Tag Archives: Debbie McDonald

McDonald Steps Down as USEF Developing Dressage Coach

Debbie McDonald (USEF Archive)

Lexington, Ky. – Debbie McDonald, who has served as the USEF Developing Dressage Coach for over 10 years, has announced that she will step down from the position on May 1, 2016, in order to spend more time with her family and focus on personal clients.

“It has truly been an honor to serve in this role, and I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity,” said McDonald. “We have come so far with this program; I am grateful to the USEF sponsors and members, the USET Foundation, and especially Akiko Yamazaki and the Red Husky Foundation for their belief in seeing this program flourish. With their support, we have enhanced the impact of this program and are now able to give riders the opportunity to train and compete in Europe as part of the program. It has been such a privilege to see the riders and horses in this program go on to achieve great things at the highest levels of this sport. I will always remain supportive of all the USEF pipeline programs and now look forward to spending more time with my family and personal students.”

As the USEF Developing Dressage Coach, McDonald has been instrumental in the growth and success of the USEF Developing Dressage Program as a key step in the dressage pipeline, transitioning athletes and horses alike to the top levels of the sport.

“Debbie has been a tremendous coach for our Developing Program and instrumental in our shared goal of future Olympic Games and World Championship medals. I wish her well and know she will continue to be a strong force for the U.S. dressage community,” said Robert Dover, U.S. Dressage Chef d’Equipe/Technical Advisor.

“We are extremely grateful to Debbie for all her tireless work and the vision she brought to the USEF Developing Dressage Program. We wish her the best of luck in all her future endeavors,” said Hallye Griffin, USEF Managing Director of Dressage.

Details regarding the 2016 USEF dressage programs will be announced later this year.

From the USEF Communications Department

Debbie McDonald Joins Brooke USA as Ambassador to Improve Welfare of Working Animals Worldwide

Debbie McDonald and Brentina.

Lexington, KY – May 14, 2015 – Olympic medalist Debbie McDonald is brimming with natural talent and a passion for horses. As a child she made her debut in the show jumping ring, but moved to the sport of dressage, where she rose to the top as a World Cup Finals Champion and Olympic medalist through her partnership with the brilliant mare, Brentina.

Now the international rider, known as the “First Lady of American Dressage,” will use that same talent and passion on behalf of working equines as Brooke USA’s newest Ambassador.

Brooke USA supports the overseas work of the Brooke, the world’s largest international equine welfare organization. Their mission is to improve the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules in the world’s poorest communities.

Through direct veterinary intervention and scientific research, and by working with owners, communities and governments, the Brooke has been providing long-term, proven, sustainable solutions to many of the welfare problems facing working animals for 81 years. Last year alone the Brooke reached nearly 1.5 million equines, benefitting 6 million people in countries where many people earn less than a dollar a day.

Captivated by the ability to bring permanent change to the lives of working animals and their owners in developing countries, McDonald didn’t hesitate to come alongside Brooke USA.

“When I saw Brooke USA’s photos, read the material and learned about their mission, it didn’t take me five seconds to realize that when you don’t know what’s going on you never realize how sad something can be,” McDonald expressed. “I certainly would do anything in my power to help this amazing organization.”

When she was only 14 years old, McDonald saw the mistreatment of horses firsthand. It was personal: it was her own pony, Flanigan. It seemed like any other day going to the barn, but when she walked through the threshold she was met by a man she did not know in his stall beating him. When she went running for help, she met young trainer and future husband, Bob McDonald. With his help, she moved her pony to his hunter/jumper facility, promising to never compromise her pony’s mental or physical health.

Her passion for the treatment of horses is still apparent in her teaching and her demeanor today. When she saw the comparison between the before and after photos of the Brooke’s programs in 11 countries, tears came to her eyes, and she knew she wanted to make a difference.

