George H. Morris: Because Every Round Counts
George H. Morris has ridden and trained international show jumpers, champion show hunters and equitation stars for more than half a century. Morris, now the U.S. show jumping team's chef d'equipe, was named one of the 50 Most Influential Horsemen of the 20th Century in 1999 by The Chronicle of the Horse, the magazine for which he's written a monthly "Between Rounds" column since 1989.
Now, John Strassburger, who recently retired as the Chronicle's editor after 20 years and who created the magazine's "Between Rounds" section, has selected Morris' 50 best columns to preserve the equestrian legend's words for horsemen and women who are committed to riding and training their horses correctly.
The book is divided into four sections to encompass Morris' major themes over the last 17 years: In the section called It's Not Like It Used To Be, Morris analyzes the evolution of the sport he loves over the last century and decries the declining standards of horsemanship he sees around him. In What Good Teachers Teach, he offers his own unique brand of classically based advise on how to train riders and their horses. In I've Always Been Devoted To The Forward Seat, Morris explains why the century-old technique he favors is the best way to jump horses. And in George On Tour, he describes a few of his travels to destinations from the former Soviet Union to the Athens Olympics.
This collection of Morris' columns is the first of the five-part Chronicle Comment Series. For the second book in the series, due in Spring 2007, Strassburger will collect his 75 best Commentaries, from 1982 to 2006. Then he'll collect the best columns by three more "Between Rounds" columnists—Victor Hugo-Vidal, Denny Emerson and Anne Gribbons—for publication in late 2007 and in 2008.
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Silly dribble! Distorted and inaccurate history of the show ring and its masters.
Next, Morris will be telling us Attila the Hun's toes weren't positioned correctly. A gentleman wouldn't have hung around the barn at Gladstone so long. He'd have given some of the kids a turn.
In the 20's through the late 1940's, 100 men in boots and fedoras competed in the open jumper classes around the country. This was the "Main Event." The National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden in New York City was equivalent to the US Open, The Masters or the World Series. Young ladies filled the equitation classes.
The USET was limited to officers in the Army. After 1950, amateur riders were able to ride for the USET. These weren't horsemen, but riders, riding the "made" mounts of the pros. After 1950, "fedoras" left the ring...the horsemen who rode, traded, doctored and trained their own horses and at the same time rode for sponsors or owners were gone. Many went into racing.
Starting with William Steinkraus and George Morris in the 1950s, writing and promoting one's self became the new horse world competition. These writers (most of their work was written by others) competed hard for PR and book sales. They spent lifetimes hanging around the USET.
Riding in the Olympics often resulted in a very small number of entrants in a class. One could earn a medal for just showing up. Steinkraus' one gold and Morris' one bronze medal riding as amateurs for the USET are nice accomplishments, but are not equal to winning the Open Jumper Class in National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden against skilled professionals. Yet they created and appointed themselves board members of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame and then voted for themselves and their friends. Basically, they pulled a Bernie Madoff. Through their magazine articles and books they rewrote the history of the horse show world leaving out the facts.
Real horsemen had to work and pay feed bills, not negotiate a ride to Gladstone from their mothers.
I met George Morris at a show years ago and was surprised he was a "horseman" nothing like the men who earned that title of yesteryear. I wonder if Will Rogers would have made his famous quote had he met George H. Morris.