By Nicky Graf Ussher
There’s very little that Derek Braun hasn’t seen or done in his show jumping career.
Derek Braun has spent nearly his entire life around horses and the sport of show jumping. His competitive career began at the age of 7, and he showed talent for the sport from the start. He earned top results as a junior including winning the USET Talent Search Equitation Finals in 2001, and the team gold medal at the National Junior Jumper Championships and Prix de States at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg in 2002.
He spent summer 2003 competing successfully on the European circuit. That trip not only offered Derek a unique opportunity as a competitor but also gave him insight into the inner workings of the European horse show circuit, something which would later prove invaluable. Derek is now calling on his vast wealth of experience to produce the Split Rock Jumping Tour, an exciting new venture that he says will “provide competitors, sponsors and spectators with an unparalleled show jumping experience and will change the way show jumping is presented in the U.S.”
After graduating from Rollins College in 2007, Derek relinquished his amateur status and turned professional. He has earned numerous Grand Prix wins and placings at some of the nation’s most prestigious horse shows including the Hampton Classic, Winter Equestrian Festival, American Gold Cup, Pennsylvania National Horse Show, HITS Ocala, National Horse Show and New Albany Classic, as well as Spruce Meadows and Bromont in Canada. Derek has also represented the United States internationally, riding on the U.S. Nations Cup team at the Porto Alegre CSIO**** in Brazil in 2013.
In 2007, Derek moved his business, Split Rock Farm, Inc., to Lexington, Kentucky, the renowned Horse Capital of the World. Over the past three years, he has produced widely successful local jumper shows and purchased additional property to develop international show facility amenities. With these in place, he began to develop the concept for the new Split Rock Jumping Tour, of which he is founder and president. The Split Rock Jumping Tour will host two action-packed international competitions in 2015. Both the Lexington International, May 22-24, and the Bourbon International, October 9-11, are jumper-exclusive FEI*** events that will allow riders to earn FEI points without having to travel to Europe. Plans call for adding events over the next several years, shifting to various venues throughout Lexington.
“We’re so excited to premiere the Split Rock Jumping Tour,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to bring the European show jumping experience to the U.S. and offer a series of this caliber. We want to revolutionize the way competitors, sponsors and spectators can benefit from show jumping in the U.S., while creating more exposure for our sport as a truly entertaining sporting event. Our Lexington venue, complete with its supportive community of horse lovers and combined with top prize money and our unique full-service rider hospitality experience will draw this country’s top riders as well as riders from countries around the world.”
Competitors will have the luxury of choosing from one of five all-inclusive entry packages, each with one flat cost, an offering that’s unprecedented in this country. And Derek promises that no detail will be overlooked as far as the amenities provided to riders and horses.
“We’ve designed each entry package to custom fit riders’ and horses’ needs,” he said. “Packages are tailored to cover entry fees, stall fees, nominating fees, initial stall bedding costs, VIP hospitality packages, gala tickets, concierge amenities, shuttle services, and even hotel rooms, all for one flat fee. Our sponsorship packages will allow corporate sponsors to invite their sponsored riders and clients to our competitions with all expenses covered as part of the sponsorship, and class sponsors can have private on-field seating,” he added. “We’re making every effort to simplify things for exhibitors and sponsors, yet create a truly unique experience that we feel has always been missing from American horse shows. We’ll be the only horse show to offer anything like this.
“We’re committed to providing an unparalleled experience for all competitors, sponsors and spectators,” Derek added. “We’re very excited about what we’ve got going and we invite everyone to come and share what we believe is the beginning of a brand new show jumping experience in this country, one that no one has ever seen before. My vision is now becoming a reality.”