Thousands of horses, donkeys and mules work in brick kilns across Central Asia. In India alone, 50,000 brick kilns produce 140 billion bricks annually. The Brooke works in several hundred kilns to improve the lives of the animals who toil in these harsh environments alongside their poor owners.
Thousands of horses, donkeys and mules work in brick kilns across Central Asia. In India alone, 50,000 brick kilns produce 140 billion bricks annually. The Brooke works in several hundred kilns to improve the lives of the animals who toil in these harsh environments alongside their poor owners.

“I’m hoping that I can draw more awareness about Brooke USA and what they are doing for the welfare of these animals,” McDonald explained. “These days I travel a lot and continue to coach and teach clinics. I think that if it is done the right way, I can open people’s eyes in the sport and show them the everyday trials of these working animals – donkeys, mules and horses.”

Cindy Rullman, Fundraising Development Director for Brooke USA, stated, “It is certainly a privilege for us to welcome Debbie as one of our new Ambassadors. When the sport horse world becomes aware that 100 million equines are supporting 600 million of the world’s poorest people, and that the Brooke already has proven solutions to the enormous welfare problems they’re facing, we think they will jump in to help. Debbie can bring that awareness.”

McDonald joins an impressive lineup of Brooke USA Ambassadors that includes the Brooke’s Global Ambassadors: double Olympic Gold Medalist Charlotte Dujardin, internationally renowned “horse whisperer” Monty Roberts, and top sport horse owner Margaret Duprey, among others.

McDonald concluded, “It just brings tears to your eyes when you see the plight of these animals – heavy loads, injuries and lack of water or food – some of them are just a rack of bones. We can make a difference. Sometimes it’s something as simple as teaching owners about hoof care, vaccinations and proper feeding. You learn that this is happening and it is astonishing. My God, I didn’t even know that existed still.”

Brooke USA, headquartered at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, exists to support the overseas work of the Brooke in 11 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Central America.

For more information about Brooke USA, visit their website: www.brookeusa.org.

Contact: Cindy Rullman
Brooke USA
(859) 296-0037

Talented US Hopefuls Gain Valuable Knowledge at USEF/USET Foundation Dressage Pipeline Clinic

Lindsey Brewin and Vaillant in the Youth Section with Robert Dover. Photo By: Carrie Wirth.

Gladstone, NJ – October 14, 2014 – The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation held the second Dressage Pipeline Clinic, one of a series of events aimed at pairing the country’s top dressage educators with talented future prospects for international competition.

USEF Chef d’Equipe/Technical Advisor, Robert Dover, USEF Developing Coach, Debbie McDonald, and USEF Developing Horse Coach, Scott Hassler, came together at Linda and Michael Fowler’s Epona Farm in Thousand Oaks, California, on Oct. 11-12 to help showcase, develop and mentor top horses and athletes. The clinic was made possible by USET Foundation trustee Betsy Juliano and Havensafe Farm.

“Because Michael has put up his ranch as a training base for the USET Foundation, we had already had Robert and Debbie come a couple of times,” said Button Baker, who helped plan for the success of the clinic. “So when the pipeline clinic came around, we asked, ‘Can we run it?’ and Michael said ‘yes’.”

“The clinic provides encouragement on all levels – young horses and young riders – and brings people in to get into the spirit of what the sport is all about,” said Fowler. “A perfect outcome of events like these would be more interest in dressage – more people supporting it and raising the standard and the quality. We’re just happy to host the event.”

The participating athletes received individual lessons on their horses and took part in educational sessions focused on fitness and sports psychology as well as how to manage relations with owners, sponsors and the media.

“The two pipeline clinics that the USEF and the USET Foundation have put on so far have caused a great deal of excitement in the community and a feeling of progress toward our shared goal- not just excellence but medal winning,” said Dover. “I am hopeful that we see that everyone is taking part, and riders, horses and auditors go home feeling like they’ve gained something. I hope they will have an ‘ah-ha’ moment that will change their life.”

Ashlyn De Groot, from DG Bar Ranch in Hanford, California, was selected for the clinic and brought her 6-year-old mare, Dalina DG, a Dutch Warmblood mare by Jazz.

