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Adults and George Morris clinics

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  • Adults and George Morris clinics

    George Morris is giving a clinic near me in August. I'm thinking about it. Have any adults on here ever ridden with him? Did you get a lot out of it? Would you do it again? Will he even teach at the 3' level, or does he start at 3'6"?

  • #2
    The clinic should have information available with their sign ups for what divisions are offered. I have personally not ridden with George, but I do know a handful of people that have and enjoyed it. You've got to have a thick skin, because you never know what might be said and if you are sensitive to being criticized you may not enjoy the clinic. He does a lot of clinics up at Brody's place and they start at the .95m (3'-3'3) division -- I think most are at 3'-3'3, 3'3-3'6, and 3'6-3'9.

    If I was a better rider I would definitely want to ride with George, but I know I'd get put through the ringer for my legs (which I work on constantly, but are not very good) and would be nervous because I am a sensitive individual. I do like going to audit though You can do a quick google search and find lots of blogs about others experiences at GM clinics, for better or for worse. Here is one recap that Jumper Nation did: http://jumpernation.com/survived-geo...-clinic-recap/


    ETA: looks like this years August clinics are offering the following heights - Larkspur Farm (2’6”, 3’3”, 4’), Runsten (? you'd have to contact, couldn't find), Trainer4Riding (2'6", 3'3", 3'9"), SCEP (3', 3'3, 3'6-4')

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    • #3
      I've audited a clinic where just about all of the riders were adults (including a pal and fellow COTHer who gave me her spare groom bracelet and who will hopefully chime in!). A friend of mine was ring crew and spent quite a bit of time with George over the course of the clinic.

      He doesn't pull punches and he's from a different era, so some of his direct/blunt comments fall outside of the realm of what lots of us would consider PC/ acceptable to say, especially in a professional setting - comments about rider's weight, about women being too emotional/babying their horses too much etc. If those things are going to take you out of the experience/ get under your skin, etc. it's not a good idea to ride with him. I wouldn't judge anyone who chose not to ride with him because of that - yes, he's a master horseman and has a boatload of knowledge to impart, but there are plenty of valuable clinicians whose approaches are kinder.

      That being said, it seems what he appreciates above all is not a skinny behind, but preparation, engagement, willingness to learn, and the ability to listen. If you show up in size 2 breeches without the ability to answer questions about your tack or pay attention to an exercise or direction, you will get eviscerated. If you show up with good answers and good ears, he will put his all into teaching you, regardless of size, breed of horse, etc. Consistently, he was much harsher on students who were spacy, lazy, resistant to a direction, etc. than about anything superficial.

      He also really appreciates good, solid flatwork and can spot holes in a horse's foundation from a mile off. From what I could see, his favourite horse from the groups I watched was one with a very very strong dressage background. He asked for lots of lateral work in warm up - shoulder in, haunches in, etc. and expected riders to be able to adjust canter strides fluidly. If you are not someone who spends a lot of time on the flat and tend to neglect the "jumping is just dressage with speedbumps" philosophy, his clinics might not be fun for you.

      If you can let harsh criticism roll off your back and can ignore content that is not relevant (e.g. comments about how women do XYZ etc etc) then it's an opportunity to learn from one of the best who will not be around forever. He is who he is, and he has a vast well of wisdom to learn from - but definitely not the teacher for everyone.

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      • #4
        I have watched parts of George Morris clinics twice at our local horse expo. Both were mostly adult riders, competent ones, including local coaches. I don't recall what the actual height of the fences was meant to be, but I think they weren't jumping full height at the times I saw. The clinics were group lessons I think 90 minutes three days in a row?

        He gave good solid instructions and was very positive and encouraging. I was waiting to hear colorful or insulting comments, but didn't pick up on any. He had a mic so was clearly audible to spectators. He did tell one middle aged man he had a roach back in two point, which was true.

        He rode one of the clinic horses at some point too, and his younger assistant got on one that was running out on fences.

