PHOTOS BY ERIC STRIFFLER E

ducator. Philanthropist. Equestrienne. Clementine Goutal seamlessly weaves together a passion for learning, charitable initiative, and an intense love for horses. Like many involved in equestrian sport, Clementine eats, sleeps, and breathes horses. Her older sister, Brianne Goutal-Marteau is a champion jumper and trainer.

But Clementine also has other passions which extend beyond the horse world. Growing up, Clementine not only took her equestrian pursuits very seriously, but also her education. As a young athlete, she studied at Chapin and The Professional Children’s School in New York City in order to pursue a riding career at the same time. Not only did Clementine’s experience as a student-athlete feed her appetite for learning, but it also sparked a desire for a better education system for students like her. Clementine believes that every athlete should have access to quality instruction without having to compromise their active lifestyle outside the classroom. She founded Upper Echelon Academy (UEA) in 2013 for this exact purpose. Based in Wellington, Florida, UEA’s educators offer individualized instruction across the globe for seasonal, traveling, and full-time young athletes. The academy specializes in subjects ranging from literacy and mathematic competency to test preparation and college applications.

UEA is also unique in its philanthropic initiatives. The UEA Social Impact Committee works with students to raise funds and awareness for the charitable programs they care about. One cause UEA is closely associated with is the EQUUS Foundation. UEA sponsors the #RideForHorses Rally to support the EQUUS Foundation’s mission to protect America’s horses and strengthen the bond between horses and people. In addition to general academic curriculum, Clementine considers charity to be equally as important for her students to understand.

See the full story and more photos here.

Equestrian Living sat down with Clementine at her family’s home in New York’s Hamptons for an interview. Energetic and animated, she eagerly talked about what inspires her commitment to UEA and the EQUUS Foundation, as well as her plans for the future.

When, where, and how did you start riding? Was Brianne first?
My parents had a house in the Hamptons when we were kids, and there was a little organic farm stand that used to offer pony rides in the back. Brianne and I would go grocery shopping with my mom and hold her hostage, begging for turn after turn on the little ponies. My mom started bringing Bri to a local barn for lessons, and I basically wanted to copy whatever Brianne did, so I went to pony camp.

Were you and Brianne competitive?
Honestly, never. My relationship with Bri (and my other sisters, but for other reasons) is something I am immeasurably proud of and grateful for. I think Brianne’s talent and ability are in a league of their own, which would have made competitiveness even sillier. Also, we have always wanted to help each other, both in and out of the horse world, and I continue to see her aptitude and expertise as an invaluable resource.

Why did you found the Upper Echelon Academy? 
Even though I have always been passionate about riding and horses, my academics were never a lesser priority. I was lucky enough to go to a high school that was actively supportive of my equestrian pursuits. They taught me how to manage my time, and organized tutors for extended absences so I could ride without sacrificing my education. Balancing school and horses became second nature, and I did so throughout college without any problem. I was really sad to observe so many of my peers fail to do this. Some stopped riding altogether and immersed themselves in college life. Others chose to continue riding but attend online universities, or none at all. I founded UEA to help other students achieve the balance I was so lucky to have. There is no reason these ardent, talented, young athletes should have to give up a fulfilling college experience, or their passions.

UEA really takes the time to get to know our clients and develop a relationship with every single one, and that enables us to truly tailor our services to their unique needs. When a student comes to us and is juggling their demanding academic schedule, exacting equestrian goals, and a thousand other pressures, he or she knows I have been in the same shoes, and our team knows how to help them thrive.

What is your primary role at UEA? Are you hands on with instructing or is your primary focus on the business and marketing side of things?
Definitely the latter. I’m not a certified teacher so it’s rare that I’m ever actually delivering material. I work on partnerships, branding, growth, and marketing, as well as holistic initiatives. For example, I formed the UEA social impact board which gives students a platform to present a cause close to their heart and then learn how to raise funds and awareness for that organization. Also, I put together an annual Q&A panel to bring together students and their mentors over discussion topics they otherwise might shy away from. These range from mental health and sports performance to the college application process. One of the most fun days of the year is the annual EQUUS party hosted by UEA, during which students help organize and host an event. Nothing is more exciting than seeing our students become passionate about philanthropy, which I consider one of the most crucial aspects of a well-rounded education. 

