In show jumping, few horsemen are as universally revered, and feared, as the venerable George Morris. Pros gush over him. Amateurs quake in his presence. Kittens die. This is what George himself has to say about being, well, George Morris.
You have this larger than life persona. There are memes on the Internet comparing you to Chuck Norris, entire websites devoted to quoting you. People regularly refer to you as “God.” How do feel about that?
Well, I’m old. And if you’re old and you don’t know anything, that’s not too good. You have to have some essence of being old. And if you’re into any endeavor and you’re old, the one asset is wisdom. You know more. Young people don’t think you do, but you do. That’s part of the cycle.
So, I’m full circle. I’m not looking to go to horseshows. I’ve been to horseshows. Horseshows are wonderful when you’re participating in them, but they’re all the same. My last chapter will be back to where I started, which is riding and educating, teaching. That’s where it’s at.
If I’m not doing that, I’m in bed in at my house reading a book. Literally, in bed. I get up for lunch. I get up for dinner. I go to the gym. The rest, I’m in bed reading a book, unless I’m here. That’s my retirement.
Education is clearly a passion of yours. What draws you to teaching?
I’ve always been interested in education because I was a taught rider. I wasn’t a natural, athletic, game, gutsy rider. I was taught riding. Every step of the way, I was taught. I was lucky I had really great teachers. But I had to learn it up here [in my head] before I learned it here [in my body].
I’m an intellectual horseman. That’s the way I am. So, education has always been part of my interest. I’ve been teaching unofficially for 60 years and officially, 50 years.
In your mind, what have been the keys to your success?
I think the key to any success is persistence, perseverance. A lot of people are very talented. I was not unusually talented. No matter what happens, you go the next day, you go the next day.
Is there anything left you still hope to achieve?
I’m very happy in semi-retirement. Next week, I’m going to visit a friend I grew up with from the time I was eight, [Glenna deRham]. She’s putting on a clinic out in Montana. We rode together. She won the Maclay at the Garden. Then I’m going to judge Thunderbird Show Park. I judge very little. That’ll be fun to judge a show like that.
I go to places I like. If I don’t like the situation, I don’t do it anymore. It has to be a quality situation. I’m not good in a messy situation.
Of the young riders you see today are there any that remind you of yourself?
There always are. Last year I judged the Maclay Finals and the boy who ended up winning, Jacob Pope, he was very much my [type], except he was more talented. He was built like I was. He had that look in his eye. He wanted to go ahead and go bigger and farther.
Jen Marsden sees gutsy people like her. She wasn’t built to ride. She’s a great rider. She’s a very strong, gusty, accurate rider. Years ago, there weren’t as many.
You always see young people coming up who remind you of a certain type that was in another generation.
What do want your legacy to be?
My legacy won’t be as rider. There are lots of riders. My legacy, I hope, will be as a teacher. That’s my legacy.
Carley Sparks covers show jumping and related ridiculousness at getmyfix.org.