On Sunday, a moment before McLain Ward galloped around the 1.50m jump-off track in the International Ring at Wellington’s Winter Equestrian Festival, the two-time Olympic gold medalist stopped at the rail for a quick word with former US team chef d’equipe George Morris.
Ward had two mounts in the four horse jump off for the $72,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic CSI 5*. With only two trips between his rides, he was short on preparation time but not, it would seem, on advice.
“He was just telling me what the one [before me] did,” said Ward.
“George is always in my corner, and I trust his input. If he has something to say, or he sees something, I always hear him. I have my plan when I come up, and you have to be careful not to let too many things get in your head, but with George, I have a good rapport with him. If he says something, I always take notice.”
Morris, it’s worth noting, led the Americans to team silver at the 2006 World Championships in Aachen, Germany and to team gold medal 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong during his tenure as chef—both teams of which Ward was a part.
Whatever insights they shared in that fleeting moment worked. Ward and and Tradition de la Roque topped a field of 45 to win the 5* class, logging their fifth top five placing in an FEI ranking class since September 2018.
“She’s really been phenomenal for us,” said Ward of the sales horse previously competed by American Olympian Reed Kessler. “She’s been in the results almost every time out of the box. If not, she was very unlucky not to be. We’re really thrilled to have her. But I’m sure she’s going to find a home somewhere along the way. We’ve been on a little of four-fault-itis run here, so it’s nice to get a win in the bag.”
And to have Morris in your corner.