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George H. Morris Gladstone Program is More Than a Riding Lesson

Sponsors Make Education Possible


Antioch, IL – June 23, 2015 – The George H. Morris Gladstone Program at Annali-Brookwood Farm this past week is far more than just a riding lesson with Morris. Ask any of the riders and they’ll tell you the experience off the horse was a chance of a lifetime as much as the opportunity to ride with Morris the legend himself. The riders consisted of five professionals, two amateurs and two juniors, who were hungry for education and a chance to up their game.
Organizer Diane Carney along with Morris, made the arrangements for riders to get an education from presenters who are significant in their arsenal of world renown professionals.
Among them, Olympic rider Anne Kursinski came for the first day, not only demonstrate proper flat work, but also to inspire the young riders. She spoke from the heart as she shared her personal stories with the group. Riders were just as inspired from her stories as they were by her ride.

Rider Kelly Smith of Portland, OR said, “Anne has been someone I have admired from afar my entire riding career. She has inspired me in so many ways. But, if I have to pick one thing I learned it's the way she communicates with horses: Zero resistance, zero judgment and an incredible amount of love and respect. She speaks of having a conversation and a relationship with horses. Love and respect are the root of every relationship and she demonstrated those qualities in the most inspiring, and even emotionally moving, way.”


Dr. Marvin Beeman of Littleton Equine Medical Center has dedicated his life to horses and his love for them.  When he’s not working with them he’s playing with them in the foxhunting fields or the polo field, and was eager to share his life long experience and knowledge with the young group. Carney has known Dr. Beeman since the 1960's. His life stories such as his Olympic experience with Melanie Smith Taylor and Calypso, which is when Morris met Dr. Beeman, sparked the interest of the riders and his in depth knowledge of conformation and soundness created a lively question and answer session.

Michael Tokaruk, professional from Memphis, TN, said, “Dr. Beeman is a brilliant veterinary mind that helped me understand the conformation and biomechanics of the sport horse better. His insight was very valuable to me and I will certainly use it in the future when I am evaluating my next jumping horse purchases!”   

"Dr. Beeman helped me to be more aware of conformation," said Ariel Black, Scottsdale, AZ.  "Now I find myself going through the barn full of horses and evaluating them and determining how their different strengths and weaknesses affect performance. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to listen to a man who is passionate and has such a wealth of knowledge."

Farrier Billy Liggett shared his knowledge of years of experience shoeing grand prix horses around the country. His hands on presentation was a learning experience for everyone and riders were eager to ask questions.


"The farrier presentation was extremely eye opening," said Hunter Holloway, Topeka, KS.  "I think it's very important to know your horse in all areas. It was very generous of Billy and Tim Liggett to explain how the foot should fall as the horse walks and what types of things to do to help keep a horse's foot balanced. I also felt learning about the different types of shoes was beneficial such as, an aluminum shoe with titanium is so much better, than solely aluminum in the new footing that has taken hold across the country. It was such an amazing experience to have such knowledgeable farriers take the time to share this information with us!"

Brenda Mueller gave the media presentation on behalf of Phelps Media Group and Chicago Equestrian. Her topics of marketing and branding were helpful to the participants both now and in the future. The hands on press conference gave each rider a chance in the hot seat while their peers, Morris and Carney fired questions at them to see how they answered. Mueller encouraged riders to contact her anytime regarding their marketing and media questions.

"The media presentation really helped me to understand how to go about creating a positive personal brand and how to carry that over into interviews, advertising, and even sponsorships," said Caroline McLeese, Omaha, NE. "It will definitely help me coordinate my media and my message as my career grows."

Back in the barn was accomplished rider, Jennifer Alfano, with Dr. Mark Cassells to help riders learn important barn management skills and high end care of the horse.


“From the moment I met Jen Alfano, I could see that she is definitely someone who puts horses first,” said program participant Morgan Dickerson, Pasadena, CA.  “For years I have heard about what a great rider she is, but at the Gladstone Program I got a new appreciation for the high-level care and attention she gives horses when she is not riding them. It was clear that she had exacting standards and was a stickler for details. I definitely was inspired by her to step up my horse management game and try to emulate her high-level of excellence in the barn. I know that when I return home I will take this awareness with me and continue to work to put more polish on my stable management skills.”  

Author of Principles of Conformation AnalysisDr. Deb Bennett is sought after by the Smithsonian Institute and the Chicago Field Museum for her expertise on animal anatomy.

“Dr. Deb got me thinking about the horse from a different perspective,” said professional Liz Atkins, Hampshire, IL. “Her explanation of "raising the base of the neck" gave great insight as to how the horse truly works from tail to head. Her teachings encouraged me to spend more time working with my horses on the ground, since that translates so heavily to when you're on their back.”

Morris not only gave riders skills and exercises to improve their riding but also challenged them to do better and never stop learning. Throughout the week, Morris encouraged the participants to read books and learn that a good horse starts in the barn.

"Riding with George is always such an inspiration,” said professional Serah Vogus, Antioch, IL. “The emphasis on fundamentals and watching him transform horses using only those fundamentals is fascinating. I always leave inspired and motivated and I can feel it in every ride and every lesson I teach. In this program, we are fortunate enough to also refine our management skills and I most definitely will be making over my farm as soon as I head home.  Because of the information I learned from Billy Liggett, I will never turn a horse in the barn the way I used to! We have also planned a "skills lab" to go over proper care and horsemanship in the barn."

Morris also talked about the importance of having a technical advisor to objectively look at the rider, their horses and goals and make educated recommendations from their expert experience whether that is in international competition, team competition or individual goals.

“A technical advisor has helped and will continue to help our program in many ways,” said Brandie Holloway, Topeka, KS.  “From proper vet, farrier, and health care to choosing our show schedule for the upcoming year, two minds are better than one. Having a sounding board and experienced people brainstorming often comes up with great ideas. Not limited to but including bit choice, caulk choice, appropriate show schedule for our current string of horses etc. A technical advisor is crucial to the success of our riders, trainers, horses, breeding program and Equi-Venture Farm as a whole.”

The riders from this program will continue to progress to higher levels of competition because they have the desire for education and the willingness to learn from others. They plan to take the additional knowledge and apply it to their systems to enhance their own programs.
Morris states, “There are five qualities of a team rider, which are; ambition, emotion, management, selection and talent last.” 
These programs as a whole are few and far between and often suffer because of the emphasis on horse showing and getting on the “data” list rather than the quality of a rider’s program and pursuit of excellence, in other words, the ambition, emotion and management Morris talks about. Horsemanship is 24/7 and our sport cannot keep up without it.

"It’s difficult to get funding for these educational opportunities,” said organizer Diane Carney. “Without the help of the audit sponsors and those willing to contribute, such as USHJA Zone 5, it would be hard to get the high quality presenters to make a difference for the up and coming riders in our industry. The higher organizations use their funds for the teams and team competitions so getting education dollars is not easy. We are grateful for the audit sponsors who help both riders and non-riders get a chance to experience this opportunity. I wouldn't be surprised if more programs like this become available across the country.”


Special thanks to Brookwood Farm and Rush and Caroline Weeden for the use of their beautiful facility and staff. Thank you USHJA Zone 5 for their support of the program. Special thanks to Serah Vogus, Millcreek Farm for assisting with additional stabling. Thank you to the Evergreen Invitational, Credit Suisse, Queenie Productions, Marshall and Sterling, Benchmark Farm, Phelps Media Group, Chicago Equestrian, Showplace Productions, G4 Marketing Group,, Lamplight Equestrian Center and Ann K. Hubbards Tack Shop.
For more information on future programs, contact Diane Carney at