USA Launches Ambitious New Dressage Developing Program

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Debbie McDonald.© Ken Braddick/


An ambitious new American dressage developing program of nationwide observation events and grants for European competitions to be headed by Debbie McDonald and launched in 2013 was announced Thursday by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

The program, experimental in its first year, calls for the entire lineup of official U.S. coaches to act as observers of developing horses and riders working with their own trainers, to offer advice and support and select combinations for grants to compete in Europe.

Akiko Yamazaki, the owner of Ravel and Legolas ridden by Steffen Peters and, along with her Red Husky Foundation is a major contributor to U.S. dressage, is funding the program through the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation.

“In our sport and with an economy the way it is this is really ambtious,” Debbie told “This is so much more than going around and giving two-day clinics in different parts of the country that have no consistency.

“We’re not going to be handing out money, though. It’s going to be tough.”

A drive by riders to work hard, to be creative in finding ways to support their training and competition will be aspects selectors will be looking for along with talented riders and horses.

The program to be headed up by Debbie, who has been the USEF Developing Coach for several years but whose programs were hampered by uneven funding, will seek “to identify talented, developing combinations with potential for future team and international success.”

The first step will be for Debbie, Jeremy Steinberg, Youth Coach, Scott Hassler, Young Horse Coach, Anne Gribbons, former team coach, and Lendon Gray who organizes programs for and trains American youth, will observe horses and riders at pre-determined observation competitions.

The 2013 bbservation competitions include:

Gold Coast Opener CDI-W/1*/U25, West Palm Beach, Florida, Jan. 17-20;
Mid-Winter Dressage Fair CDI3*/1*, Burbank, California, Feb. 21-24;
WEF Dressage Classic CDI3*/1*/U25, Wellington Florida, Mar. 14-17;
Del Mar National CDI3*, Del Mar, California, April 25-28;
Houston Dressage Society Spring Classic CDI-3*/1*, Katy, Texas, April 25-28;
USEF Developing Horse Championship, Wayne, Illinois, Aug. 12-15;
NEDA Fall Festival CDI-W/3*/1*, Saugerties, New York, Sept. 12-15, and
USEF National Intermediaire I Dressage Championship (Dressage Festival of Champions), Lexington, Kentucky, Oct. 10-13.

At least two selectors will observe competitors in CDI classes Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I and U-25 Young Adult Grand Prix and National classes Developing Horse Prix St. Georges, Grand Prix and USEF “Brentina Cup.”

From the competitions, combinations will be named to take part in mandatory training sessions and/or clinics at which Debbie and another selector will work with the riders’ personal trainers to observe the combination’s training.

The end of the year goal is to provide funding for developing combinations to receive funding to go to Europe for training and competition experience within a year of being awarded a grant.

Training grant information and an application process will be announced later date. The application process will include training, competition plans and European and international competition goals.

For further information, on the program visit or contact Jenny Van Wieren-Page at (859) 225-6949, or email