When I am not here anymore I want people to remember me not by what I won, but that I was a good horseman.
Horse & Style: How did you get your start in riding?
Jeff Gogul: I always loved animals and had a fascination with horses. I had a friend across the street that rode, and in 5th grade, I finally got riding lessons at Holly Hill Farm, Avon Lake, Ohio for Christmas.
I was a timid rider. My first trainer, Leslie Monaghan, was tough. She pushed me through that, and I made it only because I wanted it badly enough. I became accurate at finding distances at an early age because I was afraid to make a mistake. I competed on a local level, and when I was beyond the capabilities of my first horse, I didn’t want to sell him. So, in order to afford two horses, I moved to a self-care barn and started to train myself. At that time I was really self-taught and lived vicariously, read as much as I could, and watched other riders. I read Practical Horseman cover to cover every month, and I’d recreate the exercises from the professionals that were featured in the magazine. At 16 I was not only taking care of my horse, but everyone else’s horses and all of the other animals in the barn – like chickens, goats and sheep – to the point that I never rode anymore. It was then that I decided if I was going to go back to riding, I’d do it at a competitive level. So for the last 18 months of my junior riding career I rode with Beth Nielsen and did the Equitation.
H&S: Who were some of the people who influenced you as a young rider? Any idols?
JG: I grew up in Cleveland and each year I’d look forward to the Cleveland Grand Prix, the oldest Grand Prix in the United States. My barn rat friends and I would have a parent drop us off for the day so that we could watch. I had shown only locally at that point. I liked to stand at the Grand Prix schooling ring where I could watch top riders like Michael Matz, Katie Monahan Prudent and Leslie Burr-Howard getting ready for the class. It was amazing. I’d spend hours walking through the barns and watching how the horses were being cared for at that level. I just observed and tried to absorb as much as I could from watching those trainers, riders and grooms as they worked with the horses.
H&S: What do you love and enjoy about the sport? Hunter Derbies in particular?
JG: What’s intriguing about the sport, to me, is what it takes to form the partnership. It is so much hard work and dedication and it is the ultimate in teamwork. What these horses do for us is so generous; I always try to be empathetic and the best horseman I can be.
There are always hills and valleys; you get something right and are on a high, and then you need to go work to improve on this or that to produce good rides consistently.
The winning round is really rare; it’s like an endorphin high, so it keeps you going to get that feeling again. But it might be six months before you produce another 90 or 92 round. I enjoy the thrill of helping a student get to that breakthrough moment when the whole experience comes together.
I think the Hunter Derby concept is interesting because it adds a level of sophistication to the Hunters – especially because of what is has evolved into: jumping huge jumps while looking so soft and appearing to be doing almost nothing. So that is intriguing to me – particularly doing the handy in the international derby with those huge jumps and turns – managing those with the invisible ride of a hunter round.
H&S: Could you tell us about the horses you are currently competing on?
So, so much ability, and such a match for my style of riding.
He’s a super-exciting six-year-old. He has been with us a year and has a tremendous amount of jump. We’re doing 3’6″ now, but he is so brave and amazing, he’ll make a great high performance hunter as well as a junior hunter.
Super elegant and with the talent to move up to 3’6″.
Count Me In:
He rose to the occasion at the incentive finals and was 5th out of 142. At five he is one of the greenest horses we have purchased, with only 90 days under saddle when he arrived in the United States. But, he has such a great jump and is so good natured. We’re going to let him stay at 3’3″ for now and allow him time to mature physically.
A horse we bought from Larry – he has an amazing presence and is already forming a great partnership with Sofia. They’ve had great results in the Small Junior division.
Stand By Me:
Another young horse, he is really flashy and fun to ride, with a great gallop and the best personality. He enjoys working every day.
A gray mare by Last Man Standing, she has an incredible jump, is extremely brave, and has a ton of ability. We are hoping to move her up to the 3’6″ greens. She has been worth the wait.
H&S: What have been some of your most memorable achievements as a rider?
JG: Sometimes it’s the thrill of the small things like improving a lessor horse or a horse that has difficulty changing leads. It’s an accomplishment to teach a horse to go straight, or to perfect a lateral movement. Also thrilling were the top results we had at the fall indoor horse shows in the last couple of years, as well as making it into the WCHR Pro Final, where I was reserve this year.
Growing up, and as a young professional, I was given so much opportunity to ride horses of quality. I wore a lot of hats and learned all aspects of the horse business. I worked for the Bass family at Maypine Farm in Willoughby, Ohio for 10 years. I trained Lauren Bass and Grappa to the Maclay win in 1996, and again in 1997, when the finals were still at Madison Square Garden. Showing the Bass family’s horse Just Harry in the Regular Working Hunters at the Garden was amazing. Harry and I won a lot of Reserves competing against the great Rox Dene.
H&S: What are your personal goals, both inside and outside the equestrian world?
JG: To try to maintain a great life balance both in and out of the horse business, and to accomplish things on my bucket list – inside and outside of riding – before I am too old to do them. I love the gym. It has made a huge difference in my riding; the strength has made it possible for me to control my position so much more when jumping.
H&S: What are your plans for 2020?
JG: My plans are to keep producing good young horses, keep the clients at their competitive best and to continue to learn and keep improving. I live in the moment. I’m satisfied with each round I do because I know I’ve done my best. I always try to look at it that way, and I don’t beat myself up afterwards. There’s always another horse show, another class, and if I’ve made a mistake, I look at it as an opportunity to improve upon the result at the next competition.
My goals are to compete again in the WCHR Hunter Spectacular at the Winter Equestrian Festival, to win the North American Future Hunter class at the Capital Challenge Horse Show and to be Champion at the National Horse Show.
An important part of the success I’m experiencing now is due to the amazing team at Roberts Stables, and to Patty Rogers and Bibby Farmer Hill, who are both invaluable to me on the ground. My whole life I rode by feel, but having them there now to help me is making a huge difference in my riding.