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Lucy Deslauriers: “As equestrians and people with access to a lot of privilege, we should focus on finding ways to give back to others”

Wednesday, 30 September 2020
The Next Generation

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
“I feel super lucky to have grown up exposed to the sport and to have seen the high end of it from a very young age,” Lucy – daughter of Canadian show jumper Mario Deslauriers – tells WoSJ. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Despite her young age, Lucy Deslauriers has a remarkable record of results and a support network second to none. To World of Showjumping, the 21-year-old speaks about her quest to create a system that will help her reach her goals, the importance of enjoying the daily grind and how she is trying to encourage a whole community to acknowledge its privileges. 

“I feel super lucky to have grown up exposed to the sport and to have seen the high end of it from a very young age,” Lucy – daughter of Canadian show jumper Mario Deslauriers – tells. “At the same time, I feel like I had a really normal upbringing outside of showjumping. I have a twin brother and we played every sport growing up; we did everything together. It was by choice that I went to a pony camp at a barn nearby and just loved it from the get-go. The sport was always an option and something that both my brother and I were exposed to, but it was never pushed on us as something we had to pursue. My brother does not ride at all, though he’s a huge supporter of my riding and the sport! Riding was something I found a passion for from the very beginning and chose to continue.” 

Today, Lucy rides alongside her father Mario. “We train together every day and are based out of the same barn,” Lucy tells. “He is a huge part, the biggest part, of why I am able to ride at this level while going to school full time.” 

Originally from New York City, Lucy is now a full-time student at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, while her horses are stabled in Bridgehampton, New York. “During the school year, I usually come on the weekends when I can or meet the horses at shows,” she explains. “Thanks to my dad and the incredible team of people behind me – who keep my horses going – I am able to do this. During the summer when I am not in school, I am in Bridgehampton, riding every day and then traveling to shows.”  

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
“I feel so fortunate to have access to some of the top professionals in our sport. I have grown up with McLain as a close family friend and I feel so lucky that I can now learn from one of the greats in our sport," Lucy tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“I think it is special and quite unique that we get to do this as a family,” Lucy continues. “Showjumping is an individual sport, but there are so many people and moving parts that go into being a successful rider. Having someone in my corner who is a part of my family is all the more advantageous. At the end of the day, I know he wants me to succeed more than anyone else,” she says about her father. 

Next to her father, McLain Ward has played an important role in Lucy’s career. “McLain is a huge help, both in the ring and as another part of my support system, and I have gotten help from Beezie at different points, too,” Lucy tells. “I feel so fortunate to have access to some of the top professionals in our sport. I have grown up with McLain as a close family friend and I feel so lucky that I can now learn from one of the greats in our sport. At the same time, I think it is important to learn as much as I can from the people around me at different shows and from watching videos. There is always room for improvement and continual growth.” 

“McLain has been a mentor for me my whole life,” Lucy continues. “He has a really strong sense of the mental game in our sport, something I am really working on improving. I think once you get to a certain level, it becomes less about whether you have the foundation and the basic skills to jump a clear round, and rather about your ability to put it all together in a singular moment. In those moments, it really comes down to your mental strength and your ability to stay focused and to not let anything distract you from your plan. McLain has continues to help me up that part of my game and establish a level of consistency through it.”  

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"Achieving a system that will best enable me to reach my goals is something I strive to obtain; creating a process that I feel super confident in," Lucy says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Despite her young age, Lucy has already achieved some remarkable results. “Some of the moments that stand out for me the most are the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in 2018 and the Pan Am Games in Lima last year,” she says. “In Barcelona, I jumped two clear rounds, and it was a big moment for me. I was the youngest on the team –  and I believe at the whole show. To be able to focus on my goal and not let the pressure or the prestige of the event get to me was something I was really proud of. The Pan Am Games in Lima last year were my first championships and it was such an honour to be able to go there and represent the US. Going home with the team bronze medal was the icing on the cake. It made me hungry to replicate and improve that result.” 

“Like most professionals, the Olympics are obviously the dream, as well as the WEG and World Cup Finals,” Lucy says about her goals. “However, something that I have been thinking a lot about lately is that at the end of the day, a lot of us have the same goals. I believe that the ones who are able to succeed and achieve those goals and set themselves apart, are the ones who rather than putting all the focus on the goal itself, hone in on the system and the process of getting there. Achieving a system that will best enable me to reach my goals is something I strive to obtain; creating a process that I feel super confident in. As a young rider, I feel the sooner I recognize and acknowledge how much work it takes day in and day out, to stay at the top level, the better. Being able to get to the top of the sport is one thing, whereas being able to stay there is a lot harder!” 

