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Archive of posts tagged George Morris

Ah-ha moments…

for riders and horses are what trainer’s dream of, or at least are what I dream of, and there were many today.  They don’t come along all the time, but when they do, they are memorable.  Perhaps it was the sunshine today, brightening the spirits of humans and equines alike, excitement about upcoming show season, something in the wind (it was really windy)….whatever it was, I’ll take it.

Sadly, I do not have pictures to share.  I was having too much fun and so preoccupied by watching myself.  Several times, I reached for my camera but couldn’t take my eyes off them long enough to actually take a shot.  Bad trainer!  Will try and get some this week.

Dreaming of palm trees

It has been a difficult winter to say the least.  But with each passing minute, we are getting closer to spring.  The daylight is hanging around longer and longer and the temperatures this next week are looking promising.  All good news as we hope to hit our first show of the 2011 season at the end of this month at River Birch Farm.  So these “Ah-ha” moments couldn’t have come at a better time.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

When I’m not physically riding, teaching, grooming, cleaning tack, barn, buckets, etc, I’m either thinking about it, reading up on it, or watching it.  All consumed with all things equine all the time.  It is my life’s blood.  Typing up my GM notes, reviewing footage from the USEFnetwork site, and reading others’ comments on one of the many equine related bulletin boards are great ways to continue my education when the weather isn’t cooperating.  (And by the way, more GM notes to come, I promise.)

Glenda, Cheerie and I took a trip to Dover in Charlottesville last weekend to stock up.  When one can’t ride, shopping is a good way to pass the time.   Cheerie picked up some schooling and show breeches, and tried on some tall boots for sizing.  I promise I wasn’t behind it, but they had the Ariat Monacos in her size, women’s 11, tall, regular calf.  It was meant to be and love at first step.  Glenda got a beautiful Grand Prix show jacket and some extras for her boy, Fletcher.  I was a good girl and got out of there spending very little.  I did pick up some beautiful note cards.  I’m a sucker for a good note card.

And on that note, I’m going to sign off.  Got some more reading to do….

Day 2 GMHC Notes

I will do my best to get a schematic of the course posted soon.  Also, I’m sorry if my notes are on the “short” side.  There is more to come.  Happy reading and riding!

Day 2, Wednesday

Session 1

Riders tracking left, practicing riding with the motion at the walk, ahead of the motion at the posting trot and canter.  GM had the riders also ride behind the motion, this isn’t a desired position in most cases, but is needed at time, ie schooling the open water (stay tuned).

Then they proceeded to executing a shoulder in at the sitting trot, to a serpentine, three loops, keeping an inside bend (created with the inside LEG not the inside rein).

Repeated to the right, and then started over the cavaletti set up along the long side nearest the auditors.  First over the single cavaletti for rhythm, being sure the horses keep their rhythm, not getting ahead or behind the leg.  Then on to two cavaletti, for progression, then to three cavaletti, this exercise is to keep horses ACTIVE but not faster.

He had Lillie K. demonstrate the pulley rein [for halting, installing the half-halt, etc].  You set your inside rein into horses neck and pull up/back with outside rein (higher for jumpers, lower for hunters).

Then all the riders went back out on the rail, tracking right and had them practice halting with pulley rein, then at the canter in galloping position (2pt).  To intensify it, you can slip your inside rein over to the outside shoulder.

GM got on Chase B.’s horse, a lovely, bay gelding.  He warmed up the horse and demonstrated the pulley rein, and then the automatic release over the in and out at the short end of the ring (oxer to vertical) both directions.  He also demonstrated a too commonly seen fault today, jumping ahead.

Then the riders were to school over the liverpool that was angled toward the rail on the far side of the ring.  GM had them start slow and ride a little behind the motion, particularly if unsure about how horse will react.  Cluck, spur, stick…depending on how it needed to be ridden.

GM was disappointed, saying “these horses are too easy, how dreary.  Let’s get some tough ones out here!”

Then he had them do a bending line, left lead to liverpool, to the triple on the diagonal, then halt, using the rail and turning right not left off the diagonal (to prevent horses developing a drift).  GM was sure horses keep their horses walking with impulsion inbtw turns.

