Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rider’s Wednesday: Those Who Can, Teach

In keeping with Monday’s mentor motif, I’d like to share an e-mail I received from a friend who recently attended an Equine Affaire:

George Morris’s morning clinic [gave us] the opportunity to see the master at work.

George had six riders and they were schooling distances and lines. One young rider on a lovely Thoroughbred mare was clearly over-horsed. The horse was going around the arena with her head in the air, mostly out of control, stopping at the fences, kicking at the stick, etc.

George asked one of the other riders to mount the mare and school her through the problem. The young fellow had ridden with George in the past and was a lovely rider. He couldn’t deal with her either.

Next thing we know, George removes his jacket and gets on her himself. The mare ran out, bucked, kicked, spun, but George insisted with strong and swift aids and steady hands. Ten minutes later, the mare was more round and forward and jumped the line at its full height.

The transformation of the horse from frantic (and I think sore-mouthed, it looked like she was bitted with a wire snaffle), to forward and understanding, was amazing. I felt like I could see the horse thinking, “This guy is tough and means business, but is consistent and fair-handed.”

It was a masterclass.

Now there’s a teacher. Not only are his own accomplishments legendary (He was 14 the year he won both the AHSA Medal and the Maclay – the youngest person ever to do so. He’s ridden for the U.S. and won Olympic silver and international gold. He was Director of the USET, and is the Chef d’Equipe of the USEF Show Jumping Team,), but he is also willing to give a clinic participant the benefit of ALL his experience and expertise.

It’s true, the glory and the accolades go to those who cross the finish line first, who score the final run, or who make the winning touchdown. But the real stars are the one who power the bright lights. No “winner” gets to the top without a great coach.

We all need master mentors. And, too often, teaching is a thankless job. When you find someone who is capable of taking you to the next level – who has not only been there personally, but who also can ably show you the way – jump at the chance to learn from greatness.