Barbara Fox discusses George Morris.

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Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:29 am

Pat

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Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:06 am

Pat

I coulde not agree with Barbara Fox more, her analyse was spot on. But I fear that the USA has imported a name, and there are times when names are found wanting and do not live up to expectations. I am sure that somewhere there is someone who could do what is required, to bring the standard of its riders forward.

Her reflections on George Morris are also very interesting, when teaching either soldiers or civillians we would allow a light contact with the knee and allow the lower leg to hang down in a more natural position. This has the effect of a more or less straight line from the top of the body to the foot. If anything we would aske for the rider to drop a hole or half a hole on the stirrup leathers, to bring about this effect.

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Tue Oct 05, 2010 10:59 am

my father served as an instructor in the horsemanship detachment at Ft. Riley for a short time before he transferred to the horse mounted 5th US Cavalry at Ft. Bliss. Before he passed away, he and I went to a few horse shows down in Wellington, Florida. What he saw disappointed him. At Ft. Riley, he served with Gordon Wright, Paul Mellon, Oleg Cassini and Robert Borg...In Morris' book, The American Jumping Style, Morris gives great credit to Chamberlin and the other officers who developed the "military seat". Too bad, so few riders follow its precepts.....at least, at Wellington...and does Morris, himself, follow those precepts all that much?
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Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:28 pm

George Morris has a tendency to forget that there are disciplines other than his own in the competitive world. I think had he considered that he wouldn't only be addressing show jumping riders in his articles, he may not have made those misleading and untrue statements, but then having read so many of his insults to other groups, perhaps not. The German comment was only partially untrue. Museler makes it a point to insist on knee grip and you can see the pinching and swinging in Germany's show jumping riders, but if you look at Germany's dressage and event riders, George Morris' comment is an insult.
My daughter rode at Talland School of Equitation (England). When she returned home she had a wonderful seat and really nice use of leg. Having used the British Pony Club manual for years, I was surprised the George Morris would make those comments. Soft in the knee to allow shock and flexibility doesn't indicate a 'legs off" style of riding.

I wish that I didn't get so aggravated at George Morris but I see him a little differently than a "groupie" would. I watched an entire industry change under his strong influence. First came the crest release which got to the point that an automatic release was no longer recognized. Then came counting strides which did away the need to develop an "eye" and was the beginning of the demise of the outside course. Next the horses got so expensive that in the '70s George Morris rejects sold in the MidWest for $35,000+, lame and squirrely, of course that's small change today. And then we "discovered" the lack of horsemanship. The hunter sport which used to have genuine fox hunters compete has become an artificial activity that culminates with the smooth footing of "indoors". And the "sport" seems to be gone.

George Morris has such a powerful influence over a large portion of American riders that he has caused a huge change to take place in the quality and foundation of riding in the U.S. That his series is called "Classical Riding with George Morris" makes me wonder if he is oblivious to what classical riding actually is. Is it meant to change the rider's definition of classical?

Our eventing team is another story. Rather than a team, it seems to be made up of individuals who are watching out for themselves. I really miss the pride that I felt rooting for Michael Plumb, Micheal Page, Jimmy Wofford..... We need a coach that can put a team together. The comments that I've read from the Canadian team credit David O'Connor with their training program as well as developing the psychological aspect of team . They said they owed everything to David. I can't say I've ever heard that said of Mark Phillips. Can we not afford to pay a good coach for our team?

Looking at the results of the Endurance competition which has been taken over by the UAE, the Dressage competition which we never succeed at, and now the eventing which has failed at the Olympics and now WEG, it's obvious that we have lost something very precious. I'm afraid we have lost the team spirit and the devotion to keeping the U.S on the top. We have become content to be mediocre.