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        • #5
          He's been known to teach clinics all the way down to the 2'6 height. I did one with him at that height in 2006 in the Columbus, Ohio area (as an adult on a large pony, no less). If you're a good listener and you're focused and come prepared you'll be fine. He didn't pull punches with comments but he was not outright mean either. He only made one girl in that section cry at the end but to be fair she was a teenager who mostly sat around like a sack of potatoes between turns and wasn't paying attention and would have to grab her reins and go to catch up. He hates that and she should have known better, I cannot imagine her trainer did not prep her accordingly before hand. My trainer prepped me at length before riding with him (she rode with him in clinics in her junior years, he is considerably watered down now compared to some decades ago is my understanding).

          He was very capable of teaching to the level he had, you don't have to be a baller 3'6 rider to clinic with him if the lower heights are offered. At one point on day one (two day clinic) he asked us at the canter to come across the diagonal and do "whatever kind of lead change we were comfortable with". My pony did not have a flying, so I did a simple. He was fine with that, no comments from him. If I had tried for a flying and fully botched it I think he'd have been more annoyed.

          kashmere is totally spot on with all her assessments. That is what I recall from my clinic.

          At the end he'll go around all the riders and make some comments, he told me I was a good student on a "very decent pony" (true story, that pony was a clipped gypsy vanner, ha) he did however tell me to make sure I rode horses too. I tried a couple times...then went back to ponies. So you don't have to take everything he says as the word of god lol.

          Watching him get on someone's horse and school it for them is fascinating. He can make some incredible corrections.

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          • #6
            I rode in a 2-day clinic with him as a very very mature adult. It was terrifying and at certain points I hated every minute of it, but I am SO glad I did it. The exercises are so amazing, especially the flat ones, and I use them often in my flat work. The jumping requires an insane amount of concentration (given the circumstances!) and I came away with an incredible feeling of accomplishment. I still go back and look at the videos when I need proof that, at time, I can indeed ride.

            Be prepared to ride and jump without stirrups. We had to do a line of fences on and off a bank at 3' and then 3'3" with no stirrups (as in, we never got to do it with stirrups).

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            • #7
              He does not mince words and says it like it is. One of my previous barnmates was an adult executive who had bought a lot of horsepower to get up to the 1.10m very quickly. He'd put his recent show record on the clinic form as is expected, but it was clear he wasn't riding to the level he was showing. The horse was helping him out. A LOT. George called him out on it In front of everyone.

              You will need a thick skin for this, but I honestly find his candor refreshing in a world of treating riders like fluffy kitties. He's let up a lot on the weight remarks in the past few years.

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              • #8
                I used to work for one of GHM’s protégés as an exercise/flat rider. I got to ride with him on the flat multiple times and have been ring crew at quite a few jumping lessons.

                The better you are on the flat/between fences the better you’ll enjoy your ride with him. That said, if you’re not great he will teach you a ton. It’s not a clinic I would take a green or unfit horse to. And if you’re a little “fluffy” don’t be surprised if it gets brought up.

                For what it’d cost you could take a LOT of lessons with your local training talent. But if I was having a hard time moving a capable horse up the jumpers or I really wanted to tighten up my equitation before finals or something then I’d definitely ride with him.

                And its a fun “name drop” clinic to have recently attended, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

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                • #9
                  When I've audited his clinics it was usually a mix of older teens and adults. I think with they would have groups 3' and higher. I used to go regularly as this one facility would have him there annually. Sometimes he was a bear other times he wasn't so harsh. Last time I went he was over the top, downright mean with his insults that had nothing to do with a person's ability to ride or listen or take directions. He picked on this one woman nonstop, saying nothing constructive about her riding choosing to just berate her about her mere existence. She was not overweight - she could've easily been a model. Completely uncalled for. It was so bad that one of the regular helpers/ring crew (also an adult) left cursing under her breath and didn't come back to help for the afternoon session. The thing is he spent all this time berating this one person, some others barely got any feed back.

                  I'd say if he's the only game in town as far as clinicians go, and you're prepared to be either railed on or ignored, go for it.