For lateral suppling, he had them do the bending outside line, liverpool off left lead, then left, 7 strides to scoop jump, then right, 5 strides to triple bar, then had them do this the opposite direction.  Then up 4 holes, off the left lead, GM had them do then direct 6 to 5, then off the right, the direct 4 to 6, which requires contact, having horse “in the shoot.”  Then off the left, the VERY direct [straight] 5 to [steady]  4, requiring pace and not turning too early.

As they cooled off their horses, GM was sure they put their stirrups back to the flat length NOW and making it habit, to keep from forgetting and riding in too short of stirrup, creating a short, cramped leg.

GMisms for the session

“The greatest principle…take and GIVE.”

“Legs and seat…MORE than hand.”

“This country has the case of the slows.”

“Great horsemen do the opposite of what a horse does.  Not easy to learn.”

Session 2

GM had them warm up similarly to the first session.

Then @ the trot, GM had them alternate btw shoulder in and haunches in, 10 strides of each.

At the canter, they rode a serpentine (3 loops), maintaining the counterlead.

Then he reviewed the pulley rein for turning and had them demonstrate this.  You set the outside hand, and inside to turn.

GM rode Kate’s horse, to demonstrate LEGS.

To improve straightness, GM had them jump over the green box, and he would point left or right, and rider was to use opening leading rein to turn.

GMisms for the session

“There is correct and there is correct.  Almost correct is WRONG.”

“Kick yourself in the butt and get the precision, this is exact riding.”

Session 3

Nutrition with Purina.  This was a great session.  I feed ONLY Purina in my barn, love the feed and company.  Makes for happy horses, inside and out.  I didn’t take specific notes during the presentation, as I knew most of it.  They reviewed their published data and research on many of their feeds.  I like a company that can back up what they are saying with published data in peer reviewed journals, etc.  Check out the live feed.

Day 1 GMHC Notes

Session 1 – 6 riders (Taylor Ann Adams, Victoria Birdsall, Chase Boggio, Lillie Keenan, Karen Polle, and Ali Wolff)

Started on the rail, with walk-trot transitions, being sure riders were weighting their heels.  He had them alternate btw posting and 2 point, focusing on not changing their horses’ pace.  Then had them halt periodically to get the horses listening and reminded the riders to NOT drop their hands when halting.

GM moved onto lateral work, riders were tracking to the left; he had them execute a shoulder in.  Riders were to secure the haunch on the rail first and being sure not to lose it to the outside as well as not to over bend the horse to the inside.  The neck and body should be bent uniformly, only about 15-30 degrees off the rail.

All exercises were repeated equally both directions of the ring.

Moving on to the canter, GM wanted the riders to instigate the canter transition with their inside leg, canter for 7-8 strides, then walk, it isn’t the duration of the transition but the frequency of them, it creates discipline in the horse.  On the downward transition, you want to set up your horse with your seat and back, not just your hand.

Changing direction, they held the counter canter, then repeated the walk-canter transition exercise this direction.  Focusing on keeping the horses straight during the canter depart, being sure to overuse the inside rein and bend them inside, keeping horse on the outside rein.

Similar to the exercise at the trot early in the session, GM had the riders alternate btw 2 pt and 3pt contact at the canter, 10-15 strides in 2pt, and then 5-6 strides in 3pt, being sure not to drop their hand (horses’ head/neck) or let them get fast.  Lengthening the canter in each seat, in 2pt, “just think it”.

GM got on Ali’s horse, a beautiful 8yr old grey mare, which was quite heavy on the forehand.  He started schooling her, working in the counter canter on a figure of eight and flying changes, keeping the tempo slow, he commented that this was difficult and uncomfortable for the mare, but that she needed to be taught.  Through this work, you could see her lowering her croup and her forehand lightening and coming up.

GM demonstrated 2pt and 3pt contact in the canter and using both hands to turn, working a figure of eight, and compressing the circle.

