28 June 2016

Lambert Leclezio was just 11 when he tried vaulting for the first time – a gymnastic dance performed on horseback...

The Mauritius lad quickly became known around the world in the vaulting arena, and since his teenage years, he began competing in, and winning, international events.  Winner of the Longines Rising Star Award 2014, we caught up with him to see what he's up to these days...

What age did you begin vaulting and how did you start?

I started vaulting at the age of 11 at the club I rode at. I remember I had to stop gymnastics as I was going to college and there were no gymnastics lessons there, so I decided to try vaulting when my riding instructor wanted to try it.

I tried a beginner’s class but didn’t really like it because it wasn’t challenging enough. Then, one day, I saw a more advanced class and my vision of vaulting changed. A few days later, I started officially vaulting and only a month later, I one my first vaulting competition against much more experienced people!

How many hours would you spend learning a new move and how do you stop yourself from becoming impatient?

This year, we are training for around 25 to 30 hours a week. We train on the floor, in gymnastics halls with mattresses and lunges. We train on barrels and of course on our horses. But before we try a new move at a canter, we go through a lot of preparation. The move must be perfectly executed on the ground and on the barrel before we do it on a horse. 

It is sometimes difficult to stay patient, yes – especially in compulsory moves. They are very technical and costing a lot of time. Gaining 0.5 on a move can take months or more. In the end, people don’t know how much work is behind a small evolution. What motivates me is seeing my evolution during the season. 

“We share very special moments with our horses”

What is your training regime?

We have strength programs as part of our training. One is 2 hours long and we do it twice a week, and then we have our own program that is more specific to our own bodies, which we do 2 to 3 times a week. This year we’re also training in a circus school, where we do a lot of acrobatics, handstands and balancing. That is where we learn and practice our difficult moves. We do a lot of more specific work on the barrel (wooden horse) where we repeat our programs 100 times and train for the technical elements.

Then of course we have some horse training. I train on a horse called Sam twice a week. I also work on some moves I have trouble with on him so he is kind of my training horse. Then, once a week, I train on Quiece d’Aunis, who is my partner in my competitions this year, and who will compete with me at the World Championship in Le Mans in August.

How would you describe your relationship with your horse to someone who has never been around horses and never ridden?

We share very special moments with our horses. We go through a lot with then. We both train very hard, we compete together, we enjoy the first heat on the grass when summer is coming, we play with them, we feed them, and we cuddle with them. All this creates a very special connection. They become our friends.

When did you realise you wanted to become a competitive vaulting athlete?

I think I was always meant for competition. I always wanted to be the best and I always have been quite serious in sport training, whatever sport it was. It happened so fast that I just got into it without questioning myself.

How do you calm your nerves before going into the arena?

I like to start the morning by putting my outfit on and listening to music. After that, I stretch a bit in the stables with the horse, away from everyone else. I like to be alone and focus on myself, how I feel and what I have to do. Then, I slowly get the horse ready and bring him to the warming up arena where we can start to do some practice. After that, we get ready for the run in.

What is your biggest achievement to date and how did it feel?

I think the competition that felt the greatest so far was the World Equestrian Games in 2014. I was only 17 and I was competing in the senior division. The atmosphere was super; the arena and the audience were amazing, and it was a good performance for me at that time.

But so far my best score was in CVI Ermelo this year, where I won in front of the actual European Champion and the World Cup Final champion.

Do you have a motto, quote or saying that you live by?

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure" - Paulo Coelho

If a child who wanted to be a vaulting athlete asked you for advice, what would it be?

I think it would depend on their goals. If they wanted to do it for the pleasure, I would tell them to have fun and to enjoy every moment of it. But if they ever had more ambitions, I would tell them to first find a good team and coach who are ready to help in every situation, and who would help them through the tough moments, and, of course, a good horse. Then, I would tell them to train a lot and never give up, even if it is hard and not going as you want.


Tell us a bit about life and equestrian in Mauritius…

Equestrian in Mauritius is very well known. There is a lot of horse racing and it is kind of a national sport. We are a very small Island so we only have four traditional riding schools. The four of them are all doing vaulting. 

What are you currently working towards and what are your long-term goals?

This year, I am working for the Senior World Vaulting Championship in Le Mans. My biggest goal at the moment is to go to the World Equestrian Games in Canada in 2018. This competition is the biggest in the vaulting world and everyone wants to compete there.

How did it feel winning the FEI Rising Star award?

I was very surprised and proud! It was an amazing experience travelling to Baku and meeting all these people from all around the world for the event.

Do you have any other pets? 

I have two dogs – Nela, a fox terrier who is very nice and cuddly. She is always there for me. Then I have Cassie, a small dog with long hair. She is very cute but she was still very young when I left for Europe, so I haven’t shared so much time with her.

What is your favourite movie?

Harry Potter. I have seen them all a hundred times!


Text by Carly Dolan

Photography by Daniel Kaiser for FEI