For Lucy, the now 15-year-old BWP gelding Hester (Wandor Van De Mispelaere x Palestro Vd Begijnakker) has been a horse that has given her a world of confidence. “In the past few years, I have been so fortunate to have Hester,” Lucy tells. “My strong partnership with him has enabled me to travel around the world. It is really rare that you have a horse that you start jumping in 1.20m classes at 13 years old and end up going to venues like Barcelona, Dublin and Lima with. When I walk into the ring with him – even in places like Barcelona or Dublin – I have had the mindset that ‘of course we can jump a clear round’. In a lot of ways, that is not reality for the duration of a career in the sport. There is so much power in creating a special bond with your horse; it enables you to feel this confident and achieve things beyond your initial imagination. As I started to ride other horses, and compete at Grand Prix level with them, I realized that maintaining that level is really tough.” 

“Another important thing that I have been trying to accept and embrace is that we participate in a sport where you have many, many more bad days than good ones,” Lucy continues to speak about the challenges that riders face. “Being able to stick with your process and your system, and really enjoy the grind of getting to the top, is super important. Because if you only enjoy and value the moments when you jump double clear, that gets super tough… really quickly. Those moments are few and far apart.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"If you only enjoy and value the moments when you jump double clear, that gets super tough… really quickly. Those moments are few and far apart," Lucy says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

And speaking of challenges… “I think a huge issue that we face in our sport right now, are the rising costs – costs of not only entering the sport to begin with, but the cost of competing, acquiring new horses, and staying at the top level,” Lucy says when asked how she sees the future of our sport. “In my short career, I have already seen the costs only go up and that is a huge problem. At the end of the day, being able to sustain a career or to promote the sport on the world stage – something that we have struggled to do in comparison to other major sports – becomes only more difficult if the costs keep increasing. I don’t have the answers in this moment, but I think it is something that people in all areas of the sport – whether you are a rider, trainer, breeder, show organizer – need to keep in mind. At a certain point, if we keep going in this direction, less and less people are going to be able to compete at the top. I think that reality is something that no one wants for our sport, especially as we are a part of the Olympic family.” 

While Lucy might not hold the answers for these challenges, she is doing her part when it comes to bringing horses closer to humans. Last month, Lucy launched a new initiative – the Equestrian Cooperative – together with Adrienne Sternlicht, Paige Bellissimo and Tori Repole. “I think horses bring so many benefits and so many learning opportunities to our lives,” Lucy explains. “I feel so fortunate that I am able to work with horses at this level. Something that Adrienne, Tori, Paige and I have been thinking a lot about, especially in the context of the extreme unrest in the US recently, is how to increase accessibility to horses and make it so that it is not only a small percentage of people who have this access. We are focusing on engaging the community through volunteering, conversation and social action. We are working with a lot of organizations that already exist, to use horses for social good.” 

With this new initiative, Lucy hopes to bring a new perspective onto the showjumping scene. “Sometimes, when we are traveling from show to show, it is so easy – for me at least – to be thinking weeks after a Grand Prix why I had a certain rail down,” she says. “Taking a step back and recognizing that so many people are not in this fortunate scenario and trying to harness our power as equestrians and as people with access to a lot of privilege, and channel that to do good and to give back to others, is what we aim to do. We are trying to use the Equestrian Cooperative to rally people in the equestrian industry – not just riders, but trainers, journalists, farriers, horse show organizers, everyone – to use this community for social action. I believe that there is a world of potential. We hope to start a conversation and get people thinking about how they can use their power to give back and create a more inclusive, diverse space centered around horses.” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping
"The connection we have with our horses is so powerful," Lucy says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Starting a conversation and showcasing the best of the sport to a wider audience is something Lucy feels strongly about. When asked about her favourite aspect of the sport, her answer comes quick and firm: “Definitely the horses,” she says. “The connection we have with our horses is so powerful, and not something that should be overlooked. They give so much to us every single day, and there is no reason they have to do what we ask from them. But they do, and the good ones do so in a way that is hard to describe. Recognizing how much horses do for us is really important and something that I try to remember, especially on the days when I feel frustrated about having the last jump down in a Grand Prix, for example, or when I did not ride my best.” 

When it comes to motivation, it is the people around her and her horses that keep Lucy going. “I want to be able to be the best partner I can be for them,” she says. “Having this huge support system around me, I want to do well for them. I want to show up and I don’t want to let anyone down – I want to produce top results on a consistent basis and be counted on. Seeing both of my parents and McLain represent their country, and watching them do so on an exceptional level, motivates me to try and emulate that. I ride for the States and I don’t think I’ll ever ride for anyone else – I feel strongly that I am an American, a New Yorker. Sometimes we joke with my dad; he’ll tell me I should ride for Canada like he does, but I am super proud to ride for the US and hope to do so on many more occasions.” 

 

No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

 



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