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George H. Morris Gladstone Program Concludes Exemplary Week at USET Foundation’s Hamilton Farms

RELEASE: May 25, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Kendall Bierer for Phelps Media Group Inc. International

Gladstone, N.J. – The final day of the George H. Morris Gladstone Program came to a conclusion today at the USET Foundation Headquarters at Hamilton Farms. Legendary horseman, George Morris, pushed the 10 riders to their fullest potential in the flat and gymnastics phases, being as forward as the seat he advocates. The riders were tested through training in classical dressage, as well as over a full course featuring a water jump, liverpool, airy verticals, and a dodgy triple combination.
The 2014 George H. Morris Gladstone Program Participants, pictured left to right: Scott Lico, Janus Marquis, Alec Borgozi, Katie Cox, Karina Busch, Christie Israel, Savannah Talcott, Brittni Raflowitz, Sloane Coles, Jacob Pope, Maggie McAlary, and George Morris (Kendall Bierer)
The 2014 George H. Morris Gladstone Program Participants, pictured left to right: Scott Lico, Janus Marquis, Alec Borgozi, Katie Cox, Karina Busch, Christie Israel, Savannah Talcott, Brittni Raflowitz, Sloane Coles, Jacob Pope, Maggie McAlary, and George Morris (Kendall Bierer)

“This was a great group of riders,” Morris stated. “When we chose them, it was based on their individual talent. I specifically placed them in two separate groups in accordance to a basic structure, but also to drive competition between the riders. They are all exemplary, sharp and talented, but you must always remember that every horse and rider is an individual—they have different needs, which these sets of sessions allow for me to address.”

Each morning session began with the riders working on their own program on the flat. They utilized the knowledge they had gathered from the previous six days, using latitudinal and longitudinal schooling to make their horses suppler. Each rider put their horse through a series of downward transitions, circling and changing direction. Morris added in his two-sense when he taught the riders how to complete the three crucial turns of classical dressage: the turn on the forehand, haunches and center. The purpose of the turn-exercises was to teach the riders how to collect the horse from back to front, without over bending and using their aids to complete the three progressions.

“You have to respect classical dressage,” Morris elaborated. “Even if it is just from the soundness perspective. Dressage helps to make the horses sound; it also makes them mentally more adaptable, emotionally content and more obedient. You need classical dressage in every horse’s training.”

Morris picked up the pace with a challenging cavaletti exercise set at 18 feet where the riders guided their horse through two cavaletti at a sitting trot. It may sound simple, but there was a catch. The cavaletti were set facing the barrier lining the arena and the morning sun made the wall very shadowy and spooky. A backward liverpool accompanied the second cavaletti, adding another element to the eerie exercise. It proved the perfect way to prepare for the course ahead of the groups.

“There is no rush in horse training,” Morris enunciated. “You don’t cut corners. You cannot properly train a horse doing horse show after horse show, and riding 20 horses a day. Everything you learn is important in every step of horse training. It is all about progression for the horse and rider.”

Morris continued, “You don’t go to high school and have them say that you are no longer going to need what you learned in elementary school. I hope I am better, I hope that I have learned more over the years.”

The riders went through a series of obstacles, using the figure eight to further supple their horse and round the poll. Morris utilized a backwards oxer with a rail set on the edge of the cup to educate the horses on being aware of the top rail, even with the lightest brush it would fall. By the end of the exercise Morris was smiling and saying, “They’ve been to this movie before, clever horses.”

After completing the opening oxer-vertical line, riders worked on finding the distance to a narrow Swedish oxer set at the end of the arena. The obstacle was specifically placed there to teach the horse about its hind end. The riders practiced making shorter turns to it, similar to those they would have to make in a jump-off.

“If you don’t have a little cowboy in you, you won’t make it,” Morris said to the group. “You have to understand progression and education in horse training, it is not all smoke and mirrors. Sometimes in order to accomplish what you need the horse to do, you must have a little cowboy in you.”

Riders then understood his comment as he directed them down the diagonal line featuring an airy white gate leading to the water jump in four strides and on to the skinny yellow plank six strides away. Although several of the horses had problems with the water obstacle earlier in the week, repetition had proven key as they took the obstacle with more ease. They were finally ready to put the entire course together, and their effectiveness was apparent as they put their lessons to practice.

“You must always ask if your horse is confirmed. I call repetition brainwashing,” Morris chuckled. “This right here, this repetition, is how you get what you are trying to teach in their subconscious. Once they do it right, you do not over jump. That is one of the fastest ways to ruin a horse. If possible, you always want to end on a good note. Hug your horse, pat your horse, love your horse—they have all done a wonderful job.”

Although the 2014 George H. Morris Gladstone Program came to a conclusion today, auditors will have a second chance to experience Morris’ wisdom in June at the Gladstone Program held at Annali-Brookwood Farm in Antioch, IL, from June 23-28, 2014. The Gladstone Program is an intensive week of training and education for exceptionally dedicated and talented show jumping riders who are serious about their interest and desire to pursue a path that will prepare them to be a "team" rider and represent the United States in international competition. Riders 18+ years of age, who are currently competing successfully at 1.45 meter or above submitted applications for the event, and were personally selected by Morris.

The purpose of the program is to continue to educate, support and guide potential "team" riders on the overall knowledge and expertise required to succeed at the top level of show jumping internationally. In addition to daily training sessions with Morris, the riders will participate in hands on sessions with a veterinarian, an equine business lawyer, top team stable manager, and equine physiotherapist. Riders will be expected to care for their own mounts, learning vital stable management skills. Mounted sessions will include flatwork (with and without stirrups), gymnastics and jumping courses.

Each rider will meet one-on-one with Morris during the week to discuss their current and future plans, and Morris will help guide them in putting together a program that will continue their preparation for international "team" competition. Morris will also remain available after the program to follow up and monitor each rider's progress.

The United States Equestrian Team Foundation (www.uset.org) is the non-profit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America's elite and developing international, high-performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.

For more information on the USET Foundation, please call (908) 234-1251, or visit USET ONLINE at www.uset.org.

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