Life changed after Clementine Goutal’s move at age fourteen to a show jumping career. There were no more dances, or after school activities. But she never thought she missed out . “I wouldn’t trade the unique friendships with other riders who I’ll know my entire life, the horses I love so much, and time spent with my family in the showing process,” she says. “That was and is invaluable.”
Nineteen-year-old Goutal’s life has been structured for a horse show life on the road since she was thirteen. Though she had an early start of well-coached riding experience that included Frank and Stacia Madden, she found a show course this year that was daunting. She was walking her first meter 50 course with current trainer Norman Dello Joio at Wellington, Florida, and said she was “petrified even walking the course. I was thinking I was going to faint looking at those jumps. They were so colorful and impressive in the huge Grand Prix ring.”
Dello Joio, in good humor towards his qualified student, cajoled her about being “scared stiff.”
“He nudged me with a friendly elbow, and I fell on my butt during the course walk! In the audience were my boyfriend, family and friends,” she muses.
“Somehow, I went clean on my mare Kelline – in the jump off , I just went for it, Kelline did her thing, and we won the class.”
Goutal, a native of New York City, started riding in Bedford, New York at seven, when she was attending a private all-girls school. At the time, riding was a hobby and she was involved in school sports and academic life. As riding grew eventually into more of a career activity on the show circuit, she attended Professional Children’s School in New York City so that she could integrate academics with her riding schedule – which involved riding 2-3 horses from 45 minutes to an hour and a half .
Goutal is currently a Brown University student, and organized her own track of Psychology of Politics within the American Civilization major.
“My older sister, Brianne, was incredibly talented and devoted, and I followed her into show jumping,” she says. “Each year that passed we found ourselves more in love with, and invested in the sport.”
Brianne was an integral part of her riding life in a sport requiring intensive dedication. Goutal says she has been a role model in that world, keeping her moving as a rider and developing her character as a person– an “incredible horsewoman, level-headed, modest, kind, encouraging and positive,” her younger sibling explains.
She says that her social experiences have been satisfying even when school involved tutors on the show circuit. It was easy to keep in touch with her friends in New York when she was in Florida, “because we made an effort”- there was facebook, videochat and other social media, she explains, but her closest friends were often riders –“it was more of a reunion, meeting them at shows.”
She rides with her best friends during lessons and at shows, she says. We help each other out, she explains- like watching a jump off if the qualifying rider is busy, to guage the striding and let their equestrian colleague know what the course rides like before entering.
The comraderie among her equestrian friends nurtures a sense of anchoring and well being in the quickly shifting world of life on the horse show circuit. Goutal and her riding friends roomed next to each other the night of one of their events. The group of five jumper riders hung out with each other all day at the show, and went to dinner that night together – not because they had to, but because they wanted to, she explains. Goutal says “such friendship is a huge part of finding such pleasure in showing.”
When Goutal is riding in a jumping lesson at Dello Joio’s in Wellington, Florida, her trainer will often set up a gymnastic that requires challenging practice to get it right. The technical jump series requires calculated and precise riding – “usually the first time students go through it, it’s a disaster,” she says. But Dello Joio, who she says is known for his unique teaching style, sets up exercises that “bring courage. Even if a complex grid exercise involves cavaletti just a foot off the ground, the idea of being able to do something that seems impossible is rewarding.” Whether it’s jumping in and out of rings, through trees, or simply riding without reins on the longe, he creates lessons that instill courage and trust for me,” Goutal says. She wryly quips that Dello Joio’s efforts “to scare me to death are to prove that I can indeed survive something I see as the end of my life.”