Geoff Teall is known for his riding, judging, and positive influences on the sport as a renowned member of the hunter community. He gave us the inside scoop on what it’s like to judge in the hunter ring, the future of the hunters, and the importance of World Champion Hunter Rider week at WEF.
What led you to become a judge?
I would say the main reason I actually became a judge was peer pressure from older professionals. They told me that it was something very important for professionals in the sport to do, in order to give back to the sport. That was what pushed me to do it initially. Having said that, I’m very glad that I did it, because I’ve learned more from judging than anything else I’ve done.
What do spectators not know about judging that’s easy to miss?
I think the hardest part for spectators or the general public to understand is the detail that’s involved in judging, and also the history that judging is based on. It all really dates back to foxhunting that originated in England and came to the States after.
What is unique about your judging philosophy?
I think that as a judge, the most important thing is that you are being fair, and really giving the exhibitors your undivided and full attention -making the effort to do the best job that you can.
What are some trends in the hunter ring right now?
I think the direction of the hunters is good, in that they seem to be gaining popularity. The derby program has made a big difference, as well as all the incentive programs. It’s a really important part of a sport that only happens in North America, and I think that gives us a big advantage compared to the rest of the world.
What is the importance of World Champion Hunter Rider Week?
It’s interesting because anybody who is serious about hunters that’s anywhere near WEF during the winter bases their entire circuit on this week. And the WCHR program, which I co-founded with Louise Serio, is a very powerful and important program in the hunter world. It’s the pinnacle of success for hunters and hunter riding, and the entire week of competition leads to the final competition on Saturday night, the Spectacular, which is a $100,000 class.
What’s unique about the Spectacular?
The scoring is the same, but the difference is that in order to participate in the class Saturday night, you have to be either Champion or Reserve Champion in your division during the week of competition. So the entire week is about qualifying for the Spectacular on Saturday, and therefore the competition is much greater than it is on any other given week.
This discipline often focuses on tradition. Where do you see the hunters going in the future?
My hope is that it continues to evolve. I think there are several movements afoot – one, to get it included in FEI disciplines and take it to the world – and there are various conversations about a new sort of format for hunters and improved judging systems, for example. There are a lot of people that are trying to work out different ways that hunters could be easier to understand and more popular with the general public, so I just hope it continues to evolve and include more people.
Anything else to add about hunter week?
I think this is really important, that the management team of Equestrian Sport Productions understands how important this week is to their hunter clientele, and how appreciative we are of it. It is a big deal for a lot of people, and I think that’s a great thing.
Thank you for your time and dedication to the sport Geoff!