It’s not every day that you come across a horse-and-rider combination who have worked their way up from the low junior jumpers to the toughest five-star grand prix tracks in the world. In the span of seven years, Lucy Deslauriers, 19, and the 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Hester (Wandor Van De Mispelaere—Winde d’Artevelde, Palestro VD Begijnakker) have done just that. They represented the United States at the 2018 Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final (Spain) in 2018 where they were the sole U.S. combination to earn 0 jumping faults in Round 1.
Most recently, they rode to a third-placed finish in the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) in March.
With treats in hand, we went behind the stall door with Hester.
• Hester has been in the Deslauriers family for the past seven years, but he wasn’t always Lucy’s horse.
“We got him at the end of his 7-year-old year, and I was doing the children’s jumpers at that point,” said Lucy. “My dad [Mario Deslauriers] showed him throughout [the Winter Equestrian Festival] in the young horse classes, and then by the time the spring came around I was looking for a horse to move up to the low juniors on. [Hester] was in the barn, so we just gave it a try! I did my first show on him at Old Salem [New York] in 2013 and went from there.
“It was a trial and error thing, just to see how it went,” she added. “Especially in the beginning, [my dad] would still ride [Hester] now and then, especially when I was at school. Hester was still a fairly young horse; he was only 8 at that point, so we were both ‘green.’ But I think when my dad saw how quickly our partnership seemed to work, even at the 1.20-meter level, it seemed right to keep going. I think we both feel really comfortable going into the ring because of that strong foundation. I have all the trust in him, and I think he trusts me back. I know what he’s going to do, and he knows what I’m going to do. So I think that really benefits us as we’ve moved up each time and I ask more of him. We just sort of see what we can do.”
• He’s like a puppy.
“One of my friends came to the barn a few weeks ago, and she was like, ‘Wow. I’ve never let one of my horses loosely follow me around like that,’ ” said Lucy. “He really is so spoiled, but in the best way. When I untack him every day, he knows exactly where the carrots are, and he’ll follow me there, stop, wait for me to get a carrot, and follow me back to his stall and wait for it. He’s just so special, and I’m just very thankful for him. He makes me so happy to walk into the barn every day.”
• Meticulous planning (and Hester’s youthful personality!) keeps the 14-year-old in peak condition for the ring.
“I get on him every day, and he feels the same,” said Lucy. “He’s a pretty fresh, loose, happy horse. He’s not complicated, so we don’t do very much at home. I took him on a trail ride today; that’s his favorite thing in the world. I think just keeping him happy and planning out his schedule so that as he gets older, we respect that it might take a little bit more time to get him fit, or he might need one more class, or he might need a few weeks off. Just respecting that he is aging helps him I guess seem like he’s not aging when he’s in the ring.”
• When it comes to Hester’s conditioning, a little goes a long way.
“He has a pretty chill routine,” said Lucy. “He’s a pretty easy horse to manage and take care of; he knows his job so well. We change it up every now and then; I’ll do flatwork, and we’ll do some gymnastics if we’re preparing for a big week. We take him on trail rides; he’ll hand walk, graze, lots of treats. If you keep him happy, he’s pretty good, and you can pretty much be sure that he’ll be ready to perform.”
• Toys be gone!
“He doesn’t have any toys,” Lucy said. “I tried to get him one one time, but he just pushed it on the other side of his stall, and he didn’t really seem like he wanted it. He’s a bit protective over his space; he probably thought it was intruding. But yeah, that didn’t work. His favorites above all else are Mrs. Pastures cookies. [He] loves those.”
• However, horses and humans with treats are welcomed!
“Whenever I’m walking next to someone, he’ll sort of peek his nose over and try to say hi to them,” said Lucy. “He likes horses. He likes people too, as long as you’re giving him attention and you have treats for him. If you don’t though, and you walk by his stall without something he’ll pin his ears at you and make sure you know what he wants. But he’s pretty friendly to both people and horses.”