It’s a long way from Leyland, Lancashire to the Equestrian Village in Wellington Florida but that is the life journey British show jumper Amanda Derbyshire has made. And it is not finished…she has her sights set on the Olympics in Tokyo 2020. I had the opportunity to speak with Amanda recently about her journey. But before I get to that I’d like to show you this video of Amanda riding Roulette on the Derby field in Wellington . The riders will have had the opportunity to walk this course. Each rider will know the horse they will be riding and know the length of the horse’s stride, what fences will be easier for their horse and which will be harder. The rider will decide how many strides will be needed in the jump combinations and where they can make tighter turns to save time. In this video at minute 1:46 watch how Amanda takes a tight turn and rides on to the next fence. This is the gutsy riding that can lead to show jumper glory.
I had spoken with Amanda several years ago when I was writing a piece for a British website. At that time she spoke with me about her work with the Gochman family training the two young Gochman daughters and their ponies. Their Mother Becky Gochman is also a competitor and Amanda coached, rode and trained the girls ponies and also competed horses for the Gochmans. Last summer I saw that Amanda had been named to the British Show Jumping Team for the World Equestrian Games in Tryon NC. WOW! I knew there was a chapter or two that I had missed since I had last spoken with her. So I was happy to have the opportunity to catch up with her.
How did you start riding ?
I started as a child and rode one of my Mum’s horses. He was called Scooter and was 15hh. I was always in awe of horses. When I was six my parents got me a pony.
How did you end up coming to the United States?
After school I went to college and thought I would either be a lawyer or a vet and started by pursuing both of those . I took psychology , chemistry, English and then decided to take a summer break for three months to the US. I got a job at Heritage Farm and ended up staying for a year. During that time I met the Gochman family and started to work for them. That was 8 years ago. I never went back to England.
Tell me about your journey to the British Team at WEG last September.
I was riding one older horse that went so well that Becky and the family got quite excited about show jumping and decided to buy a couple of younger horses. One was an 8-year-old that had done the 1.4 meter and was a nice, easy and safe option. She kept progressing all the way to WEG! She has no flaws and there were no setbacks. For me she is the horse of a lifetime. Her name is Luibanta BH. She is 11 now. She goes into the ring and gives it her all. She does that every time. That’s how it has always been with her. Amanda at WEG Tryon 2018 Photo credit: Peter Nixon
How was your experience at WEG?
It was disappointing that the show grounds were not completely finished. If they had been then everyone would have walked away with positive things to say. But they tried hard. The stables were perfect, they had fans for the heat and the ring was beautiful. The jumps were the most impressive I’ve ever seen. There was the heat but you can’t change the weather. It was my first big team championship experience. We had the support of a horse physio and a vet and a human physio and an excellent chef d’equipe. We had everything done to make our lives easier including making dinner reservations for the team and the owners of the horses .
Amanda’s individual result was excellent for a first Championship.
And in honor of International Women’s Day yesterday it is worth noting she is the She finished in 17th place out of 124 riders! first woman to be on a British Show Jumping team in 20 years!
I have seen that you have been named to the British Equestrian Federations World Class Podium Potential Squad for 2019-2021.Tell me about that.
It is a Lottery funded program and you can get help from sport psychologists and trainers. It is a great honor to have been named to this squad.
Tell me about the horses you are riding.
Luibanta BH, Roulette BH, and Cornwall BH. I don’t really have a speed horse. Roulette is the next big-time horse. He is very talented and we are taking it slow with him, not over facing him. Cornwall can do the 4* Grand Prix as well. He’s a bit cheeky. He’s my big pony! We are trying to not overshow any of them at the Winter Equestrian Festival. Amanda and Roulette Photo credit: Cealy Tetley. Amanda and Luibanta BH Photo Credit: Cealy Tetley Amanda and Cornwall BH Photo: Horseaddict.net
WEF is 12 weeks long. How do you schedule your horses so as not to over show them?
We give them a week off. Roulette just had 3 weeks off and I am just starting Luibanta up now aiming for the European Championships in Rotterdam.
Are you aiming for The Olympics in Tokyo 2020?
I noticed that Amanda had a rather lovely ring on her left hand. So I asked: “Is it difficult to balance a personal relationship and the demands of being an elite athlete?”
It is easier here in the winter. My fiancé, David Blake, is here and has a similar job as me. He’s the head rider and trainer for Pine Hollow Farm here in Wellington. But in the summer he is in North Carolina and I am in New Jersey. So it’s difficult .
So that is a serious ring you are wearing?
We’ve been together for six years now. Yes, it is serious!
Thank you Amanda for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me. I very much appreciate it. All the best for the road to Tokyo.
I must also thank the barn and office manager for the Gochmans, Amanda Mecca, who arranged a time for me to speak with Amanda Derbyshire.
Amanda and friend at Baxter Hill Farm, Wellington FL.
Feature image photo credit Cealy Tetley*