Afterwards, had her in a working trot with a longer rein, allowing her to stretch, NOT bore on the bit, if she did this, he would take his rein up and back (the half –halt).  He wants a horse active in their hind legs, thinking forward.

GMisms for the DAY

“Relaxation through submission”

“She is a woman…submission is more difficult with women.”

“Every horse is interesting to work.”

“Jumping is the easy part….anyone can jump”

“Every horse has resistances, they are different….must accept leg, seat, half seat, hands, voice, etc”

He ended the lesson at the walk, with different and frequent turns, using both hands, turning the horse’s shoulder, he stressed this was NOT a bending lesson.   Wanting to preserve the impulsion of the walk, “1, 2, 3, 4…1, 2, 3, 4”, lively and active behind.

Session 2 – 6 riders (Haley Barnhill, Molly Braswell, Kate Haley, Anne Hallene, Brittany Hurst, and Kelsey Thatcher)

Had riders start by checking their tack.


  • Being sure it tight but not too tight
  • Reminding the check it often


  • Length – Flat and Jumping
  • Always put back to flat stirrup length after jumping

Foot position in Stirrup

  • Toe touch outside branch
  • Outside branch leading

Had riders adjust their position in the saddle, being sure to have seat to the front of the saddle and legs back of the girth.

Review and Repeat

  • Look up at a point
  • Lean forward slightly out of the saddle
  • Weight heel
  • Drop back in the front of the saddle
  • Keeping leg back of girth

Then he had them go through each gait, focusing on their position, at the halt, walk (5 degrees off vertical), sitting trot (similar to the walk),  posting trot (do NOT post too high), canter (fixed seat – same as sitting trot), and galloping (jumping position).

Similar to group 1, he had them work walk-trot transitions; this softens them to half halts, and then had them ride a serpentine the width of the ring, both directions, keeping the same pattern and horse straight.  He was quick to remind the riders to NOT see-saw on the horse’s mouth to get their head down, saying “left, right, left, right….is cheap equitation”.

Tracking right, he had them put their horses in haunches in (left leg back), then putting them straight, then with right leg back, putting them in haunches out, and alternating back and forth, always putting them straight first.  This is the beginning of leg yielding.

At the canter, he had the riders alternate btw the canter and counter canter through a simple change at the walk, keeping the horse straight.  Holding the counter canter, riders changed direction with a half turn in reverse, then half turn, tracking to the right, put the horses in shoulder in, then straight and riders in galloping position, then collect (fix the seat) to shoulder in, continuing to alternate.

A change of rein across the diagonal, he had them do a flying change, keeping horse straight, with outside leg/rein and reminded them to not sit down for the change nor over bend to the inside, and as usual, repeat both directions.

GM got on Molly’s bay horse, to demonstrate putting the horse on bit.

  • This is done back to front, NOT front to back
  • Must keep horse in front of your leg
  • Prompt and frequent transitions
  • “Push the head down, NOT pull [it]”

GM made a point of how he likes to cool his own horse down, as it “creates a partnership”.   He keep the horse in a proper free walk, with a nice swing in her back and keeping the “amplitude of stride”.

Session 3

As if the day couldn’t get any better, Anne Kursinski rode Amis de Kanaan, a 9yr old chestnut mare, whom she has had for approximately 3 months.  She was explaining how important flatwork was in developing the horse.

Some of the take away notes of the afternoon,

  • Short reins, long arms
  • Elastic arms
  • Increase/decrease aids
  • “Repeat it, don’t have a fit”
  • “Get inside the horse, NOT on top of the horse”
  • “Ask for a lot, be happy with a little, reward A LOT”

Sorry these don’t go along with the corresponding pics, etc.  I hope they are enjoyable and helpful! ;)

Day 3….Champions Galore

This week is a true blessing for me, a dedicated, incessant student of riding, is surrounded by so many great champions.  So many of the big professionals, Anne Kursinski, Beezie and John Madden, Frank Madden, Mclain Ward, & Laura Kraut to just name a few, are here to willingly share their time, insight and knowledge.  I’m THRILLED and soaking it up like a sponge.

