Geoffrey Hesslink was launched into the spotlight when he topped the 2014 Platinum Performance/USEF Talent Search Finals East on Peacock Ridge LLC’s Canny Windsor Z. He impressed the judges throughout all phases of the competition and earned top scores during the testing where the competitors had to switch mounts.
It was Geoffrey’s first national title and a fantastic way to close out his junior riding career. Even now as Geoffrey has continued on to become a budding young professional, the win remains close to Geoffrey’s heart.
“My biggest accomplishment up to this point is when I won the 2014 USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search Finals. This holds a special place in my heart because winning an equitation final was my ultimate junior career dream,” he said. “I worked tirelessly day in and day out for years to accomplish this goal and when it finally all paid off it really felt like the ultimate dream come true.”
Since then, Geoffrey has clinched some other admirable titles such as earning the 2016 Hallway Feeds Leading Professional Rider Award, being the WCHR regional Developing Professional Champion and Reserve Champion at Capital Challenge, being USHJA year-end regional National Hunter Derby Champion for Zone 5 and overall Reserve Champion in the National Hunter Derbies.
Geoffrey originally was a competitive swimmer; however, after he broke his arm, his father let him begin riding ponies. Geoffrey said he had a love of horses from a young age. He began riding at 10 years old at a local barn, and he said, “the rest is history.”
Geoffrey, well-known as a catch rider, began catch riding ponies and then moved onto horses. Although his parents did supply him with a few horses during his riding career, Geoffrey said his career really took off when he was given opportunities to catch ride by other trainers and professionals.
During his junior career, Geoffrey was a working student for the hunter/jumper/equitation powerhouse, Heritage Farm, run by Andre Dignelli. Geoffrey had nothing but kind things to say about his experience at Heritage, calling it “a pleasure.”
“My riding and working student experience at Heritage Farm was nothing but positive,” Geoffrey said. “The opportunity to learn and be a part of a top program like Heritage’s is such a gift that I will always be grateful for. Andre and his team know how to take any horse or rider and transform them into a champion.”
Another huge accomplishment during his riding career was getting the opportunity to ride in the annual George Morris Horsemastership Clinic in Wellington. Another special thing about his participation was that it was the last year Mr. Morris trained the clinic.
“Getting to learn first-hand from Mr. Morris had always been a real goal of mine and something I had dreamed about since I was a kid. The opportunity to take part in such a prestigious event is something I will cherish forever,” he said.
Geoffrey learned a lot in the clinic, but he said one of the many lessons he learned was that riding is more than just “the technical aspects of the sport.”
“To be successful you have to be a true Horseman and learn how to be a part of the horse and understand how they think. Equestrian sports are unlike any other because your partner is an animal, and learning how to get in tune with another animal is difficult, but deeply rewarding,” he said.
When it came to technical aspects, Geoffrey noted Mr. Morris’ emphasis on lifting the hands and keeping them elevated so that there is always a straight line from the elbow to the horse’s mouth.
Geoffrey is currently freelancing as a professional rider, but he mostly rides a variety of horses for Heritage Farm’s extensive list of clients. While Geoffrey said he is most comfortable in the hunter ring, he rides jumpers, hunters, and equitation mounts for Heritage.
“I think the opportunity to ride such an array of horses keeps me in top form and allows me to constantly improve my riding,” he said.
He considers himself to be incredible fortunate that he is still able to work with Andre and his team.
“…I plan on always having a strong connection with him and Heritage Farm. I am so grateful for the years of support and exceptional training,” he said.
Geoffrey said he loves the hunters because of the “art of it.”
“The hunters are all about using your riding to show off your horse[,] and I think there are techniques to doing that which are necessary to success in any ring,” he explained. “I also enjoy the judging aspect of the hunter divisions because knowing you were the best in someone’s opinion is extremely and helps provide me with the confidence I need to do well in every ring.”
Geoffrey absolutely loves the hunter derbies, and he said he feels both the National and International Hunter Derbies have “brought back the excitement and variety to the hunter ring that was missing for some time.”
Although Geoffrey is very comfortable in the hunter ring and enjoys riding in the hunter divisions, he said he wants to expand his riding career and spend more time in the jumper ring – something his experience and success in the equitation ring will help him transition to easily.
In addition to getting some more time and success in the jumper ring, Geoffrey said he would like to have a horse of his own to work with, train and show competitively. Ultimately, he would like to become a successful trainer and rider.
“I want to be able to continue my own riding career while also helping other riders reach their goals. Another goal of mine is to be content and happy with what I have accomplished and what I can do,” he said.
Geoffrey is lucky enough to be able to show at WEF. He said he enjoys WEF because it is “so big” and because “there is something for everyone to do.”
“There are enough classes for you to train a horse as well as compete at the top level,” he said. “I really enjoy the show grounds as well and I think Wellington has become a great place to live in the winter.”
Besides riding, Geoffrey likes to relax and spend time with his friends and family. He considers himself to be a very social person. He also thinks it is very important for anyone to sometimes take a break or step back from riding so that they can stay fresh and continue to love the sport.
Currently, Geoffrey is also enjoying the Chainsmokers’ new song, “Paris.” At the time of the interview, he was going to be seeing the Chainsmokers in concert “in a few weeks.”
For the last few summer and fall seasons, Geoffrey has been based out of Kentucky. However, he said he is thinking of being based out of New York this upcoming summer.
Geoffrey is currently partnered with Samshield and with Charles Ancona. He believes both products are top of the line.
Of Samshield, Geoffrey said, “[i]f you want to maintain safety while being stylish, then a Samshield is the best option.
Of Charles Ancona, he said that their coats have “provided a revolution in show attire.”
“They are flattering, comfortable and the ability to wash them at home is so important,” he explained. (Editor’s Note: We adore Charles Ancona show jackets and have written a review of their apparel here).
Geoffrey said he also likes Equiline and Pikeur because both brands consistently have stylish, trendy and comfortable riding attire.
We asked Geoffrey what his advice was for an equestrian that may not have a ton of money but still has passion for the sport and wants to one day become a professional. He said the key is to work hard.
“Nothing and no one will hand you anything in this sport, so it’s important that you have the desire to work hard and earn it for yourself,” he said. “If you really want to be successful you have to build a strong relationship with your peers and hold on to those connections throughout your career.”