Brentina Retires! World Watches Emotional Farewell to America’s Beloved Mare

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Goodbye!
Goodbye!

Photos and Story by KENNETH J. BRADDICK

LAS VEGAS, Nev., Apr. 17-Brentina retired on Friday, April 17, 2009.

America’s most beloved dressage horse, to this point, the only World Cup champion from the USA, and her equally beloved rider, Debbie McDonald, were the center of an emotionally wrenching farewell in the Thomas & Mack Arena where the 2009 FEI World Cups of Dressage and Jumping are being staged.

There was not a dry eye in the darkened arena.

The stadium was packed with an estimated 10,000 fans who gave a prolonged standing salute to the 18-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by the Thomas family for whom the stadium is named — Peggy and Parry Thomas and their daughter Jane. The Thomas family, along with Bob McDonald, Debbie’s husband, were spotlighted in the arena.

Brentina and Debbie McDonald, the Thomas family and Bob McDonald.
Brentina and Debbie McDonald, the Thomas family and Bob McDonald.

Riders from around the world and self-described hard bitten media veterans wept openly along with the crowd.

None more so than Debbie McDonald. She wiped tears from her eyes as she rode Brentina into the darkened arena.brentina-web-9t5u1013

Brian O’Connor, the official announcer who has witnessed so much of the competition life of Brentina, recited the mare’s achievements.

Brentina was bought by Peggy Thomas at the 1994 Elite Auction in Verden, Germany. She was originally intended as a mount for Peggy, but as a young horse, Brentina threw Mrs. Thomas and McDonald, a longtime hunter/jumper rider, was given the ride.

They won team and individual gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1999, which is a small tour competition of the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire, then two years later became the U.S. Equestrian Team Grand Prix champion.

In 2002, the pair were members of the silver medal winning team at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain, and finished fourth individually. The same year they were first in the U.S. Freestyle Championships and U.S. Grand Prix Champion.

They claimed the USA’s only World Cup championsip in 2003.

Brentina and McDonald were members of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games bronze medal team and of the 2006 World Equestrian Games bronze medal team. They were also members of the 2008 Beijing Olympic team.

Brentina has been made into a Breyer horse model.

Saddle off. Longtime groom Ruben Palomera and Debbie McDonald with Brentina.
Saddle off. Longtime groom Ruben Palomera and Debbie McDonald with Brentina.