“It’s such an honor to be here,” De Groot said. “This is the first time that Scott [Hassler] has had a one-on-one with me. He’s helped me a little bit at horse shows just watching me and giving me pointers. I thank Scott for the support and helping me grow with young horses, as well as pushing me to be better, to really give me confidence.”

Carly Taylor-Smith from Malibu, California and her 4-year-old Rosalut NHF, a dark bay Oldenburg gelding by Rosenthal, were also selected. Taylor-Smith rode “Ludo” to championship honors in the Four-Year-Old division at the USEF/Markel Young Horse Championships.

“It’s a privilege,” said Taylor-Smith. “I’ve never been to something like this before. It’s an honor. I like that we’re covering some of the other aspects as well, like nutrition. And everyone working as a package – it is really great.”

On Saturday evening a reception and dinner included a presentation on working with the media, given by Mason Phelps Jr. and Carrie Wirth of Phelps Media Group, as well as a presentation by Juliano.

Juliano shared the unique opportunity for the sport of dressage in the U.S. and stressed the importance of the team concept and applying the use of strategy by working with USEF and the USET Foundation for forward progress.

The United States Equestrian Team Foundation (www.uset.org) is the non-profit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America’s elite and developing international, high-performance horses and athletes in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation.

The USET Foundation has been awarded Charity Navigators highest honor, a Four Star rating for good governance, sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.

Contact: Rebecca Walton
USET Foundation
phone 561.753.3389 fax 561.753.3386

Six Combinations Take Part in USEF Developing Dressage Training Session

Lexington, KY – The first 2013 USEF Developing Dressage Training Session wrapped up April 3rd, as riders gained valuable insight from USEF Developing Dressage Coach Debbie McDonald. On the first day of the two-day session, riders brought recent tests for review. The following day, combinations worked with McDonald to identify movements in the test that needed improvement or areas where greater points could be earned.

The six combinations who took part in the USEF Developing Dressage Training Session were:

Susie Dutta (Wellington, FL) and Tim Dutta Inc.’s Lumberjack 12
Shelly Francis (Loxahatchee, FL) and Patricia Stempel’s Danilo
Justin Hardin (Long Valley, NJ) and Judith Cardella’s Wyatt Star
Kimberly Herslow (Stockton, NJ) and Kiroli Enterprises LLC’s Rosmarin
Katie Robicheaux (Wellington, FL) and her own Avignon T
Caroline Roffman (Wellington, FL) and her own Her Highness O

Dutta, Francis, Hardin, Herslow and Roffman will all represent the U.S. this week, April 11-14, at the Wellington Nations Cup CDIO3* presented by Stillpoint Farm.

“This was a fantastic group of a horses and riders that are all showing great potential. I am very excited about the combinations we have participating this year; it really makes my job enjoyable,” said McDonald. “Also, a special thank you to Betsy and everyone at Havensafe for letting us use this beautiful facility.”

The invitation-only training session is part of the revamped 2013 USEF Developing Dressage Program; riders were selected from a pool of applicants for 2013 Training Sessions and Grants. At these sessions McDonald is assisted by rider’s personal trainers along with a USEF Dressage Developing Program Selector.

The following individuals have been named as selectors by the USEF High Performance Dressage Committee:

Debbie McDonald, USEF Developing Coach
Jeremy Steinberg, USEF Youth Coach
Scott Hassler, USEF Young Horse Coach
Anne Gribbons
Lendon Gray

The program is made possible by generous gifts through the USET from Red Husky Foundation and Akiko Yamazaki. Future training session dates and locations will be announced at a later date; those wishing to be considered may submit an application here.

There will be two Developing Dressage Observation Sessions April 25-28, taking place at the CDI Del Mar National in Del Mar, CA and at the CDI Houston Dressage Society Spring Classic in Katy, TX. Further information on the observation sessions can be found here. Riders wishing to participate can contact Leah Oliveto at loliveto@usef.org.

Debbie McDonald Observing Horses and Riders in Hopes of Developing Elite Competitors for U.S.

Kimberly Herslow and Rosmarin.

