Representing your country on the world stage is a dream come true, but it's a tough road to get there. For young riders hoping to make their way in the sport, they face a unique set of challenges balancing the rigors of training at the top level with getting a college education. Lucy Deslauriers, 20, of New York, New York, seems to have it figured it out.
Lucy was named to her first Nations Cup team at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Canada at Thunderbird in June 2018. Four months later, she had ridden on three more Nations Cup teams, including the Final in Barcelona. So far this year, she has made two more Nations Cup appearances and is now on her way to the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
After a summer of success, one might think you’d find a young rider celebrating, but when we caught up with Lucy just two days after the conclusion of the Nations Cup Final last fall, she was hunkered down studying in the school library.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a whirlwind. I think it was a bit of an unexpected trajectory in terms of being on my first senior team and then competing in the Final,” Lucy said.
After Barcelona, Lucy focused on her studies at the University of Pennsylvania and didn't show again until the Florida circuit began in January. Riding at the top level of the sport and maintaining her grades is no easy feat, but Lucy has nailed down a system that works for her.
“In summers I’m riding every day. During the school year, it can be quite hectic and I have to focus on compartmentalizing and keeping [riding and studying] separate as best I can. I’ve gotten into the routine of juggling both and being on top of my work so that success in one doesn’t compromise the other to the best of my abilities.”
In her first year of college, Lucy developed a good rapport with her professors, who unwittingly gained a little education about the sport from Lucy. “Obviously the sport we compete in isn’t exactly the most conventional or something that too many of my professors have been exposed to prior to me taking their classes. At the beginning of every year, I talk to my teachers and give them the gist of what I’m doing.”
"So much goes on behind the scenes to make it all happen."
It’s no doubt a lot of pressure to perform well both in school and in the arena, especially on an international team, but Lucy has the support of her family and an experienced partner she can rely on in the ring. With confidence in the program and knowing she’s done her homework, she can keep her nerves in check when she hears the bell.
“I’m incredibly lucky to to have such a good team behind me so I can go to school and at the same time continue to aim for events like these,” Lucy says. “So much goes on behind the scenes to make it all happen.”
She notes the importance of the support she receives from her mom, Lisa, and her dad (both experienced team show jumpers) as well as her twin brother Jack, whom she says is probably her biggest supporter. She also began working with McLain Ward last year. “He’s been an integral part of my support team, not only right before I go into a big class, but also week-to-week in terms of having the right mentality to face new challenges.”
Lucy is competing in Peru aboard her long time partner Hester, a now 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Wandor van de Mispelaere x Winde d’Artevelde), with whom she won individual silver at the 2014 North American Youth Championships, followed by individual gold and team silver in 2015. Lucy and Hester have continued growing up the levels together, picking up wins at Winter Equestrian Festival, Spruce Meadows, Bromont, and American Gold Cup. Lucy finished out her 2018 season ranked in the top 100 on the Longines FEI Jumping Rankings; currently, she's ranked 104th.
“I’m so grateful to have Hester underneath me. Because I have so much trust in him and our partnership, I knew if I stuck to our routine prior to competition, staying as focused and purposeful in our preparation as possible, we'd be okay.”
From Thunderbird to Dublin to Calgary to Barcelona, Lucy couldn't pick out a favorite moment in her first year competing at Nations Cups. Instead she will forever look back on what made each experience special — and what she learned along the way.
“At Thunderbird being on my first senior Nations Cup team is something I will never forget, especially with my dad also riding there on the Canadian team. Both Dublin and the [Spruce Meadows] Masters are so prestigious, so being on those teams is something I’ve dreamed about a long time,” she says.
“Another factor that has made [last] season memorable was the fact that I was on teams with riders I’ve looked up to since I was very little – Laura [Kraut], Richard [Spooner], Kent [Farrington], and Beezie [Madden]. They all bring a tremendous amount of experience and success to Nations Cup competition, something I can only hope to pick up from being on these teams with them. There is so much to learn just by being around each of them in these settings.
“I've also had special admiration for other young riders who have been successful at this level, like Adrienne Sternlicht and Jessica Springsteen. I find the camaraderie of senior Nations Cup competition to be very meaningful and exciting to share with each of the teammates I've had thus far.”
A dedicated student of the sport, 2018 was a breakout year for Lucy, but she and Hester just keep climbing higher. Good luck in Lima!
Photography by Sportfot.
Written by Hossein Maleki
Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.