By: Jessica Lefroy
Francois Lamontagne has an eye for talent.
One of the Quebec native Francois Lamontagne’s most notable success stories is Lucy Davis’ Olympic and WEG mount, Barron, who was developed under Lamontagne as Undergroud des Hauts Droits. “I enjoy developing young horses and watching them progress,” he says. “Whether the horse is competing with me or another rider, I’m very proud when the horses I develop make their riders happy and bring them success. I do a lot of it myself because I enjoy it, but also because it has given me more independence. I am not waiting for an owner or a sponsor to have something to ride; I build my horses by myself from a young age.”
Lamontagne has his next star in his mare Chanel du Calvaire (Luccianno x Kashmir van Schuttershof). “She is a standout. She’s less easy and conventional then Undergroud, so not everyone believed in her when she was young,” he explains. “Being able to bring her to four Nations Cups so far and six CSIO five-star shows in 2018 is very rewarding as a rider. She’s only ten years old, so I expect to have many more good years competing with her.” He clearly has a soft spot for the mare, whom he says is his wife Elise’s favourite in the barn. “She’s also very talkative,” he says about the chatty equine. “When she’s at the show, the barn at home is very quiet.”
Although both his parents are doctors, Lamontagne never felt the pressure to pursue a more academically-minded career. He knew by the age of 15 that he wanted a life with horses and his parents asked only that he complete his high school education. They have been supporting him in his endeavours ever since. His business, Ferme Lamontagne in St. Eustache, QC, is a thriving operation with a mix of sales horses, training, and show ring clients. Lamontagne has also experienced success on the breeding side of the operation, with his brother Hubert competing the homebred Dalton in the 1.40m ring. “Seeing the success of that homebred and the fact that he shows potential to do even more makes me want to continue breeding in the future,” he says.
Lamontagne’s 2017 highlights in the ring included second place in the Canadian Show Jumping Championship and the Big Ben Grand Prix with Chanel and being named Leading Canadian at the Royal Winter Fair; second place in the Grand Prix of Harrisburg; and being a member of the winning CSIO5* Nations Cup team in Ocala. In 2018 he was named to the team for La Baule and Rome and also brought home third place in the 1.55m Progress Energy Cup at the Spruce Meadows North American.
After attending Spruce Meadows without a groom, he earned the moniker ‘one man band.’ “I’m very proud to say that I do as much as possible myself in terms of caring for my horses,” he says. “I like to know my horses, know their personalities, how they feel that day, see if everything is good with their legs and feet. I like to think that I am a life partner for my horse and not just a rider.”
He credits his development as a horseman to two of his earliest mentors, Nicole Lapierre and Julie Proulx. “I was very lucky to have started riding at Ecurie de la Chaudiere,” he explains of the facility in Lévis, QC. “They gave me the tools and support to be able to pursue a successful career in horses. As a young rider they provided me with all the basics and motivation, and I had the passion to continue. Nicole always reminds her daughter, Isabelle, and I to work on our independence in this sport. We need to work hard and do things for ourselves if we want to be successful.”
Lamontagne was considered by many to be a shoo-in for the 2018 World Equestrian Games team in Tryon, but a stroke of bad luck meant he was sidelined late in the season. “I was on the shortlist for WEG and I think I had a good chance of being selected for the team,” he says. “Unfortunately, my mare suffered a small injury at the beginning of August and I had to ask the chef d’équipe, Mark Laskin, to remove me from consideration.” A disappointment to be sure after a spectacular season, but Lamontagne has his sights set firmly on the future. “I am hoping to get Chanel back on track for the 2019 show season and if everything goes well, I would like to try and qualify for the Pan Am Games as well as the 2020 Olympics.”