Mario Deslauriers has a long and storied history in international show jumping competition. From his record-setting win in the 1984 World Cup Final at the age of 19 to being Canada’s sole representative at the Tokyo Olympics at the age of 56, Mario has literally “been there, done that.”
Having grown up in Bromont, QC, the site of equestrian competition for the 1976 Olympic Games and where his father, Roger, continues to operate the Bromont Equestrian Center, Mario now lives in New York City with his wife, Lisa, and their twins, Jack and Lucy. A love of show jumping runs in the family. Lisa and Lucy have both represented the United States Equestrian Team in Nations’ Cup competition and, at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, Mario and Lucy had the distinction of competing as father and daughter, although for different countries.
Almost four decades into his career, Mario continues to be at the top of his game. He is the only rider with two horses – Uris de la Roque and his Tokyo Olympic partner, Bardolina 2 – named to the 2022 National Team Program “A” Squad.
We spoke with Mario to learn more about the Olympic, World Championship, and Pan American Games veteran.
At what age did you start riding and what was the name of your first pony?
That’s a long time ago! I was four or five. I had a pony called Lady Grey; she was roan, silver and black. She was my first pony, and she was great.
I was born around the Lake Champlain area, and I was six when my dad started working for the Desourdy family and we moved to Bromont. I was already riding, going on trail rides with my mother, before we moved there.
You are currently named to the National Team Program ‘A’ Squad with two horses, Bardolina 2 and Uris de la Roque. How long have you been partnered with each horse, and what are your goals with each for this season?
Bardolina you know well. We’re now in our seventh season competing at the FEI level. Uris de la Roque is going well. I started him at the top levels in 2019 and will probably do him in the Nations’ Cup in Vancouver, but that’s still to be determined depending on how my horses are going.
I also have Emerson, an up-and-coming horse that’s 10. We bought him at the end of Florida last year, and Old Salem was our first show together, so I’ve been showing him exactly one year. This winter he mostly jumped clear in Florida and finished up the circuit by doing the 1.50m Final with four faults. He’s maybe a little difficult to ride, but he’s a talented horse.
I also have Cloud 39 who is coming back and should be ready to show at the Spruce Meadows summer circuit. I have four horses that can do the 1.50m classes and above.
What is your favourite competition memory?
I had the big one early in my career, winning the World Cup Final. That was a real big one. That was the best of the best, for sure.
Winning the American Invitational was another big one. They don’t have it anymore, but it was always a big, prestigious class.
The Olympic Games in Los Angeles were great. That was also very early on in my career. (Editor’s Note – Mario finished fourth individually riding Aramis after jumping off for the bronze medal while the Canadian team also placed fourth.)
Favourite horse show venue to compete at?
Spruce Meadows is right up there. Walking under the clock tower into the International Ring when it’s full of fans is always very exciting. It’s our own crowd, they’re cheering for the Canadians, which makes it very exciting. There’s nothing like showing in the Nations’ Cup at the ‘Masters.’ It’s always great and winning anything at Spruce is always good.
Which competition is still on your bucket list?
I would like to go to Aachen. I’ve never been. My wife and Lucy have both shown there. Lucy was there last year and won the Nations’ Cup. I was in Calgary, and I was getting up in the middle of the night to watch Lucy.
Dublin also seems nice; Lucy and Lisa have both shown there but I haven’t. Lucy was on the Nations’ Cup four years ago and Lisa was, too, many years ago.
If I can finish those two off before I retire, that would be great.
Lately, it’s been going to ski in Aspen. I really love that. It’s always a good, fun family vacation. We also took a great vacation to South Africa for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. We went to Johannesburg, then went to three different camps for three different weeks. We rode in Land Rovers; it was way safer than riding horses! To see these big elephants – 20 of them circling the Land Rovers – it brings up the heartbeat!
Cats or dogs?
We have a dog, Noodle. When the kids were young, they always wanted a dog but living in the city, we knew a lot of the burden would fall on us. We held out until COVID hit, then finally got a Mini Golden Doodle called Noodle.
I’ve had dogs my whole life. Growing up, I had many dogs in Bromont. Loads of dogs.
Last show you binge-watched?
Years ago in Calgary I was watching Prison Break. I loved that show! I love all the Jason Bourne movies, James Bond – all action stuff. These drug lord shows and Queen of the South – I love them! I need action!
Favourite motto or saying?
I don’t really have something that I say a lot. When Lucy goes in the ring, I tell her to have fun.
What three things are always in your fridge?
We always have eggs, avocado, and Ezekiel bread. That’s on my diet. Always a couple of Heinekens, not that I’m a huge beer guy. I have egg whites every morning. It’s tough as you get older; you have to watch what you eat.
If you could ride any horse in the world, past or present, which one would you pick?
It would have been Ardeche van de Zelm. It won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Spruce Meadows (in 2009) beating Authentic, Hickstead, and Presley Boy. How’s that for a line-up? It was a horse we got for Lisa as a six-year-old. It was the best horse we ever had. Lisa warmed it up during the week, and I rode it in the Queen’s Cup. He was too powerful for his own legs, we were always having soundness problems, but it was a great, great horse.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I love to do stuff around the farm. I like to ride and probably do four or five a day, but I love to mow the lawn and make sure everything is tidy. I love playing golf, I am a 10 handicap. I’m not a sitter, I can’t sit around. I love to be doing stuff.
Also, I would say that compared to a lot of riders, we have a big family life. My kids just graduated this week. Lucy graduated from Penn, and they just had Jack’s graduation from NYU at Yankee Stadium. They gave an honorary doctorate to Taylor Swift in fine arts. The place was packed! I’ve been showing one day at Old Salem and going to a graduation the next day. I think it’s a good balance.