I Survived George Morris Stirrupless: Day 2 Clinic Recap

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 Day Two, Meagan managed to stay IN the saddle and found herself challenging her own expectations.

Read Part 1 Here.

After one heck of a introduction to George Morris, I woke up on Day 2 of the clinic at Altamonte Show Stables sore from head to toe. Coincidentally, the clinic host Jen Robertson had shared this meme on social media just a few days before, which was very applicable to my current state.

I knew I was going to have to drag out every ounce of toughness from my core to make it through another day of George, so I put on a brave face and made my way to the barn. After tending to South and doing a little bit of spot-cleaning on his gray coat, it was down to the field for the course build.

Stirrupless Saturday

George sought me out first thing that morning at the course build to inquire about how I was feeling. In between stern orders regarding placement of standards, he jokingly asked how my husband felt about the fact that I was hopping back in the saddle today.

“Well,” I responded, “he wasn’t happy about it. But he also knew it was not a good idea for me to tell George Morris no!” George had a good laugh at that and said that Wayne was coming along nicely in the role of horse-show husband and I instantly felt better about my day.

After tacking up South, we made our way back down to the field and George pulled me from the group as his example. He demonstrated the proper way to place your stirrups when doing stirrupless work. First, pull the stirrup leather down 10-12 inches so that the buckle is in the middle of the stirrup, then fold the leather over so that the irons are in front of the saddle. This prevents the buckle from pinching you when riding. He then sent us out onto the track to start our torture.

I felt somewhat prepared for some stirrupless action on that beautiful Saturday morning. PC: Cassie Zimmerman

Thankfully, despite the fact that stirrupless work is never the most fun thing in the world, I felt pretty prepared for that portion of the clinic. We did quite a bit of work sans stirrups, mostly at the sitting trot and sitting canter but there was some posting trot dabbled in there as well. South was feeling a bit strong that day, which made it a challenge at the canter but we fought our way through. After we regained our stirrups George looked at me and said, “Meagan I’ll take your horse.”

Sassy South

Having George select your mount to ride in his clinics is a great honor. I dismounted and watched as he legged up swiftly, never showing his age. He spent his time demonstrating haunches in and out and teaching your horse to accept the leg. South was not too happy with what George was asking of him, or the spur that George was wearing and began to fuss and fight. I grew worried that my horse would be the one to buck George Morris off, but George rode out South’s fussiness with great poise. He was never cruel or stern, he just continued to educate South to the leg and by the end of his demonstration South was moving off of his leg when asked in a polite manner.

South being especially sassy and George is completely unphased. PC: Jennifer Kaiser

As I hopped back up on South, it was obvious he was a bit frustrated by his little schooling session. My once level- headed guy was worked up and more interested in fighting me rather than working with me. George urged me to continue riding South, schooling him to the leg and to not give up on my aids until South gave me what I was asking of him and we went on with our day.

If our legs weren’t tired enough, it was onto jumping. We schooled over courses similar to the ones from the day before, this time jumping the bank backwards and our triple was relocated just a bit. At this point, my body was ready for a break but my mind kept pushing on. That is when it hit me that my endurance was not where it needed to be. My position began to reflect my exhaustion and I knew I had much to work on upon my return home.

Stick To Your Guns and No Room for Desperate Housewives

George had many wise tidbits to share throughout each day, but several things he said on Day two during our jumping stuck with me; mostly regarding choosing distances. I tend to have a good eye, however, I can sometimes select the long rather than waiting one more for a better distance. This has been something that we have worked on here recently in preparation for the clinic so several George-ism’s stuck with me as we went on.

“You have to stick to your guns,” he told one rider. “You have to be definite. Especially in adversity you have to be definite.”

Sticking to my guns at our baby Liverpool. PC: Anne Barry Weber

Another quote that delivers the expected level of snarkiness from George was when he told another rider, “You are a desperate housewife. Don’t ride like a desperate housewife and take whatever stride you get.”

Of all the things that ticked off George the most that weekend, not following through with your committed striding definitely seemed to set him off the most. If he told you to get a line in seven strides, you better not get it in six or eight. Thankfully, I managed to pull through and deliver consistent lines despite the fact that my position was faltering.

A New George

It was the end of Day two that I realized I was seeing a different side of George than what many other riders were seeing. I can’t say why, either. I’m sure being the ‘stitches girl’ definitely helped George to notice me in a whole new light, but for some reason George seemed to have taken a liking to me. While he was ferociously tough on some riders, his criticisms to me were much kinder. At the end of our session that day I was just thankful I had survived. He went around to each rider and offered his advice.

“Meagan, do you feel you were properly prepared for this clinic?” He asked giving me the typical George look. I shook my head, I knew I wasn’t. I knew I had rushed into this for the opportunity.

Expecting a tongue lashing, I dropped my eyes, but George continued on in a calm voice. “Be careful entering clinics, people. Clinics are meant to be testing. You do not want to be unprepared for a clinic because that can lead to unsafe situations. Meagan, you will get there. You just need 50 more hours in the saddle and you will be there.” And with that, he moved down the line to berate the next rider for her heel.

As I audited the rest of the day and heard some of the things George said to riders of a much different caliber than myself, I began to question why he was being so kind to me. I’m still not sure that I will ever have the answer. At the end of the day, George did book signings and I was second or third in line. He smiled at me when I handed him my copy of Unrelenting.

George signing my copy of Unrelenting. Photo by Anne Barry Weber

“This book doesn’t have much technical riding information in it,” he said. I promptly informed him that my copy of Hunter Seat Equitation was equally as well read and his smile widened. He opened up my book and scribbled something on the title page, then handed the book back to me.

“You are a nice girl, Meagan. You will get there. I know you will. You need more time. You need more work on your leg, but you will get there.”

I waited until I was out of his sight to open up my book and see what he wrote.

At that moment I was pretty sure that George liked me … and also hated my leg.