You often hear about people coming to New York City to pursue their acting dreams or to start a band, but Luisa Coutinho came to the city to make an impact on the horseback riding industry. Although only a freshman in Stern, Coutinho has already begun a business to transcend the limits of the city — as well as of the country. Ever since she began riding at 12 years old, she has had a knack for training horses. Now, she plans to use her knowledge of the horseback riding field to train international horses and sell them in the United States.
“The most competitive horses at the moment are usually from Germany,” Coutinho said. Coutinho’s plan is to bring horses from Europe to the United States, train them and sell them.
Through this transaction, Coutinho eliminates the risks of buying a horse abroad — purchasing and shipping a horse that the buyer has never seen in person or ridden before. The horse could have health problems or behavioral issues that are not stated in its advertisements, she explained. Coutinho plans to visit and assess horses over a couple of days to decide which have the potential to be trained once they are brought to the United States.
Her horse, Wesley, who she competed with throughout most of her youth, was trained by Coutinho herself. He had only been in the country for a month before Coutinho began riding him.
“I want to focus on people who are in my same situation, those who can’t quite afford top-priced horses, but want something promising that they’re willing to work for,” she said. “A lot of the girls I competed with were on million-dollar horses. But I was still able to compete with them on a much lower budget, so it’s my target to find people and horses that, with hard work, have something that’s going to pay off for them.”
Coutinho’s work ethic has had to extend beyond the show ring, as well — she had to keep up with schoolwork despite her involvement in national competitions that often left her unable to make it to high school.
“I almost didn’t graduate because of all my absences from school,” she said. “Most of the girls on my level of competition were homeschooled, but I stayed in public school. That was really hard.”
During Coutinho’s last two years competing, she traveled every weekend between Florida, Washington, D.C., Vermont and New York for competitions, missing school Wednesday through Monday, only attending on Tuesday before leaving again.
Throughout high school, Coutinho competed in English riding, show jumping and equitation, an event that focuses chiefly on the rider rather than the horse. These competitions took months and months of preparation, especially because Coutinho’s horse required extra training.
“It’s crazy how much time and money people put into something that isn’t even that well-known,” Coutinho said. “But, we’re passionate about it. It means a lot to all of us in it.”
Though she has not been riding much lately, Coutinho has appreciated a more traditional school schedule. She is currently taking classes in law as well as learning how to create contracts and sales agreements with her future clients.
Outside of her Stern classes, Coutinho is involved with Plan Pais, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing Venezuelan issues and youth culture. She has strong ties to the country — although she was born in the United States, both her parents are Venezuelan and she began riding in her grandmother’s town in Venezuela.
The horse she grew up with is now being leased for the 2014 year, and Coutinho plans to continue leasing him until she graduates NYU in order to raise money for a few more horses to start her business.
Karen Boysen, Coutinho’s trainer and coach, has no doubt that Coutinho’s success in the equestrian field will only continue to grow.
“She’s very humble,” Boysen said. “But Luisa is tough; she’s going to make it in this business. People underestimate her for her shyness, but when she gets in the ring, she’s nothing but strong.”
— Hannah Treasure