; the horse can use his back better and continue going forward and gallop easier.”

Nothing In Excess

The next exercise was a combination that consisted of four jumps: a vertical two strides to a vertical, one stride to another vertical, three strides to an oxer.

Morris called attention to position and seat once again as he watched Bowers Cone (Roy) and Lucas Porter (Georgia), and others, duck over the jumps.

To demonstrate the look and feel he wanted to see in the combination, Morris borrowed Carly Williams’  mount Apollo’s Mission to jump the fences in both directions.

“There’s very little position change needed when jumping,” he explained. “Watch how my hip angle opens as little as possible. There’s so much excess motion in your upper body. Keep it quiet; your upper body does nothing to help the horse jump.”

As Porter first went through the combination, Morris addressed the young rider’s habit of working too hard to get Georgia through the combination.

“Don’t think you need to lift that mare over jumps,” said Morris. “Just set the pace and let her jump the jumps. You’re overprotective. Just set her up for success. It’s all about self-carriage [for the horse]. Let the horse teach itself as much as possible. Let them rub; let them learn.”

With a bit of tutelage, Porter was able to quiet his upper body to where his line was smoother and more fluid.


“Lucas, you see how effortless this position is for jumping—how effortless this position is for the horse as she’s jumping,” Morris commented when Porter heeded his advice.

Taking Out The Garbage

After landing from the line on the outside of the ring, riders half-halted their horses as they circled. But Spencer Smith’s horse, a big grey named Darko, rebelled against his aids and pushed through the half-halt with little bucks and protests.

“You have to teach this horse to accept that half-halt because he tends to run through it,” Morris advised Smith. “After the fence the horse has to listen, and horses often get quick because they’re anticipating that writhing seat and they scoot out. Be careful landing that you don’t hit a horse in the back because they’ll scoot, they’ll look back at you and swish their tail—they’ll resist you.

“Stay forward with your seat and take that half-halt with that outside rein,” he continued. “Don’t be afraid to raise your hands in the half-halt when he’s not behaving, giving you what I call ‘garbage’—cross-cantering, resistance, rushing through the half-halt. Pick his head up—horses have a hard time bucking when their head is up—and tactfully correct his legs. It’s take and give. When you take, raise your hand slightly, and when you give, drop them down and forward.”

After putting in five or six trips through the combination, the riders moved on to jump a liverpool down the longside, then turn and jump a skinny gate on a figure-8 on the short side of the ring.

This was an exercise that utilized their flat lessons on Day 1, as well as their lesson on flying lead changes earlier in the session. In fact, Morris’ instructions to keep the horse accurate and smooth to the angled distances didn’t deviate much from the lead change exercise.

Sophie Simpson, aboard Corindo, demonstrated the figure-8 beautifully, prompting Morris to narrate her process as she used her aids to guide the horse through the turn and propel him forward over the fence.

“Watch this, people; this is very good riding,” said Morris. “Sophie uses her left [inside] leg and right rein, and gives with the inside hand. You can’t give with the inside hand unless the horse is off the inside leg into the outside hand. Of course, I use my inside hand, but I get off it as much as possible. The inside leg pushes forward into the outside rein and the outside rein steers the horse to where you want to go.”

After two or three turns over the gate—once the riders got comfortable with the pattern—Morris encouraged them to go more forward on a tighter loop.

“Get a little faster as you get more confident; make tighter turns and push yourself,” he said.

Follow along with all of the Chronicle’s reports from the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Sessions.



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