After winning team bronze at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, Lucy Deslauriers and her 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding Hester secured another career highlight on Nov. 29, winning their first four-star grand prix in the $214,000 Holiday & Horses CSI4*, held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida.
“It’s very exciting; I certainly was not expecting it at all,” said Deslauriers, 21, of Bridgehampton, New York. “I was at school for the past two months and then came down here about two weeks ago and started riding again. I was definitely quite rusty at the beginning of the week and was really just trying to focus on the basics. The result is truly just a testament to the team behind me.”
Deslauriers is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she’s majoring in health and societies with a concentration in healthcare markets and finance. She’ll balance her studies virtually while competing in Wellington for the winter circuit.
We caught up with Deslauriers to discuss her growing string of horses and work-life balance.
How do you make school and riding work?
That’s a hard question; it varies. This year is dramatically different from years past, especially since school has been online all semester, and will be all of next semester. I’m based in Florida through the end of circuit though, and I basically have to fit my riding schedule in with my school schedule during the week. In prior years when I was down here, I’d be riding during the day and doing homework at night. Then I would go back to school on Sunday nights and focus on school until I left for the next competition.
Both worlds are intertwined right now because I’m physically in a space where I’m riding, but I’m having to do school simultaneously throughout the day. I’ve had to up my time management skills, and I’m continuing to find ways to improve those skills by being really organized about my time—the hours I can ride or be at the barn versus when I have to be in front of a screen. Ultimately it just takes planning, but it’s a continuous learning process. Though it’s hard, I feel fortunate that I am able to do both.
Do you have an idea of what you’d like to do post-graduation?
I definitely want to ride when I graduate school. I’ve always juggled school and riding, and I care a lot about learning and applying my brain to things in the “real” world so to speak. I think I’ll always be involved in something other than riding, whether it’s volunteering or a part-time thing, but right now I’m not exactly sure what that will be.
Is it hard for you to get back in the swing of riding when you’re away at school for extended periods?
Absolutely. This year is different for everyone, but usually, I’m more in and out of riding—a week in, a week out. In the fall, I typically have a few months where I’m only at school. Every time I come back there’s always a week or two period where I feel like I’ve never sat on a horse before. With time, it all comes back though.
How have you worked to manage the mental demands of the sport?
A lot of practice; I’m always trying to improve my mental game. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read books and try to learn from others who are experts in mastering the mind. I try to learn from other people—what works for them or methods that help control your mind game—and then figure out what works best for me.
I also try to put things into perspective. One round isn’t the end of the world, and that’s something I often struggle with. Obviously, we all want every round to be the best, but things happen. Horses have bad days; people have bad days. The relative lack of importance of one given round or day is something I try to always remind myself of, especially when I’m struggling with getting back into the groove after being away for a bit. It goes both ways though. On both exceptionally good and bad days, you have to wake up the next day and get back to work.
Talk about the horses in your string.
I have three that I’m competing with right now. Hester (Wandor Van De Mispelaere—Winder D’Artevelde, Palestro VD Begijnakker), who I’ve had for over seven years now. Billy De Beaufour, a 9-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Allegreto—HH Rosine De Beaufour, Diamant De Semilly), who I got a year ago. He’s a fun little speed horse. Over the last few months, I would say he’s getting more used to showing and being competitive in the ranking classes. Enanda, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Nabab De Reve—Nanda,) that I got at the beginning of last year. Because of COVID, she still feels quite new in the show ring, so while I’ve had her for a bit now, I’m still getting used to her, especially in [Fédération Equestre Internationale] classes.
It’s exciting—I’ve never had this many horses in my string to jump the FEI classes, so I’m really looking forward to this season.
How have you maintained your consistency with Hester, who has been your primary FEI horse for many years now?
I think it’s because of how we’ve grown together. Our partnership has been over seven years now, so we really have developed together. I have so much trust in him, and I’d like to believe that he has the same trust in me. When we go in the ring—even this past weekend when I didn’t feel like I was riding my best—I know it’s going to be fine. I walk in the ring with him, and it’s like, ‘OK, we can do it.’ There’s a level of reassurance in having a horse like him and having a partnership that you have so much belief in. I think that definitely covers for me when I don’t feel like I’m riding my best or I haven’t been riding, or when I’m reaching a new level.
How is he managed at home?
I usually ride him first in the morning. He really doesn’t like when other horses go first. Then he’ll usually get hand walked in the afternoon, go out for some grass, tons of treats. He tells us what he wants to do.
Where do you keep your medal from the Pan American Games?
In my room, at home in New York.
How does it feel to have a team bronze?
It’s something I look back on, and it fuels my fire. I just want to do it all over again and do it better. Two years ago, if you would’ve told me that would’ve happened, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But I think it just goes back to the trust and faith I have in my partnership with Hester—that is the reason I was able to get there, along with the amazing group of people I have behind me. I have so much gratitude for them and for him. Thinking back to that week, it’s one of the most memorable weeks of my life. I only hope to be able to replicate that at championships or events of that caliber in the future.
How are you starting to prepare for the selection process for the 2021 Olympic Games?
I’m trying to focus on establishing a level of consistency, especially as I get back into the routine of riding a lot. You can only control yourself, your own program, and the management of your horse. Whatever else happens is out of your realm of control, so that’s really what I’m trying to stay focused on, especially as I think this winter in Florida will be very busy and competitive at the top level. I think keeping a narrow focus on the system I believe is best for my horses will be important in these next few months.