Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

Daniel Geitner Wouldn’t Change Anything About His Career Path

His illustrious college years helped jumpstart a thriving business.

Daniel Geitner enjoys just about anything having to do with a horse. Although his primary business at DFG Stables in Aiken, S.C., focuses on hunter/jumpers, he was also raised foxhunting, excelled at steeplechasing, won national titles in intercollegiate competition, and maintains a small Thoroughbred racing stable.
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His illustrious college years helped jumpstart a thriving business.

Daniel Geitner enjoys just about anything having to do with a horse. Although his primary business at DFG Stables in Aiken, S.C., focuses on hunter/jumpers, he was also raised foxhunting, excelled at steeplechasing, won national titles in intercollegiate competition, and maintains a small Thoroughbred racing stable.

Geitner always knew horses would be his career, and he proved he was willing to work hard to utilize his natural talent while studying at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C.

“It was one of the few colleges that had riding for guys,” he said. “I liked a small school and the small town area and being close to all the horse activity in Southern Pines [N.C.] and Camden [S.C.].”

Now, Geitner said, more schools offer males the option of riding. “It’s gotten easier,” he said. “But I knew I needed college, and I wanted to be in horses.”

In his first year of school, he competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association, and judge George Morris selected him as the winner of the prestigious Cacchione Cup at the 1994 IHSA Championships, a remarkable feat for a freshman.

He also competed on the Affiliated National Riding Commission team every year, winning the individual titles his junior and senior years and helping St. Andrews win the team championship in 1996 and 1997.

“He had a real impact on the St. Andrews program and helping it get national recognition,” said Shelby French, who coached at St. Andrews while Geitner was there. Now teaching at Sweet Briar College (Va.), French continues to do business with Geitner today.

French first met Geitner many years earlier, when she was judging and he was aboard a pony named Miss Piggy. “The first show where I saw him, I remember asking the management, ‘Who is that kid and who does he ride with? He’s so talented.’

“He’s a naturally gifted rider,” she added. “All of us who worked with him helped him evolve, but he’s a natural talent. He has great hands and is really a sympathetic rider. I just tried to give him a lot of opportunities and put him on a lot of different horses and let him grow through the experiences.”

An Overall Horseman

Geitner’s parents bred horses, and his mother nurtured his interest in foxhunting as well as showing. His steeplechasing career started while he was in college, and he rode in 20 to 30 races.

“It was quite a thrill,” he said. “But I got out of it when I realized I wanted to train hunters and jumpers. I realized I needed to focus on that.”

Geitner’s steeplechasing experience has been beneficial to his career, he said. “Racing is so focused on fitness and soundness,” he said. “It taught me a lot about legs, how to keep them tight and cold and about fitness. It’s helped a lot with the jumpers. It’s all about being a good horse person.”

As a business and equine major, Geitner said he learned a great deal about the overall care and nutrition of horses while in college. And, he enjoyed riding victories at a school that values equestrian sports as much as other colleges idolize their football teams.

“The IHSA was pretty neat,” he said. “It’s neat to cheer walk-trot riders. It’s kind of how a barn’s run, with everyone from grand prix to short stirrup, and you treat them all equally and cheer them all on.”

He also enjoyed the ANRC’s laidback environment. “It was a very good start in equitation, with the old-fashioned style of galloping to the jumps but without the pressure of the Medal and Maclay classes and with everyone cheering for everyone else.

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Geitner also valued the experience of riding such a variety of horses during his college years—and has found that unlocking the key to different horses is one of the things he loves most about his sport.

“I do a lot of catch riding now and getting to know a horse on the opening circle,” he said. “I really enjoy the fact that we ride lots of horses at a show. I enjoy all kinds of horses; it’s what keeps me in the game, figuring out all horses, especially young ones.”

And he never stops working to better his own abilities. “You have to keep looking to upgrade the quality of your horses and your riding and horsemanship and don’t rest on your laurels,” he said.

French bought Geitner his first grand prix horse—The Great Composer—after he graduated. “I wanted to get more involved in the jumpers, and it was good for both of us,” she said. “I bought a young horse, and Daniel made it up and sold it. We’re tight—we still do business, and I taught his wife too.”

Personal Profile: Daniel Geitner

Age: 32

Hometown: Aiken, S.C., although he spends a month each winter in Ocala, Fla.

College: St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College ‘97

Major Wins:
1994 Cacchione Cup; 1996 and 1997 ANRC Championships; 10 grand prix victories; wins at Devon (Pa.) and the fall indoor shows.

College Personality: “He knew how to party, and he was quite the heartthrob,” said his college coach, Shelby French.

But French said she had to work to teach Geitner the “show” part of horse showing.