Here are some pictures of today,

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Two great jumping sessions this AM, and then a photo critique session with GM, which he picked several photos of each participant, and reviewed them, rider and horse, he even included himself and AK.  It was FANTASTIC!  And for anyone who thinks GM isn’t as tough on himself as he is on everyone else, or as he calls us, “you people”, you are WRONG.  He called himself “fat” today, and he is going to work on that.  Then, Mclain, Laura and Beezie held a paneled discussion about how they got to where they are and then had a Q & A session.  They were so gracious and honest, Go USA!!

I will post courses and more info on the morning jumping sessions soon.  Goodnight for now.

Day 2…Exhilarating

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Another full day, two great riding sessions this AM.  GM rode one horse in each session this AM, which is one of my favorite parts, watching him ride, he is so effective and efficient.  He is all about training the horse, improving the horse. I’m sorry I didn’t get any pics of him riding, but I’m too busy watching and learning to take good photos.  I do hope that many are taking advantage of the FREE live feed and replays that USEF is offering this week.

Both groups today warmed up on the flat, with exercises at the posting trot and canter, practicing be with the motion and behind the motion of the horse.  Most of the time, you want to ride with the motion, but occasionally, you may want to be slightly behind, as would come in handy later when the riders started over the liver pool.  They included some lateral work to improve their horses’ straightness, alternating btw shoulder in and haunches in as well.  They performed these exercises each direction, then started over a single cavaletti set down the long side nearest the auditors.  This is used to regulate the rhythm.  If the horse speeds up, you need to resist them, half-halt, if the drop back, LEG!  They progressed to two cavaletti, then on to three cavaletti, continuing to be straight and maintain their rhythm.  The horses need to be active and lively, using leg to hand, NOT faster NOR longer.

In the first session, he demonstrated using Lillie Keenan and her mount, the pulley rein to stop (or regulate speed), in the second group, he had them use it to turn tightly.  In the case of the former, if you are tracking right, you set your inside hand at the base of the neck (in the “pocket”) and you pull on your outside rein, higher for jumpers, lower for hunters.  To turn if you were tracking right and executing a half turn in reverse, you would set your left hand in the pocket and lift and pull your right rein.  To increased the intensity, you slid your “set” hand over the neck a little.  This is a GREAT tool.

GM demonstrated the automatic release and proper body position back and forth over a low two stride set on the short side of the ring.  Each time when GM rides a participant’s horse, he is sure to check the tack, girth, stirrup length, etc.  He is sure to shorten his stirrups from his flat stirrups to jumping stirrups, this is key to being able to stay with the motion of the horse when jumping.

After warming the horses up over the 2-stride in and out, he had them introduce the liver pool on the diagonal.  He was sure they started a little behind the motion, and ready to use their aids, leg, cluck, spur, stick, if their horses bulked or spooked.  He was a wee disappointed when the first group went, he said, “these horses are too easy, how dreary!  Let’s get some tough ones out here.”   There were a few more issues in the second group, but quickly and properly resolved with out too much excitement.

GHM doesn’t drill anything too long and continued the progression of other jumping exercises.  I have them all but want to get a reproduction of the course first.  So COME back soon.

A few GMisms for the road,

“This country has the case of the slows”

“There is correct and there is correct, almost correct is WRONG.”

“Kick yourself in the butt and get the precision….this is exact riding.”

There were two great lectures in the afternoon, on nutrition and veterinary care of the sport horse.  Proudly, they had Purina here speaking on nutrition, which is what the horses in MY barn eat happily and is a huge reason for their good health.  I really want to spend a week with Dr. Ober here @ WEF, he is brilliant.  Improve my eye for seeing soreness so I can be sure I’m doing all I can for my horses.  Might need to look into that.

Well, that is it for tonight…tomorrow is another day!


It is way too late to post a complete summary…but quickly, there were two 1hr mounted group sessions this AM, 6 riders in each, focus was flatwork today which is PARMOUNT.  As Anne K. says, jumping is just dressage with jumps inbetween.  GHM had each group start by checking their girths, be sure they had a proper stirrup length, then start by working walk trot transitions, it is the “frequency of transition, not the length of them”, moving along thru the gaits, then on to lateral work, shoulder in, haunches in, counter canter, & flying changes.

