Brianne Goutal had one of the most stellar junior careers in history, becoming one of the few riders in history to win all four medal Finals. Today she is riding as professional at the grand prix level, continuing to add victories to her list. On Saturday, she piloted long-time mount Onira to victory in the $50,000 CSI 2* Grand Prix at The Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington.. Today she took time to discuss her growing business, her plans for the future, and her thoughts on Young Riders in the U.S. Show Jumping.
You've started out 2013 already on a roll, how do you feel?
I am really happy. We have a very good system in a place, and a great group of horses and people around us. Everything is going better than we could have hoped for, so I am happy and very relieved everything is working.Onira is a horse that you have had many firsts with, but despite that fact that he’s getting older, he is still going really strong. Talk about your plans for the future with him.
My concept with him is that he loves to show. He feels great. Until he tells me otherwise, I am going to keep him going at the rate he’s been going. Not showing too much, but to keep him in the ring enough that he is always in the game and mentally part of the team. Of course, I try and protect him as much I can. I don’t show him too often because my theory is, that every class I jump him in, is one class less for our future together. I try and manage him in a way that is productive and good for his health.
Brianne and OniraYou had a couple of good wins with him at Washington at the end of last year. Coming off of that, were you hopeful that the beginning of this year would go well?
Yes, I was. He was amazing all summer. When I got back from Europe he was feeling great and there has been nothing really to have pushed me to the idea that he would be jumping otherwise during season. I am very happy with how he feels, and I am very happy with how he’s going. It's pretty rare to have a horse that can go from Equitation, to the Junior Jumpers, to the World Cup... talk about making that happen and your relationship with him.
The first day that I tried him, the first day that I ever met him, I knew that there was something very, very special about him. He’s unlike any other horse that I have either ridden or met. I think he’s just truly a very special personality, a very special animal and he has the ability to kind of make everybody fall in love with him. He’s also a true winner. I think no matter what he does, no matter what division it is or what height it is he wants to win so badly he’ll make anything happen. He’s just a real competitor. He goes in every ring thinking he’s already won before he’s shown. He’s just truly amazing. In the barn as well, he has a different personality than any other horse. He has a real sense of how important he is, and he thinks that he’s the greatest thing ever, and I think he’s right.Are there any new horses that you are excited about this year? Any up and comers?
Yeah, I have a bunch of new ones that I think are great. Like I said, I’ve been trying to build my string over the summer, and now I think I have a good pack of horses. I have a 10-year-old mare called Wirma who is quite green still. She hasn’t shown very much, but I have very high hopes for her. She’s just a very little horse. She’s very small, but she has a lot of jump and she’s very careful. I’m really excited about her. I have another horse called Zenike who is just awesome. I bought him to be a 1.50m horse for me, and he’s just super fun to ride and a real winner as well. And then I have a horse called Calypso who’s 11 and he’s in Brazil. I don’t know him very well yet, but I can’t wait for the future. Are you aiming for another World Cup appearance this year? Any other other big stops that you’re looking at?
World Cup? No. I put that idea on the back burner. My best horse, my major grand prix horse, Nice de Prissey, is much better in bigger rings. I considered World Cup Finals since he was going so well all summer and he won a lot this year, but I kind of put that on the back burner just because I think that’s not the perfect venue for him. So my goal is to kind of keep putting him in those very big classes. I’m going to go to Spruce Meadows after Florida, and then I’m going to go to Europe again, so we’ll kind of seeing how everyone’s going and how everyone’s jumping and kind of target from there. You’ve graduated from Brown now, correct?
Yeah, I graduated in May.
Talk about what it was like trying to stay at the top of the sport while also going to school at the same time.
It was very difficult to juggle the two, I have to admit. I love school. Now that I’m done with school, I miss it very much. I had the best time. I had the best four years, actually it was five years, at Brown, but it was a major struggle because it was a lot of work obviously, and this is a full-time job, riding I mean. I don’t think you can do the riding at all half way, and I don’t like to do anything half way to be completely fair, so it was hard for me to kind of juggle how many hours I could apply to both facets of my life at that point. Basically, what it came down to was, in terms of hours, I needed to spend more with the riding than I did with school. So I was going to school basically Monday through Wednesday and then either flying back and forth to Florida or flying back and forth from New York to Providence. I got good at doing work on the planes or the trains and in the back seats of cars and at all odd hours. I could work in the stands, I could do a lot of different work different places. It was really was just a matter of finding out how much work needs to get done and where you could get it done.
Now are you just planning to focus on being a professional?
Yes, definitely for the next three years. I told myself for three years to go full force with the horses and see where I end up and then reevaluate, or kind of think about what else I can do.There are so many discussions about what’s going on with our young riders now, and you’re kind of one of the figureheads for that. How do you think we can persuade other young riders, who end up going to college, to come back afterward?
I think it’s a whole culture mentality, and I think it’s very hard to change that kind of concept. I was always taught that school was of the utmost importance so that is my opinion going forward. I think that college has only helped me so in that respect to get the message across that it’s only beneficial. There’s nothing that it can hurt, so what’s the big deal? You may as well go do it. I think that when you have broader horizons, I think you’re able to look at things in a very different way. In my opinion, the way I look at the sport after going to college is definitely different than how I did before I went to college. I feel that I am much more accessible to the broader public because of my collegiate history. You’re someone who came up through that so called pipeline that everyone’s talking about, whether or not the equitation can transfer into the jumper ring. For you there was a lot of success there, so can you talk about your opinion on that?
