Book Review: Classical Riding with George H. Morris

If you’re a long-time reader of Practical Horseman magazine, you’re familiar with the George Morris training articles and his critiques of countless amateur riders in images submitted to the magazine.

If you’re like me, you may have wished you could save them all in a notebook to refer to later, as you try to polish your equitation or bring along a young hunter-jumper prospect. Great idea, but you’d have to have been clipping and collecting since the 1990s–and you’d have a hodgepodge of articles that jump from one aspect of horsemanship to another, in no particular order.

The editors of Practical Horseman have, at last, done the hard work for every rider looking to improve his or her riding and training skills. The result is Classical Riding with George H. Morris, a 200-page, 8 1/2- by 11-inch softcover book with superb illustrations, that follows a logical progression from flat work for the hunter or jumper to actual jumping.

There are lessons dedicated to training your horse year-by-year, from age three to seven, so that he’ll develop into a sound, happy horse. And there are lessons to make you a safe and effective rider, one who knows the nuances of flexion, bending, contact, seeing distances and release over fences.

Morris’ Hunter Seat Equitation has been a staple on the bookshelves of riding instructors and students since its first printing in 1971. Classical Riding with George H. Morris, published in 2014, is another must-have. You won’t find any radical changes in his techniques over the years–or the qualities he looks for.

Hence the word “classical” in the title. Morris’ teachings are a reflection of his studies of old French and German dressage techniques and Federico Caprilli’s jumping practices, along with the skills he learned from personal mentors such as Gordon Wright, Bert de Nemethy, Mexican General Humberto Mariles, Richard Watjen and Gunnar Andersen. If these names are unfamiliar to you, Google them. It will help you understand why Morris teaches what he does–and why his methods have endured. 

Morris is a teacher who has practiced what he preaches. In 1952, at age 14, he won the AHSA (now USEF) National Hunter Seat Medal Final AND the ASPCA Maclay National Championship. He rode on eight winning Nations Cup teams between 1958 and 1960. He won the 1960 Grand Prix of Aachen, a show jumping team silver medal at the 1960 Olympics, and the biggest show jumping purse in 1988 at Spruce Meadows. He has been chef d’equipe of three Olympic show jumping teams, and has coached famous riders such as Katie Monahan Prudent, Norman Dello Joio, Conrad Homfeld, Melanie Smith Taylor, Anne Kursinski, Lisa Jacquin and Chris Kappler.

Morris continues to coach and to hold clinics throughout the world. If you’re not able to study with him in person, you can access his teachings in Classical Riding with George H. Morris, available from Horsebooksetc. for $29.95.

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