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Wed, 2013-09-11 10:25

Caitlin Silliman Reflects on her George Morris Experience

Authored By: Amber Heintzberger
Caitlin Silliman, Callisto, George Morris clinic

Four-star eventer and assistant rider to Boyd Martin, Caitlin Silliman had the opportunity to ride two horses in the George Morris clinic at Windurra in Cochranville, PA. Caitlin reflects on the opportunity to ride with one of the legends of the show jumping world, and discusses what she learned during the two-day clinic.

“I had the opportunity to ride Callisto, a Warmblood gelding owned by a Young Rider from Michigan named Tatiana Bernstein. He’s evented through prelim, and Tatiana usually spends a couple of weeks every summer riding with Boyd. She had a little spill and broke her collarbone a few weeks ago, so she sent Callisto to Boyd to keep him going while she’s laid up.

Callisto is a great horse to ride because he’s a very careful and a classic, slow jumping horse – he’s great to practice your position on. I think event riders, especially me, tend to ride in a defensive position, especially on young horses or horses that tend to get backed off on cross-country. George really addressed that your position has to change for show jumping because the horse has to be up and round. He worked on the 2-point and 3-point position and which position you need for specific types of jumps.

For instance he set up a vertical with a Liverpool underneath – a jump a horse would typically spook at. First he had you approach sitting in a defensive position with your weight in the saddle; then a lighter 3-point position, and then a 2-point, which is the lightest seat. The horse tends to jump up higher when you’re off their back more. You tend to get a little left behind when you’re in a more defensive position, and then you end up more on their back, which doesn’t allow them to fully bascule and use their backs over the jumps.

HH Lancaster, a 7-year-old Warmblood cross gelding owned by Densey and Ron Juvonen and Justina and Art Dodge, is a spookier young horse. A lot of times he’s behind my leg and I get defensive riding him; now that he’s braver and not stopping any more, I practiced being less defensive. He was jumping fantastic and it was a really good learning experience, getting him really in front of my leg.

During one exercise I put him way too deep on a bending five-stride to a very scopey jump, and George called me a 'Ditzy blonde on a big-striding horse.' He can be tough, but were all prepared for that – when he’s blunt or harsh on you it makes you want to try even harder. It was such a great opportunity for all of us to ride with him, and actually I think he went pretty easy on us in that regard.

One great aspect of the clinic is it was all really focused on the basics, so we can keep working on everything we learned at home. At the end of each session he had us figure-eight the horses, with a jump at the middle of the “eight”, and get the circles tighter and tighter. It was a good exercise for rider flexibility because you had to land and turn off the jump – it was also a good sort of strength and flexibility exercise for the horse and rider, jumping and turning and using your core.

Boyd had gone up to watch George’s clinic at Gladstone earlier this year, and when he came home he had us using that exercise a lot. As a rider it feels terrible doing the exercise, but watching the other horses go you can see how it helps them. I think it’s a really good exercise.

George really focused on the basics, rideability, and getting the horses loose laterally. I think it all applies whether you’re a professional or a younger rider, and for teaching riders at all levels.”

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