Meagan DeLisle shares her roller coaster of a ride while participating in a George Morris clinic in this three part-series. Between a ‘beautiful’ from George, a trip to the Urgent Care, and a highly unusual experience with the Legend himself- Meagan’s clinic memoirs are unlike any other. On the final day of her time with George, Meagan finds herself in tears.
Day one resulted in a trip to the Urgent Care. Day two showed me a George I hadn’t expected. Day three….well, it was day three. As you can imagine after the weekend I’d had, my body was near done. I was tired and sore and sported a bruise the shape of Texas on my backside that ached every time I moved. My legs were sore. My arms were sore. My jaw was especially sore. Riding in a George Morris clinic was way more than I had expected and my expectations were definitely high. You need to be in shape mentally and physically to ride with the best of the best and I was coming up short.
Hello Fall Weather
We had been blessed with 80 degree weather for the first two days of the clinic and the brilliant mountain sunshine was even making things a bit toasty. Sunday, however, decided to throw a new twist to George’s little games. The temperature plummeted 20 degrees with a high of 62 during my 9AM ride time and no sunshine to be found. I knew as I walked out into the light drizzle of rain early that morning that this temperature drop would definitely make for an interesting day.
The course build was done in the rain and George was back to business, after asking how I was doing that day again. It was a dismal morning and as George instructed us to set up two verticals two strides apart immediately following landing from a giant bank I felt a knot curl up in my stomach.
That bank was huge.
I don’t do much riding out of the arena, which was one of George’s big topics all weekend. “This is riding” he would say as we navigated our way amongst the rolling hills and banks and grobs laid out in the beautiful jump field at Altamonte Show Stable. “In fact, I think I will come out here and ride once a month!” he followed, resulting in a round of applause from the Missouri group. And he was right, riding in the natural environment definitely required a lot more skill and thought and muscle from both horse and rider and for the most part I found it fun. That bank, however, I did not think looked very exciting.
I did what every rider isn’t supposed to do. I got in my head. I told myself I couldn’t do that bank. There was no way I could do that bank. South was going to be too fresh and I was too green and this was too much. I had already counted myself out before I even put my foot in the stirrup.
Hello Bank, Buh-Bye Meagan
We warmed up on the flat and every muscle fiber in me screamed. I was so tired, but I am anything but a quitter. I trudged on, glancing at that bank every second I got and trying to keep a fussy South calm. The chill definitely got to him but I am sure my nerves did as well.
We made our way down the hill towards the bank and George instructed us on how to properly ride a bank. “Don’t lean back like you see the modern eventers do,” he said with a grimace. “You interfere with a horses back. Sometimes you must ride defensively, but only when necessary. Go with the horse and get off his back!” We warmed up over some cavaletti on the hilly terrain and South jigged between a trot and a canter the whole way. The nerves grew.
Finally, it was time to conquer the bank. First, we must go up the bank. I watched as my fellow riders galloped fearlessly towards the bank then into the two verticles. Then it was my turn.
Hot mess express was probably the best way to describe myself that day. I had checked out mentally and was just riding to survive. We made it up….barely….and then it was time to go back down. That was even scarier to me.
We made it up and down twice, but on the third time down the horse Gods had other plans for me that included eating dirt. Upon our landing, South let out a few little hops and baby bucks and we parted ways. The ground was nice and hard when I hit it, knocking the wind out of me and I let out a nice little grunt similar to a pig. I decided I would just lay there for a while and soak in the fact that I was now the girl who fell off twice and got stitches during a George Morris clinic.
Brody Robertson came running up to me, “Are you ok?”
“My stitches. Are my stitches bleeding?” Was all I could choke out.
Brody laughed, “No you look beautiful, Meagan.”
I rolled myself up off the ground and stood and George waved me his way. “Meagan. Meagan. Meagan,” he said into the microphone around his ear. “Meagan is a sweet girl. You were not ready. What were you thinking entering this clinic if you weren’t ready?” I was so ashamed, I didn’t know what to say. I thought I was ready, but it had become apparent over the weekend that I probably wasn’t. I was about 50% there. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I needed more finesse, more time to develop myself. I expected the tongue lashing of a lifetime, but again George surprised me.
“Ride with me on the golf cart, Michael will ride your horse for you. That is a lot of horse for you. That is a lot of horse for me,” he said patting the empty seat on the golf cart beside him. “You just need 50 more hours, Meagan. Where is that husband of yours? Tell him I said he will pay for 50 more hours for you or you just get rid of him, okay?”
The Best Seat in the House
So I finished out my session in the golf cart with George, him checking on me frequently making sure I didn’t have a headache or need to go to the doctor. I got a first hand view of what George was seeing in each of the riders and he stopped to point things out to me, the movement of a leg or heel, the way a rider carried their hands. While I wasn’t on a horse, this was the some of the best education I had all weekend.
At the end of our session, I walked South back up to the barn and cleaned up him. I took my time polishing my tack and sorting myself out. I was embarrassed but relieved. I felt like even though I had one of the roughest weekends ever, that I had learned so much and I had survived. I didn’t quit even though I wanted to and despite my brain shutting down today, I still ended with a positive reflection on the weekend.
I walked back down and finished watching the next group jump a massive, terrifying liverpool with ease and admired their beautiful form and bravery. Something George said during that session stuck in my head and I think will now have a permanent place there, “If it is uncomfortable- practice it.”
This whole weekend was full of uncomfortable moments for me and somehow I came out mostly ok. The lessons I learned through the trials and tribulations, however, I could have never learned just by auditing or reading up on articles online. I learned by failing, learned by doing, learned by trying. I learned by pushing myself out of my comfort zone, something I have always struggled to do. So I challenged myself to go home and continue to make myself uncomfortable to the point that it was comfortable.
After lunch, it was time for me to head home. I thanked Jen and Brody for hosting a beautiful clinic and allowing us to use their amazing facilities. Both of them are truly wonderful equestrians and people. Jen gave me some inspiring end-of-clinic advice and encouraged me to not be discouraged by the outcome and to continue to push myself both in the barn and in the saddle. My expectations of myself as a horsewoman were definitely raised seeing how smoothly their operation runs at Altamonte.
I went to thank George again for his time and even apologize for being the least polished rider there that weekend. A smile grew across his face and he reached across the table and grabbed my hand. “You will get there, Meagan. You will. You just have to keep working. I will be back next year and so will you.”
So here I am- alive, with a few bumps and bruises and stitches but alive. I am a different person because of this opportunity and because of my idol. So many people prepared me for what to expect. Told me George was going to tear me apart and make me cry. And you know what? They were right, but they were wrong.
George tore me apart and built me back up. He broke down everything I thought I knew and he started the building blocks of a new me. And as I drove away from Altamonte and a weekend with my idol, I did cry. I cried because my dream came true, I cried because I was braver than I had ever been before, and I cried because my idol believed in me.
Now- to be the best me that I can be. See you next year, George.