Wellington, FL – March 15, 2013 – Debbie McDonald, U.S. Equestrian Federation Developing Dressage Coach, is scoping out possible horse and rider combinations to represent the United States in future competitions while in Wellington, FL.

The Olympic and World Equestrian Games medalist was named the USEF Developmental Coach of the Year in 2008 and her reputation as a competitor, coach and trainer is profound. McDonald’s passion for developing young riders and horses runs deep. Her success is proven by her protégé, Adrienne Lyle, who rode for the U.S. aboard Wizard in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

“My job is to seek out combinations that might be able to represent the United States in the future,” McDonald said.

“We revamped the whole program. With the old way, we used to work off a developing list, and the way you got on the list was to make it to finals in Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I and the Brentina Cup,” she said. “But sometimes someone would make it to finals with an 18-year-old horse. That really doesn’t fall into a developing program because that’s the end of their career, not the beginning.”

She observed today’s Prix St. Georges class at the WEF Dressage Classic CDI3* presented by Today’s Equestrian & Fellows at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show grounds. She said she focused on U.S. riders who have scored well in recent shows on younger horses.

The top two winners in today’s Prix St. Georges just happen to meet those criteria. Kimberly Herslow from New Jersey, riding her own Rosmarin, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding, scored a 73.728% to take the win in a field of 19 riders.

“My hopes are that this horse becomes everything I know he can be, which is a Grand Prix horse,” Herslow said. “And then, possibly go to Europe after that and get some showing in over there and see how he competes with the European horses.”

Lars Petersen, Herslow’s coach, said the talent of his student and her horse knows no bounds. “She’ll go far,” Petersen said. “Super horse with a talent for everything. Grand Prix – he’ll do it.”

Taking the second place ribbon was Caroline Roffman, who rode Her Highness O to a 71.404%.

“She’s really progressing and becoming a really reliable show horse,” Roffman said. She plans to keep training with hopes of moving up to Grand Prix next year.

McDonald will continue her observations throughout the country to find the best and brightest future stars. “I’m very excited about the quality so far,” she said.

“Of course, I am trying to hit the places that concentrate the greatest number of riders, so Florida and California are the two major places,” McDonald continued. “Then we’re observing Houston and I think Saugerties and then the Festival of Champions Developing Horse Championships in August at Lamplight. We still have quite a bit more to observe.”

After this weekend, a select group of riders and horses will be invited to participate in a special Developing Program Clinic with McDonald April 2-3 in Wellington.

“I wanted to do this first training session before the majority of the people left Florida,” she said. “We will have a pool of people that we would like to see under a different light and talk to them a little bit more intimately about what their plans are. It’s much easier to do it here before they all leave.”

Although she did not know the exact number of riders and horses invited to the Florida clinic, she said the number would be substantial. More clinics are scheduled in June in California and in June and July in New Jersey and are by invitation only from the USEF High Performance Dressage Committee. After the series of clinics, McDonald will compile a list of names to submit to the USEF to be put in a position to receive a grant to further their education in dressage.

“We have to have valid combinations to be competitive in the future,” she said.

Sue Weakley for Phelps Media Group, Inc. International

Phelps Media Group, Inc.
12012 South Shore Blvd #105
Wellington, FL 33414
561-753-3389 (phone)
561-753-3386 (fax)

Debbie McDonald and Mason Phelps Return to the Ring for Challenge of the Americas

Debbie McDonald and Mason Phelps

Wellington, FL – January 24, 2013 – Olympians Debbie McDonald and Mason Phelps are teaming together in a dressage pas de deux exhibition at The Challenge of the Americas March 9 to help raise funds for breast cancer research.

Both Olympians came out of retirement to plan the ride. “It was a collaborative effort to challenge each other to get back in front of the public and it is all for a good cause,” Phelps said. “Debbie and I are thrilled to be helping raise money for breast cancer and we couldn’t have done it in such a big way without the help of so many generous sponsors and helpers.”