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                  • #10
                    I audited a clinic he did last year at Larkspur. Really wanted a chance to see him teach. I knew a lady who was riding in the 2'6" group - which was the biggest group of the 3. They were mostly adults and on a mix of horse talent. One lady in the group was riding a Norwegian Fjord and he was cool about it. No overly harsh or personal comments were made.

                    But listen and be present. If he tells you to do something, do it! Be ready for your turn. A few people did catch flack for not being ready to ride next.

                    Personally, I probably wouldn't ride with him mainly due to the cost. I could clinic about 3x in my hometown for same price. I'm also Canadian so converting clinic fee really hurts. He didn't say anything that was life changing or totally shifted how I thought about horses. There were some points I even disagreed with him. He is very old school and traditional. I have become really interested in how horses learn and using the approach that makes the most sense logically and scientifically rather than just because that's how it's always been done.

                    As a member of audience, I appreciated that he really spoke to the crowd. As a rider, I think I would've been annoyed that I spent that much money to ride with him and wasn't getting as much personal attention as I could've. I didn't feel like riders had opportunity to ask questions after he told them something either which would be difficult for me also.

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                    • #11
                      I have ridden with GM twice (once in a one-day session, and the second time was for three consecutive days). I LOVED it, and would ride with him again in a heartbeat if the opportunity came up.

                      Just to give context, I was late 20's/early 30's at the time, riding competently at the 3' height in the hunter ring, comfortable on greenies and hacking out. My horse for both clinics was a nice mare, not in a program but well-schooled to the extent I was able to bring her along myself. The first time I rode with him was the one day session, and that was with an elbow I had dislocated a few days prior. I was sound for the three-day clinic.

                      I found him to be fair, incredibly adept at instantly pinpointing my errors and bad habits, and wonderful at actually telling me how to fix those problems. My horse was going night-and-day differently by the end of the three days of the second clinic.

                      He valued a horse and rider coming in to the clinic with a solid foundation and good understanding of his principles, but did not expect perfection. My horse got hot, stopped once, and acted at times like the exclusively-amateur-ridden-horse that she is. GM was quick to point out what needed to be corrected, very humorous at times, good about answering thoughtful or pertinent questions, and quick to reward both horse and rider for efforts. The biggest expectation was that you tried your hardest to do as he asked and to utilize the new tools he was giving you, even if it was a new way of doing something.

                      My biggest thrills were him telling me I "thought like a horse trainer" when I took it upon myself to ask my mare to halt when she tried to run off after a line, and being told that my horse and I were "alright," when we managed to nail a few things. That being said, he also called me a "desperate housewife" for trying too hard!

                      I just went back and watched some of my video. Thanks for the excuse to revisit such great experiences!

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                      • #12
                        I've ridden in and audited his clinics multiple times as an adult and always find them interesting and beneficial, but I like the clinic experience and have ridden in plenty over the years. What I've found is that no matter who is teaching a clinic, my job as a participant is to be1) respectfully turned out, 2) keep my ears open, and 3) do my best to participate and execute the requested task at hand.

                        The difference with GM is that if you fall short on these 3 tasks, he'll call you out on it. He doesn't expect riders to be experts or mounted on expensive horses but he does demand active participants who ride to learn. At one point in my clinic not a one of us understood what he was asking in a new task. He didn't get mad or say anything negative. Instead he borrowed a horse and showed us before having us perform it individually. It was a positive learning experience.

                        I've ridden a very green horse in his clinics spread over 3 days and he was supportive and complimentary, despite my horse's obvious greenness. I didn't know him or have "known" connections. I was 40 at the time.

                        If you can show up ready to ride and learn every step of the way then you'll be fine. If you can't take a sharp comment that probably stemmed from dropping the ball on one of the 3 keys, then audit instead.
                        "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right." -Henry Ford

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                        • #13
                          Depends on whether you enjoy the clinic experience in general and are comfortable working in it. Depends on your horse as well. He’s mellowed considerably but age is catching up and heard he sometimes has some bad days so not a place to spend enough for quite a few private lessons only to find it’s just not a good fit for you.

