By Nancy Jaffer
June 5, 2016
At the age of 21, Amanda Derbyshire left her native England “to experience America” for three months. Six years later, the charming grand prix show jumper is still here, competing at major shows with an impressive string of horses.
Asked what she likes about the U.S., Amanda promptly replied, “Everything,” then added brightly, “the weather.”
She started out at Heritage Farm in New York, and now is a private trainer and barn manager for Becky and David Gochman’s Baxter Hill Farm.
Like so many immigrants, she stayed for “the opportunity. The shows here are really nice,” she said.
Amanda is spending the summer in Flemington, riding out of Scott Stewart’s base, Rivers Edge Farm. Both were at the Devon Horse Show last week, where Scott won the Leading Hunter Rider title and guided Betsee Parker’s A Million Reasons to the Grand Hunter Championship. Amanda was second in the $40,000 International Speed Stake on the flashy chestnut, Goldbreaker, behind new world number one-ranked rider McLain Ward, who wound up as the show’s leading jumper rider and also was aboard the open jumper champion, Tina La Boheme.
Several other ribbons also came Amanda’s way, including a seventh place on her top horse, Lady Maria BH, in the highly competitive $225,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon.
McLain paid her quite a compliment.
“I think Amanda is excellent,” he said.
“She’s a great blend of two systems. She has a grittiness that comes from her background in England,” he continued, noting she “digs in, which you don’t see in the U.S. always; you see the young riders typically are kind of a little soft.”
The grittiness, “has been refined with a lot of style, so I think with the right horses, Amanda can go anywhere she’d like to go.”
Amanda rode in England with Olympic gold medalist Nick Skelton, and has trained in America when she can with Nick and his partner, Laura Kraut, another Olympic gold medalist. She also gets help occasional from Scott’s partner, Ken Berkley.
“I’m confident doing it on my own. I don’t always need someone there,” said Amanda, who won the Table A class in the 2-star division with Lady Maria at the Global Champions Tour stop in Miami Beach during April, where she also was first in the two-phase competition on Cannavaro BH. Of Goldbreaker, she said, “He’s so fast, he’s so brave. He’s kind of a horse I can use on any occasion. He really does try hard. He has his own style, but he’s never yet said no to anything I’ve asked him to do.”
Explaining how Amanda came to work for Baxter Hill, Becky Gochman said, “We really wanted her because we knew she was a great rider and would make an extra effort to help me, and she was also small enough to ride the ponies.”
The Gochmans’ daughters were quite successful in the pony ranks at Devon. Sophie, 13, was champion and reserve in the Small Pony section with Betsee Parker’s Bit of Love and Love Me Tender, while her younger sister, Mimi, 11, was reserve in both the Mediums on Pegasus Show Stable’s Truly Noble and in the Larges on Fair Play Farm’s Storyteller.
“As our relationship developed, we soon figured out she could not only help with our girls but she’s a great rider in her own right,” commented Becky, who took Devon’s 3-foot, 6-inch Amateur-Owner Hunter over 35 Grand Championship with Empire.
“We’re learning along the way and Amanda’s a great teacher for our children in the jumper division and we feel so blessed to have her that we want to support her when we can as a jumper rider,” Becky continued.
“She finds really interesting horses. We give her a nice budget, but certainly not the kind of budget some of the other riders are going with. She’s talented at finding horses. She’s such a nice person that people want to see her succeed, so that helps.”
Amanda buys horses in England, rather than on the continent, as so many do.
“I get them from a lot of people I know, rather than going to Europe from people that I don’t know,” she said.
Becky said, “The thing I like about her is that she helped Nick Skelton, and took some of his young horses to the smaller shows where they would start, so she comes from the frame of mind where she does everything herself.”
Becky added, “She’s tough on my girls and makes them work hard at the barn and takes them on trail rides and has them gallop through fields. We appreciated the British heritage she brings to our training program.”
Amanda explained, “I still like hacking-out along the roads, which you don’t see anyone doing here.”
She enjoys taking the horses down quiet Old Croton Road near Rivers Edge.
“It’s very peaceful and nice,” she said.
“We hack out on the main roads in England, with tractors, wagons and everything else coming by.”
Amanda started riding because her mother did, but that was a more casual approach to the sport. She got her first pony when she was four or five, then went on to the pony jumpers.
“It’s a lot different than the system here. When I came here, it was a big change, but I tried to keep the qualities a lot of the European riders have. The style here and the precision are a lot more than we would have back home,” she said, explaining the type of preparation here also is quite a contrast to the way it’s done in Britain.
Amanda is getting to know her area of New Jersey, dining out at Ninety Acres in Peapack and the Red Rooster in Flemington. She also enjoyed a visit to New Hope, just across the Delaware River from Lambertville, but most of her time naturally is spent with the horses.
The Gochmans really appreciate Amanda.
“She’s just a lot of fun,” observed Becky.
“She has the cutest personality. She’s one of a kind. It’s a thrill watching her compete and get better and better. I really feel that she is starting to come into her own. She’s confident she can do it.”