Penny, a rescue dog, is
gradually becoming more comfortable with people.

What led you to select the EQUUS Foundation to support? What do you think makes them special?
I think what makes the EQUUS Foundation special to me is the multifaceted effects of their work. As the only national US charity 100-percent dedicated to horses, EQUUS supports organizations taking equines out of danger and placing them in nurturing environments. Further, these horses are often repurposed and serve as life-saving therapy animals, disability support, and other invaluable partners to people in need. 

Clementine on her way to winning the M. Michael Meller Style of Riding Award at Live Oak aboard Darlon van Groenhove.

When they first spoke to me about getting involved, it was a no-brainer because from a personal standpoint, I relished the opportunity to simply give back to the animals that are central to my happiness and wellbeing. Upon reflection, I realized that UEA and the foundation had great potential working together: helping these young equestrians tap into their drive and ability to give back would bring in a new generation of horse lovers to EQUUS while further enhancing the well-rounded educational experience offered by UEA.

Obviously, I’m a passionate horse lover. I’ve ridden all of my life and felt the direct effects of their magic through ups and downs, however, the EQUUS Foundation is an incredible cause even if you’re not. Its work touches so many lives, both human and equine, and is an honor to be a part of. 

Tell us about the “Bouncy Horse Olympics” that UEA sponsored at Victoria McCullough’s farm?
Each year UEA hosts an event to raise funds and awareness for the EQUUS Foundation, and we structure it depending on the current climate observed by the UEA team. This year, EQUUS president Lynn Coakley spoke to me about tapping into a younger age range—more elementary—to continue inspiring the next generation of horse protectors. Many of the teenagers who have previously participated in UEA x EQUUS events are now fervent advocates for this incredible charity. They were integral in helping plan and host the Bouncy Horse Olympics, and it was truly a pleasure to watch these young teens essentially pass on their passion to younger children. Toddlers and elementary-aged kids were interacting with rescues ranging from mini horses to high performance Clydesdales. They played games, took pony rides, and learned about simple ways to get involved and make a difference.

Clementine with Lulu (Hallelujah).

Next is graduate business school in NYC? Is business in your genes, with your family’s background?
My great grandfather was a visionary investor [founder of Allen & Company, a privately held boutique investment bank best known for hosting the annual Sun Valley media-finance conference] and while—unfortunately—none of us inherited his love of the financial services industry, we’ve all been inspired by his hard work, perseverance, and willingness to take risks. All of my sisters have impressive careers and I hope to build and expand my own. I just started my MBA at Columbia Business School, during which I’ll focus on entrepreneurship. 

Will you continue riding during school? Will your horses be nearby?
I’m committed to getting the full MBA experience so it really depends on how that unfolds. I’ve heard that certain semesters are incredibly intense—particularly the first half of year one—and during these times I’ll do my best to stay away from the barn. Other, less time-consuming semesters might permit me to ride a bit more. I’m so lucky to have my sister, Brianne, in the industry I trust entirely with my horses, who will keep them fit, happy, improving, and ready for me. We actually own “my” horses together, and planned that while I’m unable to ride she will take over. I’m excited to see my young mare develop under Bri as well. 

I watched a video of UEA’s mental strength workshop. What have been some of the other topics you’ve focused on?
I’m thrilled to hear you watched the video. This year’s panel was one of my favorites thus far, and we loved being able to share the wonderful footage with those who couldn’t attend in person. 

We’ve hosted a discussion about balancing academics and riding and the decisions young athletes face when deciding what to do after high school. Another year’s panel focused on riding on a team in college: how to best position yourself for recruitment, how to manage all your commitments, and how this may differ from a typical college experience. All of the panels are tied to our core value of balance, with a unique twist each year.

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