                          Have you ever audited? If not, do that first...and don’t be buried in that phone ir chat with your neighbor or you’ll hear about it.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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                          • #14
                            I think you should audit a clinic with him. With the caveat that the window for riding with him could potentially close very soon.

                            I plan to audit at least one of his clinics this summer, but I already know that I would never ride with him myself. I have a hard time with the way that he speaks. He changes from explaining something to the auditors to instructing the riders very quickly and without any major changes in tone, and as an auditor sitting on my butt, I struggle to follow who he is speaking to. If I were riding a horse, forget about it.

                            I know that there is a limit to how much time I can spend riding and absorbing at once, and I think that is pretty common for adults. I think that people in their late teens and early 20's can manage to listen and ride for longer in the saddle, but as people start aging and having more stuff on their minds, that capacity seems to diminish. So that would be my only worry for you as an adult.

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                            • #15
                              I’ve never done one of his clinics but I have a lot of friends who have. They all had a lot of fun! Their only complaints were that the jumps were higher than the class description and that their horses were exhausted because they jumped a loooot (not so much complaints but wishing they had been a little more prepared)

                              Honestly as for George’s personality they all said he was really nice and helpful and complimentary. The horse George picked to ride and do a showcase with was my friends OTTB who she bought straight off the racetrack and he told her what a wonderful horse he was and that she did a great job with him! She loved him a lot and he was nice but not the scopiest horse ever so the compliment from George really meant a lot to her. They said his infamous showdowns were with really really obnoxious people that they were annoyed by before George even said anything lol. Like people on their phones and arguing with him and being generally disruptive and egotistical. My friends are also generally nice and respectful reasonable people who came in with the intention to learn and understood being there is a privilege.

                              But I even have one friend gave him a little sass. She said he wanted her to use a crop for a Liverpool and she was like lol no my horse jumps Liverpools just fine I don’t need a crop and he was like, “oh yeah? Let’s see it then” and when she messed up the distance but her horse didn’t care and jumped it easily he laughed and was super funny and charming about it and didn’t make her use one. I don’t know him but I wonder sometimes if his personality is blown out of proportion by sensitive people lol because literally everyone I know thinks his clinics are fun and that he’s a nice guy. Even my sassy friend lol.
                              Last edited by Farosh; Apr. 30, 2019, 12:20 AM.

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                              • #16
                                I recently rode in one of his clinics 2 weeks ago when he came down to Palm Springs (Rancho Mirage). Almost all the comments on this thread are spot on. One of my trainers, a barnmate, and I did the novice class (2'3"-2'6"), one barnmate did the intermediate, and another of our trainers and another barn mate did the advanced. My horse was hot and antsy the first day (as expected) and calmed down the second day, and I was expected George to make some negative comments about my lack of control on my mare but he surprisingly didn't.

                                He is blunt, honest, relentless (like his book) but IMO for VERY good reason. He called my trainer (who was doing the advanced class) "not fit to ride", "slow" (not prepared) because she fell off twice but realistically we all knew she was not prepared physically and mentally. My novice class consisted of two adults (myself and my trainer) and the rest were young girls but it didn't phase us at all. He did not sugar coat anything and I heavily appreciated AND expected that. We got called "airheads" and "soft" as in, not being tough riders, but I never took ALL his comments personally and thought of it as constructive criticism. Be very open minded and absolutely ready and hungry to learn. He appreciates quickness/sharp-thinking and for riders to have common sense Don't make him tell you "Next!"

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                                • #17
                                  I would say he has a huge amount of knowledge to offer. Some people will appreciate it, whether or not he is presenting the knowledge wrapped up in a pretty bow. Other people will not. I have audited his clinics many times, and I have always been struck by his ability to really hit the nail on the head with his instructions. He may not say something you have never heard before, but he will often say it in a way that is perfectly apt for the specific situation, so it really clicks.

