Mary Phelps and The Flying Gangsters Make a Breyer Appearance at The World Equestrian Center
Friday, May 6, 2022
Posted by Mary Phelps
We are excited to announce we will be bringing our ponies to The World Equestrian Center May 21, 2022, for a Breyer Fun Day in collaboration with The Mr. Pickles and Sailor Bear Toy Shop. The World Equestrian Center's exclusive and magical toy store located in the Equestrian Hotel features a large selection and collection of Breyer horses, ponies, and all that goes with them.
The World Equestrian center is saving 23 boxes for this special day. The line has been discontinued, as are all Breyer Collectors' products, but can still be ordered through Breyer until the last production is sold out. Order here
My ponies Bugsy Maloney and Tony Da Pony were a part of the Breyer 2020 collection. As is with all Breyer "Celebrity" models, the line was discontinued after a very successful two year run. But never fear, the WEC team have set aside their last order, for this special day. Your chance to own your own collectable pair of driving ponies.
We will be in the Grand Arena from 10AM to 2PM, where the World Equestrian Center invites Breyer fans of all ages to their second Breyer Fun day. Stop by for fun free Stablemates painting for kids and a chance to have you Breyer Gangster Models signed by Mary Phelps, their proud owner and biggest fan.
But Wait, There's More!
But that's not all, Mary and her Gangster Team will have all four matching ponies, with their marathon carriage and in their marathon gear to do an exciting demonstration of the sport of Combined Driving. The ponies will be doing their demonstration in the WEC Grand Arena, with Breyer activities held in front of The Mr. Pickles and Sailor Bear Toy Shop. Later the ponies will be brought to meet their fans, for photos and autographs.
The Blessing of the Ponies
In 2019 before heading for Europe, we had a special send off party for the ponies at our farm in nearby Micanopy. Our minister from the Church of the Mediator in Micanopy, conducted a Blessing of the Ponies. We had over 50 friends in attendance we all shared the blessing, and the rest id history. We had a safe and successful trip, winning a Gold Medal in cones at the Pony World Championships.
The World Equestrian Center has agreed that we will be adding our 2022 Blessing following the Breyer Event in front of the WEC Chapel at 2:30.
When my ponies were invited to become a part of the Breyer Collection for 2020, we were surprised and thrilled. The process began in 2019, the year we were vying for qualification and hopefully selection to compete at the FEI World Driving Championships for Ponies. I have four uniquely matching paint ponies, and Breyer selected Bugsy Maloney and Tony Da Pony to be packaged a a set of 2.
A Year To Remember
We brought all four ponies to Europe to train with my longtime friend and coach Bram Chardon. I was 68 years old at the time, and my ponies were the smallest in the competition. And guess what? We finished 12th overall, and won the cones portion of the competition, a Gold Medal for the USA.
We were planning a triumphant visit to Breyerfest in July of 2020, then of course we all know what happened. COVID changed a lot of things that year, but we kept training, and now with four matching ponies, made the big leap to Four In Hand, because, well, why not.
We are super excited to finally have the ponies wearing their special Breyer Blankets, and to make their long overdue appearance at the iconic World Equestrian Center, just 30 miles from their home in Micanopy.
Mary and Her Flying Gangsters Prove It’s Never Too Late to Live Your Dream
Written for the "Virtual" 2020 Breyerfest Event
By Natalie DeFee Mendik for Breyer
Small but mighty and definitely feisty sums up ‘The Gangsters,’ who, together with owner Mary Phelps, compete in combined driving at the FEI Advanced Level. This pair of painted ponies features Bugsy Maloney, a Classic American Shetland, and Tony Da Pony, a Shetland/Welsh cross, partnering in this sport that brings timeless driving to an exciting three-day-event style format. Combined driving, which can be performed single, in a pair, or four-in-hand, consists of three phases: dressage, marathon with hazards in open terrain, and cones performed in a stadium.
Joining together with these ponies to pursue sport at the highest level is something that Phelps had seemingly been preparing for her entire life. Growing up cleaning stalls in order to take part in trail rides, as a young adult Phelps landed in Florida at the Standardbred racetrack as a groom. There, she learned not only the ins and outs of harness racing, but also embarked on her career as an equine photographer when a track cameraman took her under his wing, teaching her both technique and business. Her photography profession then took off in the sporthorse world, evolving to include journalism and marketing, and later equine insurance. Phelps has covered prestigious events for decades, including CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival, Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the Olympic Games and multiple World Equestrian Games in Spain, France, Netherlands, USA, and Germany.
