One to Watch: Isabelle Lapierre

Isabelle Lapierre. Ph. ©Tom von Kapherr

Sunday, August 6, 2017 was a day of firsts for Canada’s Isabelle Lapierre, as she rode her own Cescha M to her first World Cup qualifier victory which was also her mount’s World Cup qualifier debut and her first time jumping this class on home soil in Bromont, Canada, at the opening leg of the 2017 /2018 season of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping North American League.

The Quebec native vanquished a six horse jump off where she and her compatriot Jenn Serek were the only riders out of a field of 32 to keep a clear score in both rounds.

Lapierre and the Cescha M weren’t the favorites for the win, but they proved their partnership has only been getting stronger as Chesca trusted every choice her rider made in the jump off.

“The turn to number 15, I went blind to the distance and I just kept going,” Lapierre described. “To the last jump, I just kept going as fast as I could, hoping for a distance and hoping she’ll jump it clear!”

The 38-year-old rider has been around horses nearly all of her life. She began riding at age four, and did her first competition only one year after on Bonaparte, her mother’s horse. Ever since then, showing and competing has been a part of her life, and she has been a regular face at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Canada for many years.

In 1997 she made her first big trip to Europe, to ride in France with World Champion, Éric Levallois, for three months. She would later return to France for another four months of training just after starting her professional career at Écuries de la Chaudière in 1998. In 2002, she trained with Eric Lamaze for three years.

Lapierre first saw Cescha M, a 10-year-old KWPN mare (Diamant de Semilly X Calando IV) at an auction in Europe. But she never rode the mare before she purchased her. She expressed interest in Cescha M, and later received a call that the mare was available, and she had to buy her because it would be very easy to re-sell her to somebody else. So Lapierre just took a chance and brought the mare home.

The pair were quickly successful: they started in the young horse classes for 7-year-olds, became the Provincial Reserve Champion of Quebec and went on to earn several top five finishes up to the 1.60m level.

Lapierre’s focus has been singly on Cescha M, who is the only horse she competes at the international level.

She said that she hadn’t made the 2018 Longines FEI World Cup Final in Paris a goal, but after her most recent win at Bromont she might rethink her schedule to prioritize getting more World Cup points.

“The whole year, we plan the shows that I want to to be ready for this class—to see what she was going to do in a World Cup Qualifier. “So we did that and she won. Now we have to think differently. Now we know that she can do it, so the plan will be around that next step.” explained Lapierre after her victory “We were not really prepared to plan to take part in all the tests of qualifications, but this win changes it a little. We will sit and we’ll think about it.”

Isabelle Lapierre & Cescha. Ph. Tom von Kepherr

This victory marks her first win at this level of competition and it makes it even more special to ride in front of a home crowd that always cheers her to the maximum.

“It can’t get better. This is amazing! We often try to imagine [with the victory]… It is beautiful. We dream all of winning,” said Lapierre, who struggled to find the right words to describe her emotions. “Every time I jump here, I feel the crowd is jumping with me, I think that’s why I went faster than Jenn. The crowd was pushing me. I had an advantage.”

But she might have had another lucky charm cheering for her as her father, who barely attends her shows, made his way to Bromont over the weekend and was there to support his daughter on one of the most important days of her career.

Now, Lapierre has 13 more opportunities to collect points in the North American League this season. Ultimately, only two Canadians will get a ticket to France, and whereever her path will take her, she and Cescha Z will be one to keep an eye on to see which goal they accomplish next.

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