                                  I would agree with those who said it’s best to have thick skin, and be prepared to really pay attention and listen and try hard. Make sure both the rider and the horse are fit enough. That doesn’t mean being a size two, but being fit enough to work for solid stretches without breaks, both with and without stirrups. It’s also a good idea to review his book Hunter Seat Equitation beforehand, just to be familiar with his terminology in advance. Know what it means when he asks for a reverse half turn, etc., etc.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I audited the clinic that Small Change rode in (can you believe it was back in 2012?!?) and took fairly extensive notes from the 2 days I was there. I'd be happy to share them with you OP if you'd like. I tried to capture the exercises and GM's comments for all sections.

                                    The only times he got snippy were when one rider did an exercise incorrectly, and GM told him to pay attention and watch the others, and then that rider came through and did it wrong again. There was also another rider (adult) who was riding in a full seat, who he kept telling to get out of the tack more and free up the horse's back. She didn't, at all. I'm not sure if she was willfully ignoring him or if she was trying, but she didn't make any change at all and I didn't see that she tried to explain herself to him (ie. if there was a reason she couldn't/wouldn't). In my eyes, her saddle also didn't fit her well so that might have been contributing, but the impression was that she was outright ignoring his instructions. He tried to teach her but as she wasn't making any changes as requested, he ended up pretty much letting her go through the exercises without feedback. Apparently on the final day, he brought the thumbtacks to put on her cantle to force her to get out of the saddle (unfortunately I wasn't there that day so I missed it)!
                                    I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted.

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                                    • #19
                                      I rode in a 3 day GM clinic 2 years ago and I'm a far from skinny rider. It was the most confidence boosting experience of my life and I still reflect on pieces of it almost every ride. Regardless of the riding group, he referred to a rider's weight if it interfered with their ability to execute the task(s) he'd set or if you were negatively affecting your horse.

                                      The critical things for his clinics?
                                      • Pick a group well in your comfort zone, he's going to ask for very technical riding and stride control. And expect execution the first time. Don't pick a 'stretch' group, he'll still stretch you.
                                      • BE PREPARED: He's been using the same format for years. He assesses everyone on day one, pushes on day 2 and confirms the work on day 3. Day 2 is always a no stirrups day. The higher the group level, the longer and more no stirrups work there will be.
                                      • For the love of GM , DON'T make him repeat himself if you can avoid it. He trains people like horses. He asks, tells and then will say what ever it takes to make you perform.
                                      • Minimal gadgets, conventional bits/equipment. Carry stick and wear spur if you can. He's going to expect those things to be there. Woe is you if you need it and don't have it.
                                      • Know your lateral work. He's going to ask for Shoulder In, Shoulder Out, Haunches In, leg yield even in the lower groups. He's going to school proper, rider sitting flying changes in the groups capable.
                                      • Don't let him smell blood. Don't be tentative, be brave, assertive and strong. He'll respect that. If he says you need to be more forward, BE FORWARD. Be forward enough that he tells you to temper it back. If he says 5 strides and your horse trying to do it in 4 or 6? Ride to get that 5 until the your horse is in the air over the next fence. Make things happen! He'll take effective over pretty but passive EVERY DAMN TIME.


                                      The stories of the T-Rex Eventer

                                      Big Head, Little Arms, Still Not Thinking It Through

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                                      • #20
                                        One of the most amazing clinics I ever audited was a George Morris / Leslie Law double bill.

                                        It was geared as a coaches' clinic, so each of them had three groups to teach, with the most advanced group being truly advanced (e.g. Beth Underhill and Erynn Ballard for GM, Waylon Roberts for LL).

                                        Both clinicians expected full attention and full try from everyone regardless of level. I remember Roberto Teran Tafur (Columbia) coming in chewing gum, and when he spat it out into the footing, GM had a few choice words.

                                        One of the best parts of that clinic is that GM watched LL teach, and LL watched GM teach, and each picked up things from the other and used it in their own sessions on day 2. Really, really cool.

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