I wonder what the men of the 1912 Olympic team would say if they saw us today.
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Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:58 am

May I thank you for your excellent comments Barbara, allthough in my back ground I am at heart a Military horseman. But have been taught in the classical manner of good horsmanship.
Having it taught it competed in it and judged it.I find that the current way of teaching dressage leaves a lot to be desired, and dressage is the classical way of riding, developed through the centurys by some the finest horesman of their time.
Their maxim has always been that the horse should move by the unseen aid, that is the horse appears to carry out the movement as if the rider has done nothing to the untrained eye, but to the trained eye the aid is detected and correctly carried out.
I have seen riders jabbing at the horse side with spurs which looks ugly and lacks finnese, legs flying to achieve the result of the movement. If the lower leg is placed properly laying along side the the horses body, the knee slightly engaged but not stiff. To engage the spur the heal is turned inwards does not jab but lifts the belly of the horse, this means the rider is caressing the horseb bydoing it this way the horse is raised along its back and brings about the bascule position. You know the rest but lighnest of the forhand is a must, forget the FEI jargon it is simple to remember as "Horse steps into into bit" how often do we see this not happing. My sympathy lies with you get someone who knows their bussines and get that team spirit working.

Roy
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Thu Oct 07, 2010 8:04 am

A listener comment right at the end of this NPR interview sort of relates to this. One of the reining competitors, who had been a dressage competitor, criticized some of what she had seen:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/stor ... =130351640
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Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:27 am

Pat
I read with a sort of amusment the comments, especialy someone who thought that the Dutch horses were not the right type for dressage, compared to the Spanish horse.
If I may I will relate that a lady who taught me the finer points of dressage, rode a horse which one would call non descriptive. She was a top dressage rider at the age of 70, and could perform in the top dressage test the Prix St George you dont get higher than that. On her non descriptive horse she could out perform, the warm bloods in the test. It is not always the horse but the rider, who has to be able to carry out the movements required for this test, there are riders even if they were given a top horse, could not ride them well.
AS for the Spanish gentlemen who rode single handed, which the lady thought was not right that he came fourth, should think, especialy when she identified herself as a purist when it came to dressage, that you do not ride single handed when performing dressage.

Roy
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Thu Oct 07, 2010 11:22 am

Barbara wrote: Our eventing team is another story. Rather than a team, it seems to be made up of individuals who are watching out for themselves. I really miss the pride that I felt rooting for Michael Plumb, Micheal Page, Jimmy Wofford..... We need a coach that can put a team together....... it's obvious that we have lost something very precious. I'm afraid we have lost the team spirit and the devotion to keeping the U.S on the top.
Perhaps a start would be more actual Americans on the US team.

And, rather unfortunately, "devotion" has apparently come to mean "family dynasties that can draw on independent wealth and attract corporate sponsorships". The most talented will almost never get the opportunity - but that's not a new story in any field of endeavor, and most certainly not in the equestrian world.
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Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:57 pm

George Morris told a good friend of mine who was once active on this forum that he regretted the extent to which the crest release had taken hold. He said he had viewed it more as a training technique.
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Sat Oct 16, 2010 1:37 am

Speaking of dressage... seeing the results of "rollkur" training and what THAT has done to classical riding makes me ill.
Monique MacNaughton

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Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:35 am

Indeed, I agree, Monique. The "rollkur" and everything related to it are malignancies.

As Roy said above, there is slight resemblance between modern show dressage and classical riding of any kind. I hae the tapes of the second to last Olympics. the dressage competitors have legs like windshield wipers.

Other horse shows with lesser required skill are just as bad.

I have pretty much forsworn watching anything but eventing. The rest just makes me sad or angry in turns. Last year I saw some of the q-horse finals at the bid Ft Worth Stock Show. I was actually there with my 12 yr old to show his rabbits, but we saw a horse show and wandered in. A:though I did with effort contain myself, I wanted to jerk the riders out of the saddles and send them back for remediation -- and fire the judges.

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Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:03 am

During the Age of Horsepower a "horse show" was one place where buyers and sellers and breeders could meet and see what others were doing. But it was always in the context of the "use" to which the horse would be put. A draft horse show would be quite different from a show featuring saddle horses. While there was clearly "entertainment value" it was secondary.

Now the "horse show" is an entertainment. It has removed the horse from any sort of "working context" and the exhibitor seeks to demonstrate a single characteristic. This has lead to the monstronsities of rollkur, the Big Lick, Western Pleasure, Halter QHs, etc.

I, too, have quit going to "horse shows" as they just make me upset. I don't watch them on TV. I didn't go to the WEG (just a few hours up the road) because only the Eventing had any interest for me and it was both very expensive (like $250/night for Motel 6) and conflicted with another event where we do compete.

