This week’s Ocala Sunday Spotlight shines on accomplished hunter and show jumping rider, Daniel Geitner of Aiken, South Carolina. Geitner and his wife Cathy, started DFG Stables about 25 years ago and now their success speaks for itself. We caught up with Daniel to learn more about DFG Stables and some of his top mounts.
WEC: Tell us about yourself.
My wife, Cathy and I live in Aiken, South Carolina with our two children, Wyatt and Lilly. We have lived there for about 25 years.
I grew up on a farm, fox hunting, steeple chasing and playing polo while I was in high school. During that time, I also dabbled in hunters and jumpers. I grew up riding thoroughbreds and did just about everything which was a great introduction into riding.
I probably didn’t get really serious about the sport until I was in college. I went to St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, North Carolina. I was a part of the equestrian program where I showed one year in [Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association] IHSA and then [American National Riding Commission] ANRC the other years.
That’s when I knew I wanted to do this as a living, so my now wife Cathy and I drove down to Aiken and started DFG Stables.
We have had the same operation throughout the years with a focus on producing nice horses and riders. We enjoy training and producing at all levels from short stirrup to baby green to the grand prix. We have some clients that are very serious and some that just like to ride for fun every once in a while. We are pretty laid back and accommodate each person no matter what level.
The other half of our business focuses on sales. I go to Europe a bunch and seek out potential sale horses. I have a couple of partners over there that produce quite the talent, whether it’s a hunter or a jumper.
WEC: Is it challenging to go from doing the derbies on Fridays to the Saturday night grand prix?
It was difficult at first, but I have done so much catch riding throughout my career it really helped with my mindset. You would have to get on a horse and figure them out in five or ten minutes. I enjoy that, I like figuring out new and different horses.
The key is to reset your mind, forget about the horse you just rode and get on the next one. Also, you can’t think about the horse you had yesterday, because they are different every day no matter what.
In the beginning it took me a while to learn that you can’t just win on every horse. When I was younger, I would try and win every class I entered, but now I focus on creating the best round for that horse, no matter what the result. Last week happened to be my week on Vesta De Lavardin. I think that was the quickest and best round for that horse and it was good enough to win.
WEC: Tell us about a few of your big derby and grand prix horses that you are currently competing.
Vesta De Lavardin, we bought as a six-year-old and produced her through the ranks. Her owner, November Hill loves to breed horses, so eventually our plan is to keep and breed her. We are all very excited for that.
Fazous, I have had for three years. When I first got him, he was a bit inexperienced at the bigger levels, but he has really continued to progress. The Saturday night atmosphere is still a bit fresh for him, so this is great knowledge and experience for him.
The stallion, Igor Van De Heibos, is a new horse for me. I am lucky, he has great owners that are allowing me to show him until he gets sold. He’s quite a seasoned horse and has done a lot, so we are just having fun.
Most of the hunters I ride are owner’s horses. I am currently showing a few in the derbies, including Coltrane who will probably go to derby finals next year. He is a first-year horse, so he’s not quite ready yet, but I think he will be great next year.
I ride another horse called Mr Manhattan that has won a lot. He has a brilliant style and is a lot of fun to ride. I am lucky enough to ride so many amazing horses, it’s difficult to name them all.
WEC: What does a typical show day look like for you?
Well, we brought about 35 horses with us, so it’s quite busy. We usually start around 4:30am. Everyone comes to the barn so we can get all the riding and longeing done early in the morning. We have a great group of grooms and riders that know their jobs. My wife is unbelievably organized, and she has it down to a science and everyone does their roles.
I like to bring horses out a few times throughout the day for shorter periods of times, rather than doing a long warmup in the heat. It’s nice because I can school my jumpers in indoors in the morning.
On Saturday, we had low junior jumpers at 8am, and then Cathy was training the Adult Hunters, then we ran and did Children’s and ponies. We are all over the place. I barely see Cathy throughout the day because we are both running around so much.
WEC: What has your experience been like showing at World Equestrian Center – Ocala this summer?
It’s been amazing. We were looking for something different to do this summer and when we found out that these were rated shows, this was immediately on our radar. We couldn’t ask for a better place to show. We get to show in the indoors, there is shaded areas staged everywhere for the horses with fans, so you’re never forced to just stand out in the sun. This facility has really covered all bases. Even down to the mattresses in the stalls, all my horses are conked out all the time. It’s hilarious, to see how much they enjoy it.
I am excited to see what comes next for this facility and we will definitely be back for the winter circuit.
Thank you, Daniel for taking to time to chat with us! We can’t wait to have you back this winter.
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.