‘Unimaginable loss’: former US team event rider dies aged 72

  • The lifelong equestrian and former US team event rider Mason Phelps Jr died at home on 19 May from a heart attack, aged 72.

    Mason’s passion for horses and equestrian sport started at the age of 16 when he was invited to join a training clinic with the US equestrian team.

    In 1967 he competed at the European Eventing Championships in Punchestown, Ireland, on Gladstone and in 1968 he was reserve for the US eventing team at the Mexico City Olympics. The same year he was named the US Combined Training Association’s rider of the year.

    During his equestrian career he was also a trainer, with his own stable of hunter/jumpers, and an event organiser. In the 1970s he launched many shows that still exist in the US including the AA-rated Christmas show in San Antonio, Texas, the American Jumping Derby (which later became the International Jumping Derby in Rhode Island, and the New England Horsemen’s Association Hunt Seat Medal event. He was one of the organisers of the first World Cup finals to be held in the US, in Baltimore 1980, was director of equestrian operations at Palm Beach Polo in 1991, and spent several years as president of the National Horse Show.

    In the early 1990s Mason created classes at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington including the Maclay equitation championship and medal finals, an equitation class for past Olympic, Pan American Games and Nations Cup riders. In 2012 he organised the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida.

    Mason was chairman of the American Horse Show Association (ASHA) (now US Equestrian) zone one for eight years and served on boards including the ASHA, the United States Equestrian Team Foundation (USET) and the Showjumping Hall of Fame. He was involved in various charity and fundraising work and in 1996 was one of the founders of the Equestrian Aid Foundation, which helps US riders suffering from catastrophic injury or illness. In 1998 he produced an annual benefit gala, Denim and Diamonds, for USET which ran until 2000, and returned again for 2004.

    In 2001 Mason formed Phelps Media Group, providing public relations services to equestrian events, organisations, riders and businesses.

    “Mason was the epitome of a lifelong equestrian, maintaining an undeniable relevance in the sport that has defined his personal and professional life,” said a spokesman for Phelps Media Group.

    Continued below…

    “With a proclivity for innovation, Mason paved the way, launching dozens of ingenious events throughout his career. Whether they were equestrian competitions or philanthropic fundraisers, his successful events were often the talk of the town with packed attendance.

    Leonore Philips, president of Phelps Media Group, added that the entire equestrian community had suffered an “unimaginable loss”.

    A remembrance service and memorial will take place in the future.

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