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Finding the Finals
April 14, 2014
A Lesson with George Morris and Tori Colvin
By Rebecca Walton
Monday, April 14, 2014 :: Posted 08:11:49 AM EDT

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© Ann Glavan: Tori JumpingTori Colvin and George Morris

Last week, PhelpsSports had the opportunity to watch the master instructor, George Morris, give a lesson to top junior rider Tori Colvin. It was a unique chance to see what a one-on-one lesson between two of the best in the business is like. The lesson was held at Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley’s River’s Edge Farm in Grand Prix Village, and Colvin was aboard her new jumper mount Chanel B 2, owned by Karen Long Dwight. Don't forget to check out the video at the end!

Anyone who has watched one of George Morris’ clinics knows that attention to detail is crucial. So before junior superstar Tori Colvin got underway with her lesson with the legend, Morris thoroughly checked her tack and corrected her position, adjusting her leg and making sure everything was just so before sending her out to the rail. The warm-up began with a steady walk, and when Colvin picked up the trot, Morris had her perform multiple changes of hand to make sure the horse was responsive and bending correctly, while also staying in front of the leg at all times. “Most people just focus on behind the neck, but what is more important is that the horse bends around your inside leg,” explained Morris.

© Rebecca Walton: George Morris Checking TackGeorge Morris checking tack

There were also multiple transitions from the walk to the trot and back to the walk. George commented, “Maintain the contact. The horse has to learn to accept your hand, just like your legs, and accept your seat. When you go up into the transition focus on equal pressure on both sides of the mouth, and as you go forward the horse stays in the contact.”

Colvin also put Chanel B 2 through a series of shoulder ins and changes of bend, sitting and posting the trot during the exercise and focusing on a consistent rhythm. When making a change of hand, Colvin would lengthen through the diagonal to work on impulsion. Morris said, “If the horse starts cantering instead of lengthening, it’s a backward resistance. The best thing is to canter forward and to correct it with your legs.”

© Ann Glavan: Tori Trotting

The next exercise were multiple simple changes, changing the lead every eight strides to begin, and then lowering the number to every six strides or even every four strides. “The simple change is always to the walk,” added Morris. “The trot is not a simple change. That is only for a very green horse, and that is not a simple change.”

Morris then asked Colvin to do counter changes of hand at the canter and said, “After five years I’ll have you very educated in dressage. You might do two disciplines at the Olympics!”

© Ann Glavan: Tori Cantering

Chanel B 2 wanted to rush through the change a bit, swishing her tail and demonstrating what Morris refers to as ‘light in the croup’. Morris encouraged Colvin to sit in the saddle and add leg to address the resistance in the flying change. Once they perfected the exercise, Colvin rode in her two-point position and practiced lengthening the stride down the long side, then collecting the stride and circling on the short sides of the ring. Colvin also incorporated different tight turns to practice various patterns that you might see on a course. In the circle, Morris made sure Colvin kept the mare’s hind quarters in check and did not allow her to swing her hind end to the outside.

When making changes of hand, Morris also did not want Colvin pulling on the inside rein. “You have to be careful you don’t pull the inside rein in the change. That is your hunter habit. You’ll get a very late change and the horse will become light in the croup.”

© Rebecca Walton: George Morris Teaching Tori Colvin

Stressing the importance of dressage and flatwork, Morris commented, “This part takes a lifetime, not the jumping. This dressage is tailored for the hunter/jumper horse. It’s not competition dressage. It’s the same basics: impulsion, rhythm, straightness, shoulder in, and half pass. It’s all the same basics, but it’s for the jumper. It’s to supple the jumper. We don’t do tempi changes every stride. Maybe every two strides, but not every stride, because that could be risky as you come to a fence a horse get’s evasive. They start bouncing. It’s the same base, but tailored for the jumper horse.”

The first over fences exercise Morris had Colvin do was a series of boxes set as a bounce to a one stride, jumped both directions. Position was the main focus. “Even on the hunters you have to be aware of your position. My leg is up by his stifle, or my hands are up by his eyeballs, or I ducked below his shoulder. Nowadays they think that appeals to the judges, but there are still lots of judges that don’t like all of that gesturing.”

© Rebecca Walton: Tori Jumping

Morris was also focused on Colvin’s hand position, and making sure they were totally independent of her other aides. The boxes helped loosen up the mare while also allowing Colvin to use a following hand.

Eventually Colvin and Chanel B 2 started jumping short courses (seen in the video), focusing on turns and related distances, while making sure the horse was soft to the aides. Morris concluded, “Patience, persistence, that’s horse training, not frustration.”

 Check out this video of George and Tori after the lesson:

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