The Geitner Family Balancing Act

 Written by: The Carolinas Equestrian Published: 15 August 2019

How do Cathy and Daniel Geitner divide the long list of responsibilities associated with operating DFG Stables, one of the largest, most successful hunter/jumper barns in the Southeast along with raising their two children?

“He rides all the really hard horses and does most of the showing; therefore, I wash the dishes and plunger the toilet,” Cathy says with a laugh.

“It’s true,” Daniel agrees, “she’s quite a bit more handy than I am. I do the farming; the fertilizing, the mowing, but Cathy can fix things.”

Cathy’s propensity for home repair and Daniel’s knack for landscaping are just the first indicators that, despite living within the bubble of the horse show circuit, the Geitners maintain a relatively normal family life.

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Daughter Lilly, 12, spends much of her free time in the saddle while their son Wyatt, 14, can most often be found with either a tennis racquet or a fishing pole in his hand. Cathy and Daniel take every opportunity to get to Wyatt’s tennis matches and practices—even if it means going straight from the barn to the courts. “One of the great things about living in Aiken is that everywhere you go there’s someone in riding clothes, so we’re never the only ones at the tennis court in breeches and boots,” Daniel says.

While many horse show kids relocate to Florida for the winter, Lilly and Wyatt split time between the family farms in Aiken and Ocala, and only miss a few days of classes at Mead Hall Episcopal School.  Daniel stays in Ocala with a string of horses for all ten weeks of the circuit, and Cathy and the kids join him for five of the weeks and show in Aiken for the other five weeks. The schedule is convenient both for the family, and the DFG Clients who have the option of showing at either location.

“I don’t think we ever discussed how this was all going to work before we had kids, but we both come from strong family units, so family was naturally important to us,” Cathy says. “My parents live in Aiken, so they are also very involved,” she adds.

When Wyatt was an infant, the Geitner family grew yet again, but in quite an unexpected way. Cathy and Daniel were showing in Asheville when a clerical error led to a fortuitous meeting with a young rider named Alexis Howard.

“The office accidentally put us down as Alexis’ trainer. But we weren’t her trainer and her trainer never showed up, so that’s how the introduction was made,” Daniel says. “She ended up asking me to ride her horse for her. Then we took her home with us and she never left!”

“I asked [Alexis] if she knew anything about babies,” Cathy adds, “[when she said no I told her] yeah well neither do I!”

Alexis, affectionately known as “Momma” to the Geitners and their barn staff is a key member of the DFG team. As nanny and personal assistant, she picks Wyatt and Lilly up from school, delivers them to the barn, attends shows with DFG and even helps manage Cathy’s rental property. “There’s nothing this girl can’t do; she’s unbelievable,” Daniel said.

Since relocating to Aiken, Alexis has married and started a family of her own.  Following the Geitner’s lead, she’s also raising her two-year-old daughter, Hadley, on the horse show circuit. “When Alexis’ baby was two weeks old, she had her at a horse show. Alexis was in the tack room rolling wraps and I asked ‘what are you doing here?’ She said ‘this is the only way I know how to take care of kids,” Cathy recalls.

While it’s not always easy, Cathy and Daniel see many advantages to Lilly and Wyatt spending much of their time at horse shows. “It’s a safe environment. We all know each other, so even if we’re not standing right next to them, we know that other people are looking out for our kids,” Daniel says.

“In a small fish bowl, with so many adults, my kids have learned to interact well and communicate well with adults,” Cathy adds.

Still, the Geitners take the opportunity to escape the fish bowl three or four times a year. Daniel and Wyatt usually take an annual fishing trip and the family also regularly explores the rivers near their farm in Ocala. Even while enjoying some down time though, the Geitners keep their horse show friends close by.

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“We don’t do anything without the Toshes,” Cathy says of their long-time friends and fellow trainers Hunt and Mandy and their daughter Maddie. “Hunt is dad’s O.F.,” Lilly giggles, “Only friend.”

Cathy and Daniel serve as role models, not only for their own children, but also for the working students and younger riders who get their starts with DFG Stables. “We work very hard, and we expect everyone else to as well,” Daniel says.

“At the end of the day, It’s all hands on deck. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets to work so that we can all get done at the same time,” Cathy adds.

The Geitners’ emphasis on work ethic also extends to the horses they choose. “I like horses that try, no matter their talent; a horse that does a good job, no matter what the job,” Daniel says.

