January/February 2016

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44 JA N UA R Y/ F E B R UA R Y 2 016 UNTACKED COVER STORY GEORGE H. MORRIS' reputation as a legend extends across many equestrian sports, but fame has never been his goal. It's merely a byproduct of doing what he loves most, all day, every day, for seven decades, in the monomaniacal pursuit of perfection. By MOLLY SORGE T here's a poetic irony to the fact that the founding father of American equitation doesn't touch computers, let alone know how to Google the countless pop-culture memes his legend has inspired: "George Morris doesn't hold for a distance. Distances hold for him." "George Morris can lead a horse to water and make it drink." "George Morris titled his book 'Hunter Seat Equitation' because 'the Bible' was already taken." "For George Morris, reins are just decoration. He can stop a horse with his mind." And then, of course, there's the timeless maxim, "What would George do?" If anyone has reached icon status in the world of horse shows, it is George H. Morris. His first name alone con- jures up images of his hawk-like, piercing stare and the sound of his raspy voice commanding, "Gal-lop!" from the in-gate in measured, precise tones. A mythological aura has developed around him as a draconian teacher, a bas- tion of riding knowledge and an unapproachable legend. But there's so much more to George. He coaches Olympic grand prix riders, talented juniors and 2'6"-division amateurs with equal intensity. On his way out of bed every morning, he does 60 push-ups. Every morn- ing. At the age of 77, he can still ride without stirrups better than most teenagers. He's also wickedly funny and no stranger to an off-color joke. He carefully replies to notes in his own handwriting. He battled debilitating performance anxiety throughout his unrivaled career in the show ring. And he's long grappled with the complex questions of how to reconcile his private life with his abiding, all-encompassing passion for his profession. Because at the end of the day, "It's about the horse," George says. "And that's all." THE MAN Behind The Myth

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