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Practical Horseman - - Practical Tips & Talk - Sue Weak­ley

Chart­ing Jump­ing’s Fu­ture

When­ever the leg­endary Ge­orge Mor­ris talks about jump­ing, peo­ple are sure to lis­ten. And when they are es­pe­cially im­pressed by what he has to say, they can be moved to ap­plaud as well. That’s what hap­pened dur­ing “Jump­ing into the Fu­ture,” a panel dis­cus­sion that brought to­gether a di­verse col­lec­tion of top names in the sport in late March dur­ing the fi­nal week of the Win­ter Eques­trian Fes­ti­val in Welling­ton, Florida.

The ses­sion was or­ga­nized and hosted by in­ter­na­tional stew­ard and judge Ce­sar Hirsch, who kicked off the pro­ceed­ings by say­ing, “I be­lieve that sport changes lives. Com­ing to­gether is a be­gin­ning. Keep­ing to­gether is progress. Work­ing to­gether is a suc­cess.”

From there the dis­cus­sion, mod­er­ated by horse-show an­nounc­ers Steven Wilde and Peter Dou­ble­day, turned to the top­ics of course de­sign and judg­ing. Leopoldo Pala­cios, a course de­signer from Venezuela, sug­gested that those in his field add more ques­tions and al­low more time. Fel­low course de­signer Guil­herme Jorge from Brazil agreed. “Care­ful­ness is not the only ques­tion,” he said, adding that va­ri­ety is key when it comes to jumps. “We want the best horse­and-rider com­bi­na­tion to win—the one that is fast, care­ful, scopey and brazen.”

Then Mor­ris weighed in. “To­day there are three ways to ride jumpers: with care­ful­ness, with speed, and high and wide,” he said. “What both­ers me as a teacher is it is so one-di­men­sional. Now you can’t teach bold—you also call it ‘ courage’ and you call it ‘guts.’ You can’t re­ally teach that to­day. There’s no bold. At ev­ery show, they are all the same fences and all the same cour­ses. That’s sad. I have to be hon­est—it’s bor­ing. The Olympic Games had va­ri­ety. I’ve al­ways liked va­ri­ety be­cause I think it makes bet­ter horses and makes bet­ter rid­ers, and I’m in­ter­ested in teach­ing bet­ter rid­ers. I am still a teacher and I am not given per­mis­sion to teach peo­ple to solve dif­fer­ent prob­lems.” His com­ments were met with ap­plause. Next up was the topic of pro­mo­tion. Amer­i­can com­peti­tor Lucy Davis sug­gested that it’s time to make jump­ing more en­ter­tain­ing and in­ter­est­ing. She sug­gested more back­sto­ries about rid­ers and their horses to ap­peal to a broader au­di­ence and build con­nec­tion. The sole mil­len­nial pan­elist, she also stressed the power of us­ing so­cial me­dia to heighten in­ter­est.

The evening closed with the panel—which in­cluded rid­ers McLain Ward (USA), Max Amaya (Ar­gentina) and Ian Mil­lar (Canada) along with Juliet Reid, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Wash­ing­ton In­ter­na­tional Horse Show—tak­ing ques­tions from the au­di­ence. One fo­cused on whether a 12-year-old from the mid­dle class in the United States has a chance to make it to the top of the sport.

“Al­most all of the Top 25 in our sport came from a mid­dle-class back­ground,” Ward re­sponded. “There are more peo­ple com­pet­ing than ever be­fore. That has to re­flect that there’s a great base that wants to move up the lev­els of the sport. I ab­so­lutely think there is an op­por­tu­nity.”

It was also Ward who of­fered per­haps the most im­pact­ful sen­ti­ment of the evening: “The only way our sport can go for­ward is if our horses’ in­ter­ests come first.”—

From left: Ce­sar Hirsch, Steven Wilde, Max Amaya, Leopoldo Pala­cios, Ge­orge Mor­ris, Lucy Davis, McLain Ward, Juliet Reid, Ian Mil­lar, Guil­herme Jorge and Peter Dou­ble­day

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