Take home points, keep your horse active and lively, LEG, don’t drop your hand, LEG, don’t over bend, inside LEG to OUTSIDE rein, don’t over bend, back to front, not front to back, LEG.

Anne K. in the afternoon was like the cherry on top of a delicious sundae.  She demonstrated how proper flatwork is integral to developing a successful equine partner.  She rode a beautiful, 9yr old chestnut mare, Amis de Kanaan, that she has had for 3 months.

Anne’s passion for horses and riding was extremely apparent, along with her attention to detail and adherence to the basics of riding.  There is no replacement for solid flatwork, in her many years with horses, she has NEVER used a pair of draw reins, LOVE it!

My favorite quote of Anne’s today was , “get inside the horse, NOT on top of the horse”.

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Jane Savoie gave an excellent lecture on “How to Think Like a Champion”.  Focusing on how to changes one attitude to improve one’s aptitude with anchoring and changing one’s subconscious with visualization and self talk.  As with anything, this takes practice, but plays a major role in one’s success.

Off to bed….

White Christmas for all!

Happy Holidays! With love, Brydelle Farm

We have seen more snow for the last several winters that usual in VA, but this is the first time in a long time, that it has snowed on Christmas.  It really enhances the Christmas spirit and makes everything quiet and beautiful.  But when one owns a farm, it makes for ALOT of work!  The horses were very good, handling being in for 2 days, but were ready to get on on day 3.

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We haven’t had the chance to ride much recently, due to the extremely cold temperatures, frozen ground and recent 1′ of snow.  Happily, it is warming up some and the snow is finally melting, but slowly, too slowly.

While it is frustrating not being able to ride and teach as usual, I think the horses deserve a break, and it allows us to spend quality time grooming them, thoroughly cleaning and conditioning tack, and doing some “winter” cleaning.

2010 has been a GREAT year at Brydelle Farm.  I’m so grateful and blessed by my supportive clients and stellar horses.  I know that 2011 will be another brilliant year, with many successes for all.

Mr. Morris educating the masses.

I am looking forward to making my first post of 2011 from FL, where I will be next week for the 2011 George Morris Horsemastership Clinic.  I am diligent about continuing my education as a rider and trainer in order to be the best for my horses and clients.

A week in the warmer weather, with GM and my great friend, Jana, is an excellent way to start off the New Year, especially since riding isn’t really an option right now.

I will do my best to post frequently with lots of pictures and notes.  Until then, have a SAFE and HAPPY New Year!

Winter Wonderland…

snow really is beautiful, and it looks like more is coming this weekend, for the 4th time this month, and it isn’t even winter yet!

Here are a few pics of the farm today…

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If I get all my holiday chores done, I will try my best to use this time when we can’t ride, to get my GM and WIHS notes together.

Wishing everyone a very happy and holiday season!

On the go…

that is, I have been on the go recently, judging  4 of the last 6 weekends.  Many being new places I had yet to venture for judging which is always fun and exciting.

Earlier in the month, I was honored to judge a THSA show hosted by Bridlewood Farm in Chesapeake, VA.  Bridlewood is a beautiful equestrian facility with many amenities.  The show wasn’t huge but the quality of horses and riders was definitely not lacking.  There was a great camaraderie and support for all the exhibitors which is nice to see as well.  I am grateful to Anita Anderson and Kasey Evans for requesting I be part of their show and look forward to being back often.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling to  Country Haven Stables in St. Leonard, MD to judge on Saturday.  It was  a bit windy, but sunny day.  A quality turnout of horses and riders in all the division, including the jumpers at the end of the day.  As we started back after the lunch break, there was a fun costume class, Samie, the JRT, was one of the participants. Isn’t he adorable?! 

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I had a lovely time, and am very appreciative to Marcia Kane, Linda and Ben Chaney for having me out and I’m looking forward to being back next year.

Then I trekked back to judge at Hidden Haven‘s final show the season on Sunday, and my third time judging there this season.  Carol Anne’s shows always have a good size turnout, but this probably one of her largest, being end of the year awards were on the line!  She had lovely prizes and ribbons for each division.  I was judging the Ring 2, which hosts Leadline, Pre-Short, Short Stirrup Eq & hunter, Beginner Eq & hunter classes.  I find that these can be the toughest classes to judge, NOT that I’m complaining, as I’m pleased that there are so many GOOD up and coming riders for our future.  Thanks Carol Anne and all of the Hidden Haven Show Mgmt Team for another GREAT YEAR!

Judging really keeps me on my toes as a trainer and instructor, I also to continuing my education by learning from the best in our sport.  This week, I went up to Morven Park in Leesburg, VA to audit George Morris clinic.  He is definitely one of my greatest influences next to all the horses I’ve been blessed to ride.   There were 3 groups, each with 8 riders.  I will get my notes typed up this weekend and post them soon.  It was a GREAT day, no gimmicks, no quick fixes, just GOOD riding.  Below are two videos of GM riding two different mares during the clinic.  There is good audio on the second video, so be sure to have your volume turned up.

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Developing horsemen…

is the main focus of mine as I work with my clients and what I look for when I’m judging.  I have large dreams, they may not all come true and I may never be famous which isn’t what is important to me.  What is important, is that I know that I will have imparted and shared my passion, love and never ending, growing knowledge of horses with them, so they can continue to pay it forward into the equestrian community, and community at large.

This topic came to mind as I finished up late Sunday evening, after having judged earlier in the day at Carol Anne Hasslacher’s Hidden Haven Show and lessons with Glenda, Terumi and Simone.

As usual, Carol Anne was extremely organized and had a great turnout, she does such a lovely job.  And we were all blessed with slightly overcast, cool day.  I judged her second ring which is for the youngest and least experienced riders and horses.  I enjoy seeing the future of our sport, and believe in encouraging, instilling and rewarding good horsemanship and sportsmanship skills right from the beginning.  This is were it starts and can end if we skip steps and rush.  I look forward to being back again at the end of the season, to see how all the riders and horses have progressed and improved.

Glenda came to me having some riding experience but was missing lots of hands on experience with horses, as the place she rode previously, would bring her a tacked up horse and then take it away after her lesson.  When she inquired to be able to groom him/her, she was rebuked.  This shocks me!

Jumping right in when she came to my barn, she started by just spending time in the barn, around the horses, cleaning stalls, feeding, grooming, etc.  So much knowledge is gain out of the saddle that helps you when you are in the saddle.

She has channeled that knowledge and her truehearted focus when riding to bring about steady improvement in each of her lessons.  She and Fletcher are really becoming a quality team.    He is such a good teacher for her, and she is a good student, with a focus on being his partner and improving for him, not just relying on him to do it all for her.

I look at the horse even when I’m schooling a rider and/or judging equitation, because I can tell by their expression, attitude and performance if the rider is helping or hindering them.  I’m a sucker for a bright, keen expression on a horse when doing his/her job, and as a horseman, I structure and tailor each horse and rider’s program to bring this out.

Happily, long time students, Terumi and her daugther, Simone, are able to continue this, even though they keep their horses at their home now.  This makes me so proud, they do all the day to day care, keeps up their training at home &  they couldn’t look better!

They trailer in for lessons when I can’t make it over to their place, which is what they did this past Sunday.  To think how far they have both come, and seeing Terumi drive off in her big diesel truck, hauling a trailer full of happy horses, was a icing on the cake for me after a outstanding lesson.   I had them warm their mounts up on the flat on their own, w/o specific directions from me, just critique and compliment, here and there.  It’s important I can see what they are doing at home when I’m not there to watch, though they tell me, I’m always in their head! LOL

Shelby French’s article in COTH this past week touches on the topic of encouraging true horsemanship beautifully and eloquently.  I hadn’t had a chance to read it until I was settling in for the evening on Sunday.  It was quite serendipitous.

“The first rule of good horsemanship, or the definition of horseman/woman, is the love of horses.”  -GHM