Top names are behind the duo, including Carl Hester, who is helping choreograph the freestyle, Terry Ciotto Gallo, who is donating the musical compilation for the disco-themed ride, Samshield, who donated top-of-line helmets for the pair, and Stoddard Oliver, who is tailoring the costumes.

Continue reading Debbie McDonald and Mason Phelps Return to the Ring for Challenge of the Americas

USEF Developing Dressage Clinics Wrap Up for the Spring Season

Stacy Parvey-Larsson and Benidetto with Debbie McDonald (Tracy Schlabach)

Lexington, KY – USEF Developing Dressage Clinics wrapped up for the Spring season last week in Loxahatchee, FL at Walter and Mary Anne McPhail’s High Meadow Farm. The clinic schedule began in Thousand Oaks, CA at Michael and Linda Fowler’s Epona Farms, January 7-8, and included clinics at High Meadow Farm, January 31 – February 1 and April 3-4 and an additional clinic at Epona Farms, March 16-17. Focusing on the development of dressage talent in the U.S., these clinics are led by USEF Developing Dressage Coach Debbie McDonald and have been made possible by a gift from USET Foundation Trustee Akiko Yamazaki/Red Husky Foundation.

The first clinic in Florida included seven athlete/horse combinations: Susan Dutta with Currency DC, Silva Martin with Aesthete, Sharon McCucker with Wrigley, Caroline Roffman with Pie, Tami Batts with Ranko, John Lee Amber with Shakespeare RSF and Whit Watkins with Cipriani. In March on the West coast, combinations included Olympian Leslie Morse with her up-and-coming horses Excalibur and Ruby, Carolyn Adams with Winterprinz, David Blake with Royal Prinz and Lord Albert, Rebecca Rigdon with Solei and Adje, Brian Hafner with Lombardo LHF and Mette Rosencrantz with Finally. Back in Florida in April, McDonald saw six riders with seven horses: Caroline Roffman with Pie and Her Highness, JJ Tate with Faberge, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz with Riffalino, Devon Kane with Destiny, Chris Schruefer with De Facto and Stacey Parvey-Larson with Bendietto.

Continue reading USEF Developing Dressage Clinics Wrap Up for the Spring Season

USEF Developing Dressage Clinic at Hassler Dressage at Riveredge

L-R Sharon McCusker on Wrigley, Jenny Van Wieren-Page, Debbie McDonald, Anne Gribbons and Stacey Parvey-Larson with Benidetto (Photo: Richard Malmgren)

Lexington, KY – The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) ran a Developing Dressage Clinic with Debbie McDonald in Chesapeake City, MD at Hassler Dressage at Riveredge right before the Thanksgiving holiday.

McDonald, one of the most successful U.S. dressage riders in history, travelled from her Idaho home to this spectacular facility, which is the base for Hassler Dressage, to teach seven horse/rider combinations.  USEF Technical Advisor Anne Gribbons was also there to advise and observe.

Two of the horses who were very successful at the USEF National Dressage Championships this summer at Lamplight Equestrian Center showed continued progress in their training.

Sharon McCusker (Ashby, MA) rode Wrigley, who was third in the 2011 USEF National Developing Horse Dressage Championship (sponsored by the Dutta Corporation and Performance Sales International, PSI) and Silva Martin (West Grove, PA) rode Aesthete, who was third in the 6-year-old Championship at the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Championship.

Continue reading USEF Developing Dressage Clinic at Hassler Dressage at Riveredge

Dressage Radio Episode 111 – Dream Vacation with Debbie McDonald

Debbie McDonald is sent on a Dream Vacation this week so we hear which four horses and three people she would take with her along with some music and something to read. We also have another WOW moment for you too so tune in for some summer fantasy fun right here…

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Dressage Radio Episode 105 – Debbie McDonald & Lendon Gray Discuss Common Training Issues

Debbie McDonald and Lendon Gray are back in conversation to share some helpful training advice and offer sharp observations on typical challenges for dressage riders. Take a listen right here.

Dressage Radio Episode 105 – Show Notes and Links:


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