The American equine industry is in deep kimchi right now and I don't see any real recovery for several years. The present state of the "horse show industry" is a direct reflection of that larger problem.
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Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:56 am

Bill:

We are on exactly the same wavelength here. Now that most practical uses for horses are gone (leaving police and range herding as the last ones standing) shows have become almost entirely ribbon quests -- and that being the case, the short fast way to look fashionable for 10 minutes in a ring is the path of least resistance.

There is no short fact way to horse mastership. I've been studying them for most of my life, but lacking access to master training, am far from being a master. Roy, I think is a master, but had the best of training, intensively, over time. Few competitors have any inclination to go through all that.

As to the industry being in deep kimchi -- I am aware of a multi world champion stud of one breed I won't name that cannot find a buyer. His owner recently rejected an offer of -- get ready -- $500. His owner has offered me a very fine daughter (with another champion for a dam) with quite a bit of training, FREE. We are also being offered an Arabian gelding of remarkable conformation free.
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Sat Oct 16, 2010 9:41 am

Joseph Sullivan wrote:George Morris told a good friend of mine who was once active on this forum that he regretted the extent to which the crest release had taken hold. He said he had viewed it more as a training technique.
Granting that it may be so, I am skeptical of the assertion that Morris is a proponent of the extremes to which the crest release has been taken. It runs counter to all of the principles expressed in his writing- his books, at least- his disdain for faddishness, and his emphasis on the beauty of quiet, workmanlike horsemanship.

On the release itself: As Joe has touched on, properly used and as advocated by Morris, it is introduced early in the rider's training as an aid to saving the horse's mouth and as a precursor to jumping out of hand. Also, in a pinch it can be a valuable tool for the experienced rider. Shouldn't grabbing mane be almost a reflex response in an emergency? Better than grabbing rein, or being unhorsed.

I'm not up to date on the terms of this debate, nor who is advocating what to what extent now, but if Morris does indeed approve of the current excesses it is a profound departure from his former teaching, and his own riding. It seems more likely that his prescriptions have been improperly adopted by others- but there need not be a villain in this beyond human vanity. Be that as it may, are we in agreement, at least, that his major works of writing promote good horsemanship; give credit to military foundations; and reflect, with minor variations, that style of riding?

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Sat Oct 16, 2010 4:12 pm

Hi all,

I'm new to this forum as of yesterday, I would like to say hi!

My thoughts about horses and eventing if you will....

I do not believe so much in eventing, some of the things that these horses are made to do seem to me to be a little cruel and unusual (jumping in particular). I do think that these riders and horses are extremely talented, but in the end horses are not meant to repetitively jump (especially extreme jumping.) This is why these horses do not last long. This of course is just my opinion.
However, horses in general, are in trouble in this country, and the horse industry.
I myself have been a Morgan Horse enthusiast for a long time, I have owned many Morgans, Lippitts,Lamberts,Brunks and so forth. It has been in my experience, that the ones that ruin breeds are the ones with money, period.
Thoroughbreds way back when in England were 15 hand horses,that were used not only for racing but for everyday riding. Now they have been bred to be 17 hands+, this causes thin long fragile bone, good for speed,and their minds are extremely nervous, they were produced this way because of money and for money, by people with money.
The Morgan has been a no brainer for me.
This breed is a American treasure, and a scientific marvel in the new world.
The Morgan was used for many things plowing,carriage,saddle one horse could do it all, while with high energy but being tractable for a nice smooth saddle ride. Today the show Morgan makes me sick with thin ewe necks, small long barrels, thin, not sinewy bone.There is a certain line of 'flashy' Morgans that are genetically defunct because of too much inbreeding, they are showing reproductive and conformation issues. This all because of money.
I have found only a handful of good breeders which produce good horses to the period, and I own one he is my avatar and his name is Chet, he will hopefully be my mount in re-enactment. He is 14.3 hands and weighs 1100 lbs and he carries me well, with a wonderful barrel my 6'1" frame sits on, and my legs are not too long.
I say give me a horse who can pull, saddles well, has high spirits which is tractable even at 14.3 hh, and I will tell you he is worth 1000 horses of todays' mismanagement.
Oh by the way I do not know who Barbara Fox or George Morris is.... :oops:
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Sun Oct 17, 2010 3:14 am

Joe
Thank you you for your comments, but I would hardly call myself a master maybe at my trade you never ever stop learning.The person who says that they know everything about horsemaship, is either a fool or a liar prabably the latter.
The problem in this modern era is that most riders in this day and age have missed out, on the most basic and fundimental part of horsemanship. That of the complete training and learning of horsemastership, that is to take a green or unbroken horse through all the levels, be it dressage or any other form of riding .

