At age 45, George realized that his dream of competing internationally was never going to become reality unless he changed his life to make it happen. He was a talented rider and trainer capable of matching up against the best international dressage competitors, but he realized that to reach the height of international dressage competition, he would have to focus solely on that goal. Hence, when the unexpected offer arrived to become the trainer at Joann and Chuck Smith’s Gypsy Woods Farm in Richwood, Ohio, he took it.
The 187-acre Gypsy Woods is a Warmblood breeding farm owned and managed by Joann Smith, an FEI-level adult amateur rider, and her husband Chuck Smith, who had owned an insurance business. Among the farm’s bloodlines are Donnerhall, Goldschlaeger, Casanova, Pik Solo and Banditentraum. The farm’s foals are by such stallions a Riverman, Contucci, Parabol, Goldluck, Cantango, Domiro, Frohwind and Calamiro.
It was soon after George began his new job that the Smith’s purchased Rocher during a horse-shopping trip to Europe. The nine-year-old Westfalen mare had been owned by a 20-year-old girl who had competed her in just two Young Rider Grand Prixes. Rocher was not the easiest of rides, which is why the Young Rider had decided to offer her for sale. Arriving in Florida in February of 2001, George and Rocher made their competition debut winning at Lamplight and Tempel selection shows and by qualifying to compete at the June Festival of Champions Grand Prix Championship at USET headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey, where they placed fifth.