I had a ton of help when I was growing up and when I moved up through the ranks and through the divisions. I had a ton of people behind me – Frank Madden, Max Amaya, Stacia Madden, I think that they all helped me make the transitions from the junior years to the amateur years to the professional division. In my opinion, equitation is a great base for the jumping world. No, it’s not the end all be all, but it definitely has helped me and it continues to help me in techniques and in methods. I think every time I jump a course, I apply a lot of the equitation foundations to my strategy to my track. You were someone who went to the World Cup Finals pretty early in your career. What’s the importance of getting international experience like that as a young rider?
In my opinion, there is nothing more beneficial to a rider than to go to Europe and to kind of immerse yourself in the jumping culture that’s there. We don’t have the same cultural foundations in America that they do in Europe. Outside of the major cities, if you don’t know somebody who owns a horse or has never ridden a horse you’re in the minority. It’s a much less expensive horse culture there. Most people can afford to have a horse, go to shows, and kind of immerse themselves in that culture. I think that when you go to Europe from America and you go to all these big shows, you see a broad range of styles and a broad range of cultures, languages and everything. You’re really exposed to such a high level, such a different scope of level, since there are so many different nationalities competing in one place. Europe is actually quite small, so you can go from Switzerland to France to Germany to Spain very easily within a ten-hour drive. So you’re really able to take in so many different kind of strategies and so many different systems and able to watch so many amazing riders from different countries that maybe you wouldn’t realize that were out there because they’re not necessarily the top 40, but still there amazing riders that could beat you any day. It’s very interesting, and it’s amazing to go and watch and you can just sit there and go to a 2-star, or a 3-star show and you’ll be fascinated by the way people do things, how differently they do them, and the way they work. You can take what you want or take what you like or don’t take anything at all, but at least than you know what there is to offer and what there is that has been and will be done. What is your reaction – there’s been so much discussion about it – to the poor Olympic results coming off of a not so great WEG? The U.S. has had good results in there at PanAm Games and at the World Cup…but what changes would you like to see as a young rider?
I really feel that we are the best country. I’m very patriotic that way. I think that there are always ups and downs, and that’s the biggest challenge with this sport that the ups and downs are so extreme. You know we go from being the two time team gold champions to the not even close to champions. I think that’s kind of a difficult pill to swallow, but I think that’s a natural course that any kind of athlete either individually or by country takes.
For sure, I think that we have a problem with our selection system. I don’t have an answer as to what the fix is, but I do not believe that our trials serve any valuable purpose. I don’t think that they help us in any way. I think that there is a major, I would call it a gap, between the young rider and the top professional. If you look at Reed Kessler for example, she’s an amazing young rider and she’s incredibly talented and she’s won everything that she’s been asked to win, and every obstacle that was sent for her to jump she jumped over. But I don’t think that it was fair to have her put on her first red coat for the Olympic Games. She should have…If she had qualified for the Olympic Games that’s great, but that should not have been her first Nation’s Cup. I think that she’s a great example of the problem with the system, because she deserves to be there based on merit and based on success, but there is a definite gap between what she won and how she won it and how she got to the Olympic Games. In my opinion, she did a great job for all the pressure that was put on her. I mean I don’t know what I would’ve done had I been in her place. But I think that the real problem stems from our selection system, and I don’t know how to fix and I don’t know what would be a better system, but I’ll get back to you if I ever figure it out. One thing that they’ve talked about is maybe changing the way the computer ranking lists work. Is that something that you think might be beneficial?
I think that the U.S. ranking list is actually very well done. I know we had a bad Olympics, but it’s hard to just single out the quote on quote ‘state of America.’ The show jumping state of America, based on our past Olympic Games. I think the USET list works well. I think that the international world ranking list is not quite as successful as our US ranking list, but for sure there is some kind of loop, or some puddle that is being stepped in. I’m not really sure. I don’t really have a good answer. I’ve been asked that a bunch of times, and I still can’t come up with a very good answer to be honest. Do you believe that the selection process will be changed for WEG?
I think so. Robert Ridland, our new Chef d’Equipe, is starting a new post and a new command, so we’ll see what he chooses to do. George did an amazing job for the country and was very influential and continues to be so, but it’s always going to be interesting and it’s always going to be something different with a new guy at the helm. Robert has a different approach so we’ll see how it works, and I hope it’s great. I’m going to turn it to a slightly lighter note…what are some of your favorite things to do when you’re not at the horse show and not riding?
That’s not very much! I don’t have to tell you that…I love cooking and I love hanging out with friends…I do a lot of throwing parties and things like that. I am a family person. I spend it with the people that I don’t get to see too often during the day. What’s your favorite dish to cook?
Oh gosh, I don’t know, anything. I love doing it. I do Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. Thanksgiving is my favorite.
Thank you so much for your time. It was great speaking with you and good luck this year!