Noble Life

Gretchen Zavarella: Riding with a Legend

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Noble Outfitters Sponsored Athlete Gretchen Zavarella recently participated in a clinic taught by legendary coach George Morris. We asked her a couple of questions about how does it feel to be riding with a legend.


NO: You’ve recently ridden with a legendary horseman and coach George Morris. How did you get the opportunity?

GZ: The day the clinic schedule was released, I reached out to every facility hosting him within a 6-hour drive. I had finally gotten up the nerve to try to ride with him after years of wanting to clinic with him.

NO: Can you describe the clinic? How did an average day look like?

GZ: The clinic was 3 days of riding and there were 3 different sections each day. Each section was approximately 2 hours and at a certain fence height. Riders entered into a section that was appropriate for their own and their horse’s ability. Each section started off with flat work, then jumping and then ended bareback. There wasn’t a set theme each day, but all the exercises had a definite focus. After the second night of the clinic, we actually had a chance to have our books signed by George and talk with him.

NO: So George had you ride bareback – how interesting! Did he say why?

GZ: George said that riders do not ride bareback enough anymore. He said that it helps maintain a natural seat, instead of a manufactured one from the big blocks and rolls that are in saddles these days. He really emphasized getting back to the basics of riding.

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Gretchen Zavarella riding bareback during George Morris Clinic

NO: Sounds like a great experience. What was the most important thing you learned? 

GZ: I learned that sometimes simplicity is best. Focus on basics and the big things are not such a big deal. I was also reminded to make the most of my hacks and warmups. I realized that I had gotten into the rut of the same exercises all the time to warm up or on my flat days.

NO: Would you recommend the clinic to other equestrians?

GZ: If anyone has the chance to ride with this legendary horseman, jump on the opportunity! A word of caution: I would recommend that you do your homework, though. Read his books and know how to properly turn out your horse and yourself. George doesn’t have patience for uneducated riders or sloppy appearances.


Gretchen Zavarella with legendary coach George Morris during one of his clinics

NO: How is George in person?

GZ: A charmer! He’s not as scary as you hear and he is only really tough on you because he wants the best. I didn’t find him to be unnecessarily mean, but he is tough. He won’t let anything slip through the cracks and that is the type of coach I like. I want to be pushed every stride and he certainly does that, but he also gives compliments when they are due.

NO: And finally, what is your favorite George Morris quote?

GZ: LOL I actually had two from the clinic: “The light is on but nobody’s home” and “Don’t stand there looking like a bleating sheep.” I don’t know why the sheep comment made me laugh so hard, but I had to pull it together while I was riding to not bust out laughing.

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