If you look back over the ages a horse was saddle broken by the same rider who then spent most of the horses life training it. In the Army it would have been the rough rider or remount rider who then handed it on to a trained soldier to complete its education. Good horsemanship is like that, to develop the green horse through its levels of training,k the rider has to go through the same level of training ,it takes time and would amount to a life time of work and learning. I started riding with some of the harshest instructors on this planet, but one thing was certain they taught you how to ride, and ride properly. Be it in the military sense, or later on in the classics, and without legs and arms flying about like windmills. Look at the clasical riders whoes seats are perfection the aid is unseen, but carried out without elaboration. Riding is like a master builder, building a house one brick at time. It has become in this day and age not riding, but a circus, the clowns are hard to find for the rider and some of the judges are dressed the same.
I no longer go to horse shows or even watch it on TV, it hurts so much that I remember what I had to go through and endure to get to the level what Joe refers to as a master, yes I was a Riding Master and probaly still am and proud of it but to see what is going now fills me with saddnes for the future.

Roy
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Sun Oct 17, 2010 6:50 am

roy elderkin wrote:Joe
Thank you you for your comments, but I would hardly call myself a master maybe at my trade you never ever stop learning.The person who says that they know everything about horsemaship, is either a fool or a liar prabably the latter.
The problem in this modern era is that most riders in this day and age have missed out, on the most basic and fundimental part of horsemanship. That of the complete training and learning of horsemastership, that is to take a green or unbroken horse through all the levels, be it dressage or any other form of riding .

If you look back over the ages a horse was saddle broken by the same rider who then spent most of the horses life training it. In the Army it would have been the rough rider or remount rider who then handed it on to a trained soldier to complete its education. Good horsemanship is like that, to develop the green horse through its levels of training,k the rider has to go through the same level of training ,it takes time and would amount to a life time of work and learning. I started riding with some of the harshest instructors on this planet, but one thing was certain they taught you how to ride, and ride properly. Be it in the military sense, or later on in the classics, and without legs and arms flying about like windmills. Look at the clasical riders whoes seats are perfection the aid is unseen, but carried out without elaboration. Riding is like a master builder, building a house one brick at time. It has become in this day and age not riding, but a circus, the clowns are hard to find for the rider and some of the judges are dressed the same.
I no longer go to horse shows or even watch it on TV, it hurts so much that I remember what I had to go through and endure to get to the level what Joe refers to as a master, yes I was a Riding Master and probaly still am and proud of it but to see what is going now fills me with saddnes for the future.

Roy
,
Very interesting comments.

This brings up a question I have had on occasion, but I don't think I've posted in the past. As part of that, I'll note that I'm not any sort of a polished rider, and I am certainly not qualified to comment on training.

Anyhow, one thing I've wondered about is the extent to which horsemanship has been lost amongst average horsemen simply because so many never really ride outside the ring or a fairly flat yard?

I certainly think that a rider should be started on the flat expanse, ideally a fenced flat expanse, and I'm sure most are. But by observation, riding cross country is an entirely different matter and even some fairly experienced horsemen are caught off guard when they first ride in an area that's not flat. Add in hilly, rough, etc., and you have something entirely different. Riding in the ring is one thing, it seems to me (and it's really something, I don't begrudge that at all) but riding in the rough is something else entirely. Given that I mostly ride in the rough, that's what I'm mostly concerned about. It's odd to think that most riding originally had the goal of effective riding in the rough in mind, at least as a possiblity, while as now that's no longer so true.
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Sun Oct 17, 2010 8:26 am

Pat
You do not have to be a polished rider to understand what is required to be a horseman, you have that natural working ability, which you have learnt within your enviroment.
So your comments are usefull with respect, my horses were not trained poodles they had to earn their corn so I regarded them as working horses . They had to work in the ring and ouside of it, I would take them into the bush on ops, and found that at the end of it were fitter and smarter than horses who went arround a show ring, training school without leaving it, or the cross country horse with their set barriers, horses working in the field would have to cross similiar barriers as a matter of fact.
Teaching to ride on the flat or having to take a horse cross, is part of the whole if one wants to be a well rounded horseman with the skills to do things properly.

