German Art, Self-Care And Knee Injuries: The Story Of Morris And Staros

Oct 28, 2021 - 5:22 PM

Jennifer Morris likes to describe the past year as “interesting.” At the end of the 2020 season, she was riding her adult hunter Quetzalcoatl when she had an accident, hitting her knee on a jump standard and seriously hurting herself.

“I hit the front of my knee so hard that it popped everything backwards,” she said. “I broke the metal jump cup; that’s how hard it was. Flipped over his head, had a concussion, so the whole knee was totally messed up.”

In the same year, she relocated from Virginia to Aiken, South Carolina, and went from keeping her horses in a boarding barn to keeping them at home.

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Jennifer Morris and Staros won the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, championship Oct. 27 at the Washington International Horse Show. Kimberly Loushin Photos

“The show year started out with me just trying to get back into shape,” she said. “It was pretty tough, kind of riding one-sided.”

While she admits that she probably got back into the saddle a little too soon, Morris felt confident that Staros, her partner of nine years, would be the right one to get her back in the ring.

“He’s a safe horse, so I can trust him, which is a nice feeling,” she said.

She’d first spotted the Hanoverian gelding (Stalypso—Renaissance) while living in Germany as she worked on her doctoral degree in art history.

“I’d been horseless for about 10 years and wanted to get back into riding again, and I saw him and fell in love with him,” she said. “I just wanted him to be my horse, whatever form that took. It’s been a trip, for sure.”

Morris purchased Staros two years before moving home from Germany. During those years, she trail rode and did flatwork with him. It wasn’t until she moved back to the United States and started working with Peg Seals that she first started jumping.

“She’s the one who saw the potential in Staros and said he’s really something,” Morris said. “He was a very quirky, tough horse to bring along, very spunky, and she encouraged me to keep with it and kind of us turned us into who we are today.”

Even then, it was still years before Morris entered the show ring with him. After getting her doctoral degree, she went to law school and established herself in her career as an art lawyer, focusing on art, museum and cultural heritage matters.

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Jennifer Morris and Staros.

Once she got all those matters of professional adulthood settled, she was able to turn some of her attention to the show ring. She and Staros first competed in the adult amateur hunters and then the 3’3″ amateur-owners.

After moving to Aiken, Morris, 35, started taking lessons with Hunter Kay, who is based just up the road from her.

“I do most of the riding myself,” she said. “Every now and then, he’ll show Staros at the show for me, but he’s really great at letting me take responsibility both good and bad of what happens, so I really have enjoyed my time with him.”

While Morris described having her horses at home as a “huge adjustment,” the benefit of getting to watch her horses through the window of her home office is incredibly satisfying, she said.

“I love it,” she said. “I’ve always been a very hands-on horse owner. I do all my own care, and it’s something I’m proud of, kind of managing every aspect of my horses’ care. I feel like I know them very well. I know when something’s right; I know when something’s wrong, so it just makes me that much closer to my horses. When I get home from a show and see them out in the sand—they dig up these sand pits, and they start rolling—it’s the happiest feeling in the world for me.”

Morris capped her year of changes with a big reward this week:  She earned her biggest championship yet, topping the 3’3″ amateur-owner hunter, 18-35, division with Staros at Washington International.

“It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s something I never dreamt would happen. I am so proud of my horse.”

See full results.

The Chronicle will be on-site all week bringing you stories and photos on all the big winners. See our coverage here. Want more? Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Nov. 22 issue of the magazine. What are you missing if you don’t subscribe?

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