Debbie McDonald Named USA Team Coach to Succeed Robert Dover
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June 20, 2018
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Debbie McDonald, one of the biggest stars in American dressage with Olympic and World Equestrian Games medals and a World Cup, will become the technical advisor and chef de’equipe of the United States for which she is already the personal trainer of several of the top riders.
Debbie, 63 years old, will succeed Robert Dover whose term that ran for six years ends late this year, after the World Games in Tryon, North Carolina in September. The two have worked together, sometimes almost interchangeably at Olympics, world championships and World Cup Finals and Pan American Games.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation in announcing the appointment Wednesday said it was to give Debbie and Robert an opportunity to work closely together to smooth the transition. She will continue to serve as a personal coach to her athletes through the WEG but, the federation said, will not have a role in the WEG team selection or any selection to the Elite Program or WEG Short List.
“Thank you to US Equestrian for entrusting me with this opportunity,” said Debbie, who recently became a grandmother for the first time.
“I am extremely honored and excited to be taking on the position of Technical Advisor. I know Robert’s shoes will be hard to fill. His passion simply inspires me, and I will carry that same level of energy and enthusiasm as I strive to continue his success. I look forward to working with our talented athletes, their horses, and personal coaches to help achieve this goal.”
Robert Dover said: “I could not be happier with the naming of Debbie McDonald to take my place as Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe.
“Debbie has literally been my right arm for the past six years. Our training and coaching philosophies are identical, and this creates a seamless transition for our U.S. athletes. I know America is in the very best hands and our future remains strong.”
Both Debbie and Robert are in Rotterdam this week with the American team and individual combinations to compete in the Nations Cup and CDI3*.
No term was announced for Debbie but it is certain to be through the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
Debbie rode the Hanoverian mare Brentina for the United States at the Olympics in 2004 winning team bronze and in 2008. At the 2002 World Games she won team silver and team bronze at the WEG four years later. The duo won both team and individual gold at the 2009 Pan American Games.
Debbie and Brentina, that were as high as No. 2 in the world, won the World Cup in 2003, the first American to claim the annual championship centered on the musical freestyle.
Brentina was retired at the Las Vegas World Cup Final in 2009, fittingly in the Thomas & Mack Arena named for the late Parry Thomas who owned Brentina and whose River Grove farm in Sun Valley, Idaho was the base for many years for Debbie.
Debbie had been a trainer for many years, taking up dressage after an injury while jumping. She was so respected that in an auction for a month of training to raise funds for the U.S. team in 2004, three women bid up the price to $80,000 before it was stopped and Debbie agreed to coach all three for a month each, earning $240,000 for the American squad for the Athens Games.
Born in California, Debbie and her husband, Bob, were professionals in the hunter/jumper community.
When Debbie switched to dressage, she immediately attracted riders for her soft and classical training that she joked that as she was only five feet tall (152cm) she could not muscle horses around.
Four of the riders and their horses in the squad of eight Americans in Europe competing for a place on the WEG team are personally coached by Debbiue.
Adrienne Lyle went to work for Debbie at River Grove more than a decade ago and was coached on Wizard, owned by Peggy and Jane Thomas, to the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
Laura Graves on Verdades began training with Debbie before the U.S. championships in 2014 where she became reserve champion and went to the WEG in France to become an international star. The pair’s team bronze medal performance at the 2016 Olympics and reserve champion in both the 2017 and 2018 World Cup Finals rank them No. 2 in the world.
Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet, also on the 2016 Olympic medal team, moved from California to Wellington, Florida to train with Debbie. Olivia LaGoy-Weltz on Lonoir also trains with Debbie.
A successor is being sought to fill the role of U.S. Developing Coach that Debbie has held for several years.