A Look Back at the American Jumping Derby
“Competing in the American Jumping Derby was one of the highlights of my Equestrian Show Jumping career. Maybe it was my eventing background that made me love this class so much. Mason Phelps organized this spectacular event at his wonderful estate, Glen Farm, in Rhode Island and it was a one-of-a-kind extravaganza for over a decade. It featured massive natural jumps over a very, very long course, which made it a real contest that required special preparation in training the grob, banks, ditches, as well as conditioning one’s horse. A real horseman’s class with a European flavor!”
– Bernie Traurig
The American Jumping Derby; 1976 - 1988
Here is a priceless look back at some archival footage filmed by Gordon Wright & narrated by George Morris. Join us as we take a rare glimpse at Mason Phelps’ amazing production, the American Jumping Derby. This challenging and rugged derby brought the grit of European show jumping to the U.S. courtesy of Mr. Phelps. Held at his stunning family estate in Rhode Island, the Derby was truly a gem of the show jumping circuit from 1976 through 1988.
Check out these archived articles about the American Jumping Derby...
Mr. Phelps, a member of the 1968 Olympic Equestrian Team and owner of Glen Farm, about seven miles north of downtown Newport, has made the International Jumping Derby – now in its ninth year – a major stop on the equestrian jumping circuit, creating what riders say is a most difficult European-style jumping course on his farm.
Click here to read the full article in The New York Times published Aug. 26 1984
In Europe, where show jumping is second only to soccer in popularity as a spectator sport, no one would have raised an eyebrow when Phelps first proposed to build a long, demanding course for jumpers; to stage an event comparable to the Derby at Hickstead, in England, complete with a giant bank obstacle. (Pictured)
Click here to read the full article in The Day published Aug. 18, 1986
Bernie Traurig and Obi Wan Kenobi in the American Jumping Derby
Bernie also competed in the American Jumping Derby in the late 70s aboard ‘Obe Wan Kenobi’. Here’s some vintage footage of him and several others tackling the daunting course. Click here to view more vintage videos on EquestrianCoach.com
I was lucky enough to be at the first six Derbies, both as a groom and a spectator. I actually was Bullwinkel’s groom the year he is pictured in the video (1976). It was everything George describes, and more. All the parties were open to everyone, and Mason was a superlative host. I am so lucky to have been there in its heyday. Newport is one of my favorite places anywhere, and these memories are alive and well in my mind. Thanks, Bernie, for posting this film.