BY ANGELA BARBUTI
“As a kid, it was my dream to ride my pony in the park,” professional equestrian Brianne Goutal said. The 28-year-old gets to fulfill that childhood fantasy at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show that runs from September 23 to 27. Although she admits she may be a bit biased, the native Upper East Sider, who, in 2005, became the only person to win all four junior equitation championships, holds this event closest to her heart. “I have to say, I have competed all over the world ... and in my opinion, the show in Central Park is, bar none, the most amazing competition I have ever seen.”
How did you get into riding?We used to have a house in Watermill when I was a kid. And out there, right on (Route) 27, is a farmers market called The Green Thumb. I don’t know if they have them anymore, but they used to have two ponies tied to a fence. When the parents were shopping, the kids could get walked in a circle with the ponies. I used to go there all the time with my mom, and one day, discovered I could go around in a circle with a pony and once I did that, there was no turning back. I was obsessed and was torturing her to put me in pony camp. Normally they have two sessions, a morning and an afternoon. I went so crazy that I insisted on doing both. [Laughs] So I would go in the morning, and then my mom would come and bring me lunch and I would stay for the afternoon session.
You grew up on the Upper East Side. Did you have any friends from the city who were also involved in the sport?A lot, actually. I went to Chatham and then I switched in seventh grade to the Professional Children’s School because my riding commitments just got really crazy. Even when I was at Chatham, I had at least five friends who were doing something similar. And by the time I switched to PCS, those friends remained. There weren’t that many riders at PCS, but two or three older riders. But yeah, there were a ton of kids in the city. For sure, it wasn’t a very common thing, but there were plenty.
How many horses do you own?Now I run my own business and we have about 42 horses under management. I compete probably eight. We stable them at Sam Edelman’s farm in Sherman, Connecticut. He has a very long rapport with show jumping. He has a ton of experience and is the number one horse dealer in America, actually. He has this amazing facility which is an hour and a half from New York. I just started working with him three months ago and I’m super excited about it.
You went to Brown University. How did you balance school with riding?You know, I think I got used to learning how to juggle school with my riding commitments, really starting from the beginning, in second or third grade. The PCS atmosphere is basically a collegiate one, but in high school. It was an amazing preparatory program for college. Brown is very liberal and was a wonderful experience for me. I was able to organize my classes. First semester, I took one extra, so I took five instead of four. And I was able to take one less second semester because I was flying back and forth to Florida. Even when I was taking five, I was always able to keep my classes in the beginning of the week, so I was done by Thursday. Then when I went down to Florida, things got really crazy, so I took all three classes on Monday and Tuesday. So I would fly into Providence on Monday morning and fly out of Boston on Tuesday night. It was insane.
Tell us about the competition that’s coming up in Central Park. How is it different from other ones you compete in?Maybe I’m biased because I’m from the city ... The location for one, for New Yorkers, specifically, is great. Most people on the Upper East Side just walk. My boyfriend works on 57th Street; he comes from the office. You finish up around 9:30, you walk over to Nobu. It’s just unbelievable. The stabling is a little far from the ring, so you have to actually get on your horse. They clock it as a four-minute walk. And at that point, you get on your horse and you’re literally riding through Central Park. It’s the coolest thing ever. For us, we always talk about the conditions for the horses. And they do such a good job getting the horses in and out of the show. The jumps that they provide at the show are beautiful. The backdrop is like a fairytale.
Do you have any funny stories from you career?A lot of mishaps. [Laughs] We fly internationally now with all the horses. So let’s say we go to Florida for the winter, and then decide to go to Europe for the summer. Each horse already weighs almost 2,000 pounds. But with each horse, also comes probably 500 pounds of equipment. So with the amount of stuff we have to ship, we may as well run the U.S. Army. Nothing ever goes smoothly. You think it goes smoothly and last minute, something doesn’t arrive.
Our paper did a cover story on the banning of carriage rides in Central Park. What’s your opinion on that?I’m really anti-carriages. Historically, I think that they are part of New York City. I’m totally sympathetic to the reason people want them. But at the end of the day, the major problem is we’re just not equipped to have horses in New York City or at least the way they’re being handled right now. It’s just not acceptable. The living and working conditions for them are just atrocious. It’s dangerous; it’s dirty; it’s stressful; it’s cruel. I mean, I could go on. I do sympathize with the fact that, in our minds, it’s a utopian thing to ride a carriage around the park. But, at the end, I don’t even think it’s that pleasant because it’s so dirty. They smell and the carriages are not well maintained. I don’t know, but to me, the drivers don’t seem so proud either. I’m really not sure what the appeal is other than a lack of desire to let go of the past.
For information on the Central Park Horse Show, visit cphs.coth.com