“He’s very laid back,” she said with a laugh. “We spent most of the time trying to clean up his act. He’s definitely a boy. He and his roommate used to think taking their hunt coats out of the trunk of their cars and putting them in a dryer with a towel was just fine.

“He’s such an easygoing guy; I don’t think he takes himself seriously. He doesn’t have a huge ego. He was always willing to ride the hard horses and help his teammates,” added French. “He is the epitome of what you’d like to have in someone that talented. I think the really good ones are that way. They come by it easily, so they’re happy to share it.”

His Own Business

DFG Stables sits on 155 acres in Aiken, S.C., where Geitner and his wife Cathy live, with their 2 1⁄2-year-old son, Wyatt, and 10-month-old daughter, Lily.

Geitner does “a little bit of everything,” from teaching and training pony kids, young horses, junior and amateur riders, along with sales. They generally have 50 horses on the grounds, with 40 to 45 in training, and Geitner typically rides 10 to 15 horses a day. Cathy, who also attended St. Andrews, does most of
the teaching, while Geitner does the majority of the showing. Both are pursuing their judges’ licenses, and Geitner would like to judge ANRC competitions in the future.

“I’m lucky Cathy is in it—she knows the days are long and the work is hard. It’s nice that she understands the business,” said Geitner. “We compliment each other well.”

Geitner never expected his business to grow as much as it has. “I thought we’d have a little business with 10 to 12 horses,” he said. “It’s exciting, new each day.”

Geitner currently has a few grand prix mounts, including Sympa and Trading Places, two 9-year-olds that he’s had for four years. Sympa came from South Dakota, and Trading Places was bred in Argentina. Basically, said Geitner, he’s willing to look anywhere for a good horse.

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“One of my favorite things is scouting around,” he said. “Good ones are hard to find, and you’ve got to keep your eyes open all the time. I really enjoy making up young horses, and I keep looking for young talent. I’ve seen good horses in the strangest places, and I don’t discount anything.”

He’s also gone into a few partnerships in a racing stable. “I buy them as yearlings and break them and get them going, then send them to the track when they’re 2,” he said. “I’d like to expand that.”

The first Thoroughbred he started, now a 6-year-old and still racing, has won $150,000. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s exciting to go to the sales and see all types,” he said. “It keeps me interested, and it’s quite a thrill to see them run.”

Whether it’s running, jumping, or just learning to be handled, a horse can’t help but grab Geitner’s attention.

“He’s one of those people who could find a good in every horse,” said French. “He doesn’t make the horse conform to his standards. He could appreciate a school horse who teaches beginners and still value it.”

Geitner added, “They’re neat creatures, and I love being able to ride and be around horses. If I wasn’t doing this as a career, I’d be doing it on weekends. I’m very lucky to have a career doing what I love.”

Advice For Others

For anyone thinking of a horse career and selecting a college, Geitner encourages looking at smaller schools such as St. Andrews.

“Riding in college enabled me to do as much as I could and focus my attention on where I wanted to go in my career,” he said. “It came at a perfect time in my life. If you want to be in the horse business, it gives you the structure of going to class, but you can also concentrate on any field in the horse-related industries.”
Some of Geitner’s internships included work with Andrea King and Aaron Vale, among many others. “I’ve learned from everybody, and I’m still learning,” he said.

He said hard work has always been an important element in his career. “If customers and employees see you working hard, it only helps,” he said. “And treat everyone with respect. I’ve learned from grooms and people who drag the ring.”

The college connection still plays a role in Geitner’s life. He’s donated horses to colleges, and he said he always calls the schools when he’s looking for help.

“The colleges have a ton of contacts. There were any amount of jobs I could have taken,” he said.

French said Geitner always knew exactly what he wanted. “He’s definitely one of the most talented young
people I’ve worked with, and he stands out in the crowd because he was so focused,” she said. “Everything that he did was aimed at getting him to that goal, which is pretty unusual in a 17- and 18-year-old. To be that determined to do whatever it takes to get there makes people want to jump up and help him.”

Geitner recommended that anyone contemplating a business with horses should make sure to know what the business involves.

“My wife and I both took a year [after college] and didn’t jump straight into going out on our own,” he said. “It’s real easy to get overwhelmed. College lets you grow up and do something different. It’s a nice stepping stone.”

French said she’s honored to still be associated with her former student. “He’s one of those people you look at and think, ‘I’m so glad I had a part in helping him become the person he has become.’ I’m really grateful we’re still friends and he looks at me as a mentor. It makes me really proud,” she said. “I love seeing how he’s evolved and how his business has grown. He enjoys his family and the family feel of the business he’s created.”

Geitner said, “I knew a long time ago what I wanted to do. I had plenty of fun in college but I was ready to buckle down [when I graduated], and I knew how hard I had to work. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Beth Rasin

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