Driving Sport Was Her Favorite
While covering major equestrian events around the world, Phelps remained smitten with driving: “Back in the day, my favorite event to cover was the combined driving at Gladstone [the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation Headquarters at Hamilton Farm in New Jersey]. I kept getting drawn to driving, first with the Standardbred racetrack and later with combined driving, which captured my heart from the beginning: the sound of the harnesses, multiple hoofbeats on the ground, just the elegance of it all.”
From Hats to Helmets
At age fifty-five, Phelps finally had the opportunity to own her own horse after a lifetime working in the industry, having finally purchased a farm in Kentucky and a Shetland driving pony. “It grew from there; back then all I wanted to do was wear a pretty hat and drive my pony around my farm in Kentucky,” Phelps laughs.
That simplicity grew into so much more when the ‘original’ Gangsters, Al Capony and Bugsy Maloney (dubbed with the catchy moniker by a friend in equine P.R.), entered Phelps’ life in 2016. When Phelps went to try them, “It was like driving a Maserati,” she enthuses. Phelps took advantage of her new driving pair and sought out instruction from top trainers across the U.S., including her husband, Wayne Humphreys, owner of the Pony World Driving Champion Cefnoakpark Bouncer, who has also been made into a Breyer model.
A Gift From Heaven
Tony Da Pony’s later entrance into Phelps’ life holds special meaning: “ My mom passed away over ten years ago. We had a pact that she would send me a message there is a heaven,” describes Phelps. “She had collected hearts and angels, and when she would walk on the beach, the only rocks she would pick up were in the shape of a heart. It was the anniversary of my mother’s passing that my husband was in Aiken, South Carolina and looked at Tony- he sent me a video of this pony with a heart on his forehead. I feel like Tony’s a gift from my mom in heaven.” The Gangsters have also welcomed Kimba into their group, making up a four-in-hand team. “Driving multiples is a thrill,” remarks Phelps, “having four mouths in your hands and working with four personalities.”
Ponies on a Plane
While in Europe to photograph the FEI Driving World Championships, Phelps got to know Bram Chardon, the young Dutch driver with a stellar world-level competition record; she subsequently brought him to clinic in the U.S. “That began our relationship,” notes Phelps, as Chardon has continued to work with her team as coach, trainer, navigator, and driver.
In July 2019, Phelps loaded all four ponies on a cargo plane, where they flew to Europe and spent three months in training at Chardon Paardensport. The pairing of a young rising star and a newcomer to upper-level driving competition has proven to be a winning formula: Phelps and The Gangsters competed at the 2019 FEI World Driving Championships for Ponies in Hungary winning the Cones phase of the competition, and finished 12th over all. Currently ranked 28th in the world, the second highest ranked US Driver, Mary and her Gangsters have their sights set on the next World Championships in France in 2021. “I always call them ‘The Flying Gangsters’ and now it has taken on a doubled meaning, “ Phelps smiled.
Being A Breyer - The Ultimate Honor
“I’m honored to have my ponies immortalized as Breyers,” says Phelps, describing Bugsy Maloney as ‘Mr. All-Round Nice Guy’ and Tony Da Pony as a rebellious teenager. While superstars in harness, they also have an occasional ‘naughty pony’ moment, such as spooking at flowers on the judge’s box, just to keep everyone on their toes. “They know they are partners,” Phelps remarks.
Breyer’s 70th anniversary coinciding with Phelps’ 70th birthday makes the 2020 induction of her ponies into the Breyer line and Breyerfest 2020 an extra special celebration for Phelps. “When I was a little girl, all I ever wanted was a pony. Every year on my birthday, when I blew out the candles, I would wish for a pony. Because we lived in the suburbs and I was the oldest of five kids, it didn’t happen to me until I was long grown up,” Phelps concludes. “You’re never too old; every year I wished for a pony, and now I have four. So when you blow out your candles, know your wishes can come true.”
The line has been discontinued, as are all Breyer Collectors' products, but can still be ordered through Breyer until the last production is sold out. Order here
Check out this video - Thye FEI Introduction to Four-In-Hand Driving