At DFG Stables, there is a place for all types of horses and as a result the Geitners have found success at every level and in multiple divisions, an accomplishment that means more to Daniel than any specific win or championship. “I really enjoy that I’ve been successful on a lot of different horses,” Daniel says, “I’m proud of that.”

Although Daniel spends more time in the spotlight than any other member of the Geitner family, he’s quick to acknowledge that he didn’t get there alone. “Anything I’ve won, Cathy is the brains behind.” Daniel says. “She’s the hardest working person I know. She’s the first one to the barn in the morning and usually the last to leave.”

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Savannah College of Art and Design

 Written by: The Carolinas Equestrian Published: 21 September 2018 SCAD is the first art and design university in the U.S. to offer a comprehensive intercollegiate equestrian environment, with both a national championship winning competitive equestrian team, and an equestrian studies academic program. SCAD provides students a lively, well-rounded environment that fosters camaraderie, team spirit and healthy competition. SCAD equestrian epitomizes these principles. In addition to a national championship winning competitive equestrian team, SCAD Savannah offers a B.A. degree in equestrian studies, and an equestrian studies minor. The equestrian magic happens just over the Savannah River, in Hardeeville, South Carolina, where the 180-acre Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center was constructed expressly to support SCAD’s national caliber equestrian program. A Lowcountry gem tucked amid live oaks and loblolly pines, the center features two magnificent barns, where horses are cared for by both students and professional grooms. SCAD hosts prestigious tournaments at the Equestrian Center throughout the year. The SCAD equestrian team has the benefit of learning, practicing and competing at the facility, providing ideal conditions for the riders and horses alike. The center features 84 stalls and automatic fly-spray system. Rubber tiles topped with dust-free shavings form the floor. A staff veterinarian provides the latest diagnostic treatments and therapies. The center features three large competition rings and a fully-fenced turf derby field, 13 turnout paddocks and a European walker. The all-weather riding arena features state-of-the-art footing (a mixture of diatomaceous earth, fiber, and spandex) and industrial fans for ventilation. In fall 2015, a new barn was completed, including meeting and office space, a new veterinary clinic, two tack rooms, and lockers. The trophy room is adorned with blue ribbons drape and gold trophies, testaments to the collective excellence of SCAD artist-athletes, coaches, and staff. The equestrian center’s preeminence reflects the sustained success of the team. Currently, the SCAD equestrian team has grown to over sixty members. A program at the pinnacle of its powers, the SCAD equestrian team is a modern sports dynasty. Under the leadership of Coach Ashely Henry, the SCAD Equestrian team has won 3 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Championships, 5 Overall Tournament of Champions (TOC) National Championships and 15 American National Riding Commission (ANRC) National Championships in the Novice and National divisions. In the last five years, SCAD as secured 15 national team championships and reserve championships. In 2017, the Bees won their third IHSA National Championship title in as many years. In January 2018 the team won its fifth consecutive Tournament of Champions title. SCAD has a history of standout equestrian competitors. In the past 16 years (2002-2018), SCAD has won 41 individual IHSA national titles, and 22 individual National titles. These titles are the manifestation of commitment and discipline Coach Henry requires of her riders. SCAD equestrian student-artist-athletes are continuously involved in serving the local community, leading charity events, including the Relay For Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and The Buddy Walk for Down syndrome awareness. SCAD equestrian team members also host a high school talent search at the equestrian center, which shows local high-schoolers what it’s like to compete on a collegiate equestrian team. In addition, SCAD participates in Heroes on Horseback, a local program that helps physically, mentally, and emotionally disabled students learn how to ride. The SCAD undergraduate program of equestrian studies covers equine law and principles, rules and regulations of various equestrian governing bodies, and effective communication with a wide range of equestrian professionals. The comprehensive curriculum is supplemented by lectures from visiting professionals, including trainers, Olympic-caliber riders, judges, veterinarians and horse-show managers. Through the equestrian studies program, students gain an understanding of equine psychology, body language and social behavior that they apply to the care, training and riding of horses. Knowledge of equine anatomy, conformation, conditioning, health and nutrition provides the basis from which students develop competency in the safe handling, proper care, evaluation and selection of the sport horse. Lowcountry locals, tourists, prospective students and their families are all encouraged to visit SCAD’s Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center. SCAD delights in sharing these world-class facilities with everyone. Photos courtesy of SCAD

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