Most people in our sport would agree that there’s no better way to go out on top than to retire after the Olympic Games. That’s certainly the case for Canadian FEI official, Kim Morrison, who made the decision to retire from judging following a last hurrah at the Tokyo Olympics.
Let’s not forget that Morrison of Calgary, AB, has combined her demanding judging career with a day job; she currently works in software implementation project management with Enrich Software Corp. And we can also empathize with her non-horsey husband’s desire to travel to somewhere other than a horse show. Morrison and Greg O’Brien, a business analyst, met 22 years ago while playing ultimate frisbee in Vancouver, BC, and now looking forward to spending more recreational time together.
And so, Morrison, who has been a two-time recipient of the Jump Canada “Official of the Year” Award, goes out at the top of her game where FEI judging is concerned but remains committed to her volunteer roles with Equestrian Canada (EC) and the EC Jumping Committee.
At what age did you start riding and what was the name of your pony or horse?
I started riding when I was six but had been pestering my mother for two years before that. It was on Sargent Powder, a little grey Welsh pony. He had one speed which was full speed. He was fearless, and we were a good pair. I had three older brothers, all of whom rode, and my closest brother rode until he was 18 so we were doing the junior ranks together.
I starting riding at St. George’s Stable under Joe Selinger. Everyone who learned from “Mr. S” has stories about him. I have very fond memories of his frequently uttered “aye ya yeye.” Then I trained throughout my competitive career with Frank Selinger. I rode until I was 25, competing all over North America including winters in Florida and Arizona. I was short listed for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games team.
My family also had a small breeding operation at home in Millarville, AB. “Mr. S” helped with that as well.
Are you currently still riding?
No. I just don’t have the time and I don’t think it’s fair to have horses and not give them your full attention.
How long have you been involved with Equestrian Canada, and in what capacity?
When I quit riding at age 25, I decided I needed to give back to the sport and became an official. I had just moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia and then was doing stuff outside of the horse world. During that time, I started and franchised a retail business that earned me a “Top 40 Under 40” Award from Business in Vancouver. After 10 years in Vancouver, I moved back to Calgary. I told Spruce Meadows that I was available to judge and quickly got pulled in, then got pulled into the FEI ranks from there.
Francois Ferland, who was in charge of our officials program at the time, opened the door to get me over to Olympia in England and to the 2008 World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden. He suggested that I pay my own way both times to get the experience and meet the right people, knowing that the powers that be are in Europe. I met the right people at both events and my judging career went from there.
I was on the ground jury for the 2010 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Lexington, KY, and then President of the ground jury for the 2014 WEG in Normandy, France. I was also President of the ground jury at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. I’ve done six or seven World Cup Finals now and two Olympics in London and Tokyo.
I was lucky to be at Spruce at the right time and appreciate all the opportunities it has afforded me. After 28 or 29 years as a judge, I’m retiring. For me to keep going to these big international events doesn’t open the door for others that want to go down that path. It’s time to step aside and give someone else the opportunity.
I will continue to be involved with EC as a member of the EC Jumping Committee, and Lisa Osachoff and I just revamped the EC National Officials Education Program. We’re proud to say it was recently accredited by the FEI for level one equivalency.
In the future, I’m interested in helping EC in other capacities, maybe with some of the pieces around their relationships with various provincial organizations or with competition organizers so that everyone is successful. I know a lot about governance so could help there, too. I will try to leverage my knowledge and, also, call on the international contacts I’ve made over the years to help when appropriate.
What is your favourite competition memory?
My favourite memory from judging would be when Nick Skelton was double clear to win the team gold medal for the British at the London Olympics and the crowd going bonkers. It was so cool to see him do that on home turf. The atmosphere was absolutely electric with him being English.
From my own riding career, I can think of instances of being in Florida, when the show used to be at the old polo grounds in Wellington, and training with Joe Fargis and Conrad Homfeld and beating Conrad in an intermediate jumper class. That was fun.
Also doing the grand prix at Spruce Meadows the year I was trying to go to the Seoul Olympics. I had had a top grand prix finish and everyone told me to try for the team with Equileo, better known as “EQ.” Just the feeling of jumping those old English-style derby-like courses that Pamela Carruthers used to build when she was the course designer. We were running down to these big, 1.80m-wide oxers and thinking, “okay, so this is what we’re doing.” The things we did in our younger, less fearful days!
Most embarrassing horse show moment?
Being part of the trick riding group “Mr. S” put together to be a half-time show at Spruce Meadows.
Favourite horse show venue?
I love the ‘Masters’ tournament at Spruce Meadows because it’s special and, if I picked an indoor one, it would be Olympia in London. It’s before Christmas and is a magical show. I like them both for different reasons.
Which competition is still on your bucket list?
Now that I’ve retired from judging I don’t have a bucket list anymore, but Hickstead in England would be one show I’ve never been to that I’d like to have seen.
Going to Scotland, but with a stop to do a hike that goes through the narrow belt across England. It’s called Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route, and you walk from one side of England to the other and stop at little inns along the way. It takes you through the most beautiful scenery in northern England. I would do the leg that goes through the Lake District. Then on to Scotland! My husband is first generation from Scotland, the Glasgow area, and I’ve never been.
Cats or dogs?
Dogs. Our most recent one was an English Bulldog named Angus. He was a character. We’ve had Labs, a Springer Spaniel, a Corgi. We had some quasi-rescues growing up, too.
Last show you binge-watched?
Shetland. It’s an English crime drama on Amazon Prime. The Shetland Isles are as much of the story as the crimes are. It’s moody with a lot of atmosphere.
Favourite motto or saying?
Conquering any mountain starts with a single step.
Name three things that are always in your fridge.
Milk, vegetables, and eggs. Or you could replace “eggs” with three jars of salsa, all open. We’re always wondering which one was opened the most recently.
If you could ride any horse, which one would you pick?
King Edward. He’s not very big but he presents himself as being larger and has a presence about him that’s hard to ignore.
(Editor’s Note – King Edward was ridden to a team gold medal by Sweden’s Henrick von Eckermann at the Tokyo Olympics.)
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
That I have deep roots in Calgary. My ancestors came here with the North-West Mounted Police, the predecessor to the RCMP, when they were settling the west. Lieutenant-Colonel James Macleod was my great, great grandfather on my mom’s side. He was the second Commissioner of the North-West Mounted Police from 1876 to 1880 and led the troops as they were settling the west. Fort Macleod is named after him, as is Macleod Trail in Calgary. He also gave Calgary its name, as he was from Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. It means ‘clear running water’ in Gaelic. Another fun fact – Macleod is my middle name.