A Conversation with Geoff Teall
Geoff Teall runs Montoga, Inc., a hunter-jumper facility in Palm Beach, Florida. A highly successful A-circuit trainer and co-founder of the American Hunter-Jumper Foundation, Teall coaches junior and amateur riders and judges recognized shows.
Teall credits his success in the horse industry to the forward riding system and the horsemanship legacy handed down by Gordon Wright. “The system works because it’s so systematic,” he explained. “It’s been through so many people and generations but is so strong a system that it hasn’t been diluted.”
Teall grew up riding to hounds in Geneseo, New York. His childhood instructor, Mike Kelly, applied the system to foxhunting and cross-country riding. “She was friends with Gordon Wright, and wrote the Riding Instructor’s Manual with Wright,” explained Teall. “Wright would come one or two times a year and give us a clinic.”
Teall went on to ride with Frank and Wayne Carroll of White Plains, New York, as a junior rider. His interest in Wright’s work led him to George Morris, who he calls “my second biggest influence.”
“85 percent of what I know and do, I got from George,” he said. “You could do two clinics a year [with him] and base a career on that—it’s amazing when you think about it.”
According to Teall, Wright had a profound influence on George Morris as a rider and teacher. “Wright was a god held up to me by Mike [Kelly] and George Morris,” he said, only half-joking.
Teall recognizes the way in which the forward riding system has been shared by countless horse professionals in different disciplines, all working toward the same goal: safe, effective riders and well-schooled, happy horses. “George would tell you that the only thing he’s done well is steal, and I’d say the same thing.”
In collaboration with his contemporary Captain Littauer, Wright developed the system in order to educate amateur equestrians. “Gordon Wright’s genius and George Morris’ genius is their ability to take a riding style and make it systematic for Joe Public,” Teall explained. The next stroke of genius? “Devising a system that the horses love,” he added.
“Wright and Morris took that system and applied it to the horse show world and made it commonplace,” Teall said. So commonplace in fact, that many of today’s winning riders do not realize that they have been handed a tradition, one which needs to be carried on and preserved.
“The best thing about [the system] is that we haven’t had to reinvent the wheel,” stated Teall. “But you have to consciously protect it. There will always be people out there trying to prove that it doesn’t work.”
Teall feels a strong responsibility “to do whatever it takes to protect this, especially for the horses’ sake…What’s so cool is that people like George Morris protect this system, save it, and pass it down.”
Teall uses the forward riding system because it works and it’s so comprehensive; it can be applied to every aspect of horsemanship. “I don’t deviate from it,” he said. “I do everything from breaking two-year-olds to coaching show riders to teaching 68 year-old women to jump to buying horses in Europe, and there’s not one piece of this that is different.”