Roy
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Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:15 am

Hi Pat,
I think one of the issues involved in people riding rough ground is access to the open. I live in Arizona where about 12% of the land is deeded. The rest is reservation, state land, or BLM land. We have huge access to areas to ride and even in the over developed area that I live , it's not hard to get to a trail head, so we see lots of adult riders in heading down the road, sometimes ponying other horses. That said we have to share with the dirt bikes and 4 wheelers, so it takes a pretty stout hearted horse and rider. What I don't see as much are kids riding in the open.

When I lived in the Mid West most of our riding out was done on dirt roads because there were not the huge expanses that I've experienced in AZ. The problem with riding dirt roads is that there are other people on them for reasons that aren't always compatible with riding!

I grew up on Long Island where large areas for riding were not so available but as kids we made our own 'in the open" riding by crossing drawbridges and riding on the beach, riding through streets in town...

I dislike going to shows, except that I must be a glutton for punishment and like to keep up with all the twists and turns horsemanship is taking (or not taking) in the U.S. I'm sickened by by the treatment of many of the horses. But there is no doubt that we've trained several generations now in the art of riding in circles and counting strides on smooth surfaces. We've also trained them in the art of the gimmick or quick fix. One of the problems with teaching in the current society is that learning to ride is treated like any other activity. A lesson is an appointment and frequently students are doing several other activities as well. Riding occurs from 3:00 to 4:00 on Wednesday (an example) as opposed to living on horseback which was they way not too many years ago.

I've worked with United States Pony Club a lot. It was the last stronghold for balanced seat riding and their goal was to develop well rounded riders. Pony Club strongly encouraged riding in the open and taught the skills necessary for riding over rough ground, handling ditches etc. In fact, riding in the open is required for each rating that the kids (up to age 25 years old ) take. But even Pony Club is changing. They are morphing into an organization that services kids with a lot less commitment. And they have found ways to reward smaller progress. USPC says that they have to do these things in order to keep membership up because with the urbanization of America children are not coming from families with a horsey back ground. I have my own opinions about this but will spare everyone. :>)

I always believe that the kids coming along are the ones that are going to make or break the future of our horsemanship. Everything comes so fast and is so easy these days. Kids don't have time to be kids and it is the lucky child who gets to spend endless hours with their horse. But for most, if things are too hard or take too long they either lose interest and change to another activity, or they get a trainer to solve the issues, or they buy a better horse. I'm always thrilled when I run in to the kids with depth and desire, but they are fewer and farther between. We need to get back to basic values in horsemanship and in a lot of other things.

The sad part is that not riding over rough ground or galloping through fields, or hacking around a cornfield.....riders miss out on that healthy feeling that you get being out there; the big deep breath, the quiet of it. They miss the fun, thrill, and mental balancing that comes with being in a natural state. Well I'm not putting that into the words I want, but anyone who has spent time out on a horse, knows what I mean. I think if more had this experience there might be fewer problems of other types.
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Mon Oct 18, 2010 10:04 pm

Barbara:

Well said. Much of the joy of horsemanship is living with animals and riding cross country. The horsey in the box that comes out between set hours on set days is pretty staid stuff, and it teaches about nothing except "look at me and my ribbons.". I've seen girls on some forums argue about whether is was safe for horses to stay outdoors overnight, or to go without shoes.

Still, there is a downdraft now. None of my children care much about riding despite having a stable 100 feet from the back door. I think the problem is that none of their geographically close friends rode, so the peer pressure was to do other things. As this continues, and in recessionary times when fewer parents will even pay to get ribbons, who knows where horses go?
Joe
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