Four Valuable Lessons from Geoff Teall to Improve Your Riding Before You Even Get on the Horse

Geoff Teall’s 263-page book, “Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumper and Equitation” is chock-full of valuable exercises and riding strategies aimed at helping riders put the pieces together for that perfect, polished round – no matter whether the fences in that round are 2 feet high or 1.50 meters. 

Outside of the in-the-saddle exercises though, there’s equal worth to be found in Teall’s insight into why we ride, our motivators and his philosophy. 

Here’s a look at four valuable excerpts and lessons to be learned from Teall that may help to improve your riding before you even swing your leg back over your horse. 

Practice discipline.

“Discipline gets you what you want. Everybody wants success. Discipline makes that possible. The more disciplined you are, the more progress you will make. 

“In other words, if you have an opportunity to work with somebody, you need to be disciplined enough to be sure that you, above all else, show up on time (preferably early). Arrive organized, ready to go, well turned-out and interested enough to pay 100 percent attention to whoever is trying to help you. 

“If you don’t discipline yourself, you won’t make steady improvement. You will get sloppy and lazy.” 

Similarly, Teall also writes that “the fast way is the slow way.” 

“Riding is a bit like the old fable of the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins out in the end. 

“I often caution my overly ambitious students about cutting corners…If you skip things in the beginning or try to move up through the divisions too quickly, you may start out ahead of the others. But, you will inevitably end up backsliding, and you will have to backtrack to learn the parts you missed. You will ultimately spend more time unlearning bad habits and forming good ones than you would have spent learning the good habits to begin with. 

“Equitation is about mastering the pieces of riding and then putting those pieces together in a unified, effective whole. The whole process takes time.” 

Work with what you have.

“Physical attributes can help your riding, but they are not necessary…Even if you are not the ‘ideal’ body type, take heart. In my experience, good equitation is never impossible. 

“A good rider needs a good brain. He needs to be relaxed, interested, determined, disciplined and strong. In many ways, these attributes take precedence over a rider’s physical characteristics. 

“The more your age, weight, coordination or conformation hinders your progress, the more you have to rely on a solid foundation. The most basic part of your foundation of course is solid position. 

“Make yourself repeatedly go back and regroup as you practice the basics. Then practice them some more, until you have such a sound, solid foundation that you are secure, comfortable and as knowledgeable as you can be on the horse. The less raw talent you possess, the more you need to rely on a slow and steady approach to learning how to ride. Do it for the process rather than for the results. 

“Riding should never be discouraging for you if you are not the ‘right size’ or the ‘right shape.’ The important things are desire and drive and ambition. Don’t despair. Just get to work and get things done.” 

Focus on more than your results.

“When setting goals for your riding, beware of focusing only on results. I have seen many riders concentrate so intensely on their ultimate goals that they completely destroy their chances of achieving them. 

“The best argument I have against concentrating only on results is simple: it doesn’t work. With too many riders, a single unforeseen setback can so derail their “Master Plan” that they never recover their momentum…

“Preoccupation with being successful is no guarantee that success is just around the corner. Often, concentrating on your riding at the moment, instead of worrying about winning or placing, is what brings the best results.” 

Confidence is key.

“The single most valuable aspect of a winner’s attitude is confidence. 

“The more I pay attention to competitors at all levels, the more I see that the people who win the most are the people who assume they are going to win. That assumption forms a quiet, capable core of their riding. 

“If you are not a confident rider, your horse will be the first to know. Confidence may be even more important in riding than in other sports, because you may instantly transmit your confidence (or lack of it) to the other of half of the team – your horse…

“You must first develop a solid base of physical skills. Then, you have to train your mind to manage those skills. 

“Physical practice is crucial to improving your mental game. You must teach your muscles to respond in a particular way in a given situation. The more you are aware of what you can do, the more you boost your confidence. Confidence in yourself gives you a positive attitude toward trying more things. The more things you successfully accomplish, the more you boost your confidence. It’s a self-feeding, circular scenario.” 

(You’ll find many more tips on overcoming the “fear factor” and the differences between physical and mental fear inside the pages of “Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation.”) 

For more insight, exercises and much more, get your copy of “Geoff Teall on Riding Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation,” available for purchase from Trafalgar Square Books, here

About Geoff Teall 

Geoff Teall is one of the leading hunter and hunt seat equitation trainers in the country.  Horses and riders who have trained with Teall have gone on to win championships, medals and ribbons at major events including Devon, the ASPCA Maclay Finals, Capital Challenge, the Pennsylvania National, the Washington International, the USET Talent Search, and the National Horse Show. In addition to training, Teall is an “R” judge for both hunters and hunt seat equitation. He travels extensively in North America and Europe teaching, judging and conducting clinics.