By TPH Intern Emma Marlowe
Every year since I was thirteen, I watched the George Morris Horsemastership Clinic online and always dreamed of riding in it one day. When I got the news that I was accepted, I was ecstatic! This was a huge goal of mine and to have it come true was incredible. My sister had recently just won the Emerging Athletes Program National Finals which automatically qualified her for the clinic. I couldn’t think of anything more special than being able to share the experience with Gracie. We both flew into Wellington one week early to ride the horses we were borrowing and to get organized. I rode Barichello, a horse trained by Eduardo Meneze and owned by Maeve Scarborough. A huge thank you to Schuyler Riley and Leslie Steele for setting that up! He was amazing and I had so much fun with him. My sister borrowed a horse from Laura Kraut. So, I would say we both had some amazing mounts! I had never been to Wellington before so I was amazed with all the beautiful farms and horses.
We moved the horses in and set up our stalls and tack rooms. We met with our barn manager, Colleen Reed, who is amazing! We had an Equine Anatomy & Physiology session with the amazing Janus Marquis. We then had a welcome reception with Andy Thomas, a leading rider physiotherapist, who is able to identify and focus on rider weaknesses and imbalances. It was fascinating to see what problems he can identify by briefly watching a rider. Lastly, we went back for night check and wrapped up the day.
Morning chores starting at 6:30. We started off the day flatting in small groups with Andy watching for individual assessment. After that, we met with some of the top grooms for the biggest riders in the world. That was a lot of fun to ask some inside questions of what really goes on. Kent Farrington’s head groom even taught me how to do plaits, which is a lot harder than it looks!
After that we met with Andy again and he went over what he noticed when he watched us ride. Andy has an incredible eye and was dead-on with his findings. I felt a lot more balanced and centered on my horse after working with Andy. Then, more barn chores and we met with sports psychologist Tonya Johnston. I’ve never done any sports psychology, but really enjoyed the session with Tonya. We all bonded as a group and talked about ring nerves etc. After this session, it was time again for night check!
Everyone arrived at 6:30 for morning chores. We started off the day with a flatwork demonstration by Anne Kursinski. Watching Anne ride was amazing; she is an absolute genius on horseback. I was in the same group as my sister for all the sessions, which was super fun! I absolutely loved my horse and really enjoyed the session. Anne likes you to ride in a deeper seat, which was different for me at first, but I felt like I got more accomplished in a deeper seat for the flat. Each flat session was 90 minutes long, but it felt like 30. I loved that Anne changed it up often, so you were never doing the same thing for more than a lap or two. It really kept both me and my horse focused. I didn’t get stuck on one thing for too long.
The next session for the day was Gymnastics Theory and Build with Beezie and John Madden. I’ve always had to set courses, but never to the detail that John and Beezie do. It was interesting how much thought and measuring goes into building gymnastics.
Veterinary care with Dr. Tim Ober came next. This was one of my favorite sessions! I love being involved in the veterinary care of my horses and I always find it interesting. I always learn something new from watching a vet check or seeing an ultrasound, etc. Tim was so nice and answered all my questions. I learned a lot of new things, like how helpful it could be to ride your horse on soft ground and hard ground. Also, I learned abou the causes a suspensory injury in horses. Next, it was barn chores for the rest of the day until night check at 9:00.
Everyone arrived for morning chores. Beezie started off the first session with a gymnastics demonstration. It was an honor to watch Beezie ride, but even more of an honor to clinic with her. The gymnastics were difficult, but Beezie gave a perfect demonstration ride. After watching the first group have their session, I had an idea of how everything rode and was excited to do it myself. I loved that we got to practice the water jump, as it’s not my favorite obstacle. Beezie had set up a “curve,” which was three jumps set with a tight one stride in between that we bended to after the water. It was a test as to whether you could get your horse back in time. I felt very confident after my session with Beezie.
The next session was Course Design Theory and Build with Laura Kraut and Conrad Homfeld. Setting the Nations Cup course was a very cool experience. I thought Conrad designed an incredible course and I loved riding it.
Next: afternoon barn chores!
The last session for the day was probably one of my favorite sessions for the entire clinic: Riding for Team USA with Anne Kursinski, Laura Kraut, Lauren Hough, Beezie Madden, and Robert Ridland.
This was so inspiring! Robert explained the Olympic selection process and what you need to do to even be considered for the Olympics. He talked a lot about Nations Cup teams and how to be a part of them. Anne, Laura, Lauren and Beezie all gave their life stories and how they got to where they are today. I loved hearing everyone’s different paths and how they became so successful. It only gave me more determination to work hard and achieve my dreams. Last but not least: night check at 9:00.
Nations Cup day! Started off the morning at 5:30am with barn chores and organizing everything. Nations Cup Round 1 started at 8:00, so all the horses had to be up at the ring and ready by 7:30. My team’s chef d’equipe was Lauren Hough, which was again a huge honor! Lauren is amazing and so much fun to work with. I had a great warm up and went in and had so much fun! I’m not one to get nervous before going into the ring. I always ride my best when I just go in and ride from feel and not get too much in my head. I had a great round with one unlucky rail down at the last combination but I was super happy with my first round. The time was tight, but I love going fast, so it wasn’t too hard for me to stay within the time.
The next round I really wanted to try to ride the same track and prove that I could be consistent. Our team was in second place so I knew a clear round would really help. This time I had the hind rail of fence three down. My horse jumped quite high over it and I just didn’t get him all the way across. He jumped a beautiful rest of the round- even faster than my first round. Overall, I was very happy with both my rounds. I didn’t know my horse very well, but he was unbelievably good. My team ultimately finished second with only one more rail down than the winning team. Everyone on my team improved in their second round and I think that’s pretty much all we could have asked for.
The above is a general summary of the five-day clinic. I could go on and on for hours about how amazing each day was. It was truly an experience of a lifetime. I cannot thank USET Foundation and USEF enough for giving me the opportunity to participate.
A huge thank you to all the sponsors and clinicians who were apart of the 2017 George Morris Horsemastership Clinic.
Footnote: I want to talk about life after these amazing five days. After I got home from Wellington, I knew that was where I wanted to be working. I wanted to learn from the best which meant I needed to work for the best. After a week of reaching out to people and making phone calls, I found myself a working student position in Wellington for the rest of the circuit with Cara Raether at Trelawny Farms. I can’t thank Lauren Hough enough for setting it up! I’ve always gone after what I want no matter what it takes. Being here in Wellington is really a dream come true. I get to watch the top riders every day and am learning so much. Being in Wellington in this job only makes me want to work harder to be successful. I have so much learning to do and even if it takes forty years, I know I’m completely in love with this sport and want to ride at the top level. My point is that I would not be living in Wellington right now if it weren’t for the clinic. My advice to young riders